Intimate Discussion With A Kabbalah Scholar

Today, the study of Kabbalah is all the rage with both Jews and non-Jews devoting time and energy to mystical study. Kabbalah study is divided between the classic works of ancient Jewish sages such as Isaac Luria, and the popular Kabbalah studied by celebrities like Madonna. Baruch Emanuel Erdstein is a local figure on the Safed scene who has been delving into the classical Kabbalistic works for more than a decade.

Baruch hails from suburban Detroit, but he called Safed home for many years. In addition to his Kabbalah studies, Baruch was a Safed tour guide, and the leader of a band called Ingathering. All of his endeavors are flavored with a little bit of Motown and not a little of the mystic.

Kabbalistic Background

Q: What is your background in Kabbalah study?

A: I originally became interested in Jewish mysticism via the teachings of Chassidut as transmitted by the Baal Shem Tov and his students, the works of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov known as the Benei Yisaschar,  Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, and others. About ten years ago I began to seriously delve into the core texts of the Kabbalah, namely the writings of the Ari, and for the last two years I've been passionately inspired by the path of the Komarno Rebbe.

Much more than just being vastly complex systems of seeing the world(s!), the path of the Kabbalist demands and inspires real changes in our behavior and interpersonal relationships, sensitizing us to the significance of all our actions, speech and thoughts. By not only learning the written materials, but also by being committed to the way of living as taught by the mystical masters, I hope I can honestly convey what the Kabbalah, known to be the essence of Jewish wisdom, is all about.

Q: What do you think about popular Kabbalah?

A: The study of authentic Kabbalah, based on the teachings of the Jewish holy sages, the tzadikim, even on the most elementary level is only good. When the terms and images are used, however, outside of their context and without the appropriate references, well, I cringe. I know that it is only because people really do want truth and meaning and are having a hard time finding it. I'm sure that if they had access to the authentic teachings, shared by people with whom they can relate, there would be no need for anything else.

Everyday Life

Q: How do you bring your studies into your everyday life?

A: The studies are life. The metaphors used in the Kabbalah mirror the most basic aspects of daily life. Without living a normal healthy life, with all its tests, a person can't grasp Kabbalah. And, on the flipside, the study of Kabbalah brings out some of the most profound things about life, as well as inspiring peace, acceptance, faith, selflessness, and, of course, a connection to the Divine.

Baruch Emanuel Erdstein can be reached at: [email protected] or by phone: (0)52-251-5134