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PRACTICAL KABBALAH:

JEWISH MYSTICISM, MEDITATION, AND MORALITY

Course Syllabus for WS-624, Fall 2014


Tuesdays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. beginning September 2

Professor: Yehezkel Landau, Associate Professor of Interfaith Relations


Office: Budd Interfaith Building, 60 Lorraine Street, Room 3
Office hours: Mondays, 2 to 4:30 p.m.; Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to noon; or by
appointment
Phone: (860) 509-9538; Fax: (860) 509-9539
Cell: (860) 944-4504
E-mail: ylandau@hartsem.edu

Course overview: This course will explore various aspects of Jewish spirituality
and their interconnection: how mystical interpretations of the Hebrew Bible (in the
Zohar) can enrich our understanding of Scripture; how the observance of
commandments affects the heart and soul; theoretical and practical aspects of
Kabbalah, including meditative exercises and dream journaling; and the
implications of Jewish mysticism for tikkun olam, the mending of our broken
world. How these insights might impact on Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations will
also be addressed—are there affinities on the mystical level that can be tapped for
greater interreligious understanding and cooperation?
(Note: to get the most out of this course, WS-623 or a similar introduction to
Jewish spirituality is highly recommended).

Pedagogical methods: The course will be conducted as a seminar. Class sessions


will feature presentations and guiding questions by the professor, students’ critical
text summaries and talking points, facilitated discussions, and audio-visual
resources including musical selections.

Methods of Assessment: Class participation (20%), in-class text summaries and


talking points (30%), and quality of the course paper (50%). Depending on the
number of students, each member of the class will be asked to introduce (at least)
one session with a critical summary of that week’s readings. A course paper,
approximating 15 double-spaced pages, is due by the last class, December 9. A
one-page preview of the paper with preliminary bibliography should be submitted
for feedback by November 11. (Note: the Seminary’s plagiarism policy will be
strictly enforced; all written work must be original unless properly cited).

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Attendance: Students are expected to be present and prepared for each class. If
you know you will have to miss any class, please inform the professor in advance.
Missing two class sessions will adversely affect the final course grade. Missing
three or more sessions will result in automatic failure of the course.

Course Schedule and Readings


Books recommended for purchase (all six are in paperback):

Goldwag, Arthur. The Beliefnet Guide to Kabbalah. New York: Doubleday/


Three Leaves Press, 2005, ISBN 0-385-51453-0
Matt, Daniel C. The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism. New
York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996, ISBN 0-06-251163-7
Zohar: Annotated & Explained. Translation and annotation by Daniel C. Matt.
Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1-893361-51-9
Green, Arthur, and Barry W. Holtz, editors and translators, Your Word is Fire:
The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer, with a new introduction,
Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1993, ISBN 978-1879045255
Kaplan, Aryeh. Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide. New York: Schocken
Books, 1985, ISBN 0-8052-0781-3
Prager, Rabbi Marcia, The Path of Blessing: Experiencing the Energy and
Abundance of the Divine, Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1998,
ISBN 1-58023-148-9

(Readings indicated should be read for that session; books listed in bold italics
are recommended for purchase; other readings will be on reserve in the library
or disseminated as PDF attachments)

September 2: Kabbalah in Context: An Introduction to Jewish Spirituality


Reading: Principles of Jewish Spirituality by Sara Isaacson, London:
Thorsons/HarperCollins, 1999 (selected chapters—on reserve).

September 9: An Overview of Kabbalah I


Reading: The Beliefnet Guide to Kabbalah by Arthur Goldwag, introduction by
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, New York: Doubleday/Three Leaves Press, 2005
Recommended: Kabbalah: A Brief Introduction for Christians by Tamar
Frankiel, Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006.

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September 16: An Overview of Kabbalah II
Reading: The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism by
Daniel C. Matt, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.

September 23: Hebrew Words of Blessing as a Gateway to the Divine


Reading: The Path of Blessing: Experiencing the Energy and Abundance of
the Divine by Rabbi Marcia Prager, Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing,
2003.

September 30: Introduction to The Zohar


Reading: Zohar: Annotated & Explained, translation and annotation by Daniel
C. Matt, Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2002.
Recommended: Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment, translation and introduction
by Daniel Chanan Matt, preface by Arthur Green, Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press,
1983; A Guide to the Zohar by Arthur Green, Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2004

October 7: Jewish Mystical Experiences


Readings: selections from Jewish Mystical Testimonies by Louis Jacobs,
New York: Schocken Books, 1977, and Jewish Mystical Autobiographies,
translated and introduced by Morris M. Maierstein, preface by Moshe Idel,
New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1999 (on reserve)

October 14: Experiencing the Divine Presence in Prayer


Reading: Your Word is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer,
edited and translated by Arthur Green and Barry W. Holtz, with a new
introduction, Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1993.
Recommended: Hasidic Prayer by Louis Jacobs, New York: Schocken Books,
1973.

October 21: Jewish Meditation


Reading: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide by Aryeh Kaplan, New York:
Schocken Books, 1985.
Recommended: Meditation and Kabbalah by Aryeh Kaplan, York Beach,
Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1982; Meditation from the Heart of Judaism edited by
Avram Davis, Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1997.

October 28: Revelatory Dreams


Readings: selections from The Mystical Meaning of Dreams by Avraham Arieh
Trugman, Southfield, MI: Targum Press, 2006; “Dreams and Dream Interpretation
in Said Nursi’s Risale-i Nur: Islamic, Judaic, and Universal Resonances,” by
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Yehezkel Landau, in Spiritual Dimensions of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s Risale-i
Nur, edited by Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’, Albany: State University of New York
Press, 2008, pp. 147-174 (on reserve).

November 4: Contemporary Women’s Perspectives


Readings: “‘Pass Not Away’: Yearning for a Seamless Life of Connection” by
Nancy Flam; “Approaching the Thick Cloud: Working with Obstacles in Our
Spiritual Growth” by Sheila Peltz Weinberg; “‘All This and Maybe’: The Doubting
Servant” by Mimi Feigelson; and “Praying from the Depths” by Melila Hellner-
Eshed, in Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life edited by Lawrence Fine, Eitan
Fishbane, and Or N. Rose (on reserve)

November 11: Kabbalistic Ethics I


Readings: “Sitra Ahra: Good and Evil in the Kabbalah,” “Tsaddik: The
Righteous One,” and “Gilgul: The Transmigration of Souls,” in On the Mystical
Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah by Gershom Scholem,
New York: Schocken Books, 1991 (on reserve).
**PREVIEW OF COURSE PAPER DUE

November 18: Kabbalistic Ethics II—Contemporary Applications


Readings: “Great Chain of Being: Kabbalah for an Environmental Age,” “What
about Evil?”, and “Community: Where Shekhinah Dwells,” in Ehyeh: A
Kabbalah for Tomorrow by Arthur Green, Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights
Publishing, 2003 (on reserve).

NO CLASS NOVEMBER 25

December 2: A Kabbalistic Perspective on the Holy Land


Reading: “The Land of Israel in Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations” by
Yehezkel Landau, from Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, Volume 3, Issue 1,
2008, Article 17, CP1-12, accessible at http://escholarship.bc.edu/scjr/vol3

December 9: Kabbalah and Self-Transformation


Reading: “The Path of the Tzaddik (Jewish Enlightenment)” in God is a Verb:
Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism by Rabbi David A. Cooper, New
York: Riverhead Books, 1997, pp. 184-234 (on reserve).
Recommended: Practical Kabbalah: A Guide to Jewish Wisdom for Everyday
Life by Rabbi Laibl Wolf, New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
**COURSE PAPER DUE