Progressive Kabbalah for the 21st Century
Cantor Franzel’s introductory video class is now available on udemy.com
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Kabbalah is both ancient and new wisdom. A spiritual science of sorts, Kabbalah has been developing and evolving over the centuries and has taken on numerous forms. From chasing the visions of Ezekiel to contemplating the very existence and genesis of the universe, Kabbalah addresses some of our deepest and most profound questions.
Since the time of the very first Kabbalists to the 20th century, Kabbalah has almost exclusively been practiced by traditionally oriented Jewish men in the context of orthodox practice. These men would mostly meet in secret with wisdom passing directly from master to disciple. Although Kabbalah has been considered Judaism’s spiritual core, its study by the masses has been discouraged and its wisdom has remained in closed societies. Jewish authorities went as far as restricting the teaching and studying of Kabbalah to those who are over the age of forty (even though many of the greatest Kabbalists died before 40), male in gender, and already versed in traditional Jewish sources such as the Talmud. In some parts of the world Kabbalah teachers were banned from publishing or teaching anything that had to do with mysticism.
To further complicate things, the 19th century saw rationalism as the ideal subject of engagement for liberal or “enlightened” Jews. As Kabbalah and its corpus of texts are certainly not logical or rational, Jewish scholars began to denigrate this wisdom as nonsense. As a result, unless one was orthodox in practice and a member of a traditional community, there were not a lot of options for those Jews who embraced modernity and at the same time craved a deeper connection in terms of spirituality and the wealth of Jewish mystical writings.
When Judaism spread to America both the Reform and Conservative branches began to plant deep roots and flourish in the New World. Establishing seminaries, synagogues, clergy unions, and federations the non-orthodox Jews became a part of the fabric of American history and America made an impact on these Jews. But non-orthodox Jews were not the only Jewish immigrants. Chasidic sects as well as traditional Jews also migrated to the USA and many groups made the effort to reproduce the Jewish Ghettos in places like Monsey and Brooklyn, New York.
Thus a dichotomy grew where non-traditional Jews, practicing a Judaism of rationalists, were for the most part bereft of real Jewish spirituality from the ages, and those who inherited the entire Kabbalistic traditions and teachings were insulating their communities against the influence of American culture. A chasid from Washington Heights would be equally a fish out of water in a Reform synagogue as a liberal Jew, who maybe had a Bar Mitzvah, in the Ultra Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim.
In the 20th century two important figures helped to shape a more modern expression of Kabbalah and were highly influential in its proliferation.The teachings and scholarship of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi Ashlag (1885—1954) and Gershom Scholem (1897 – 1982) have had an indelible impact on the continuing evolution of how Kabbalah is studied and practiced.While Ashlag envisioned a more universal approach to Kabbalah perhaps even opening its study to the other nations of the world, Scholem singlehandedly brought the field of Kabbalah scholarship to the world creating a cadre of scholars specializing in Jewish mysticism.
By the 1990’s it would not be uncommon to walk into a bookstore and find not only a Judaica section, but several books inspired by Kabbalah advocating everything from the learning of mystical secrets of the Hebrew letters to the Kabbalah of income tax. With this great influx of kabbalistic wisdom, whether grounded in authentic sources or not, the market was saturated with many different brands of Jewish spirituality. For someone seeking to deepen their experience of the world it must have been very confusing to navigate through the myriads of pages without a mentor or teacher providing guidance on the path.
The idea that Kabbalah should only be practiced within the framework of orthodox dogma seems to no longer apply to non-traditional Jews or non-Jews who are seeking truth. But even with all the scholarship and the availability of good translations of authentic sources, such as Sefer Y’tzirah, the Zohar and various Chasidic texts, as individuals it is still difficult to pursue Kabbalah practice without a mentor who has been studying and practicing Kabbalah, mysticism and meditation. And without matriculation at a university or joining a synagogue where someone happens to teach this wisdom, or enrolling in a retreat community dedicated to Jewish spirituality it is nearly impossible to get direct feedback to see if one is fully understanding, the difficult concepts, whatever level one may be on.
Having studied and practiced various forms of Kabbalah and meditation, derived from different periods of Jewish mysticism, for the last 25 years, Cantor Jordan S Franzel is offering his knowledge and experience to guide you on the spiritual path you seek. Whatever level you may be on, the Cantor will customize the learning, finding authentic sources that will resonate with you, and teach at your pace, one to one.
Hour long lessons take place using Skype and no prior knowledge of Kabbalah or Hebrew is necessary (although it helps.) Contact Jordan to set up your first lesson.