Join Rabbi Mathew Ponak for Embodied Kabbalah Beit Midrash
This course will focus on Jewish mystical paths: their histories, geographies, practices, and teachings.
The goal of the class is to allow each student to build a personal, experiential relationship with the material and find which styles and teachers of Jewish mysticism resonate with them.
In each class, we explore a different aspect of Jewish mysticism (sometimes called “Kabbalah”). The topics each stand on their own, but are ordered intentionally as an expression of how an individual’s spiritual journey might unfold.
Weekly Class Topics
Week 1: Introduction and Brief History of Jewish Mysticism
What is mysticism? What is a Jewish mystic? What differentiates Jewish mysticism from other forms? How and why do people begin their mystical journeys?
Transcending (Weeks 2-5)
Week 2: Ecstatic Mysticism – Devekut [mystical experience], Going “up” towards God, Cultivating Joy and Delight
Week 3: Layers of Reality – The Sephirot [divine emanations], the Four Worlds [physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual], and Ein Sof [the Infinite]
Week 4: Altered States of Consciousness
Week 5: Intuition and Divination – Seeing beyond our ordinary perception
Week 6: Safely practicing mysticism and grounding
Contemplation (Weeks 7 & 8)
Week 7: Turning inward – being present with what is arising in order to journey through the internal world
Week 8: Facing darkness – Inner growth can happen by turning towards inner pain and challenges.
Fruits of the Path: Becoming a Tzadik (Weeks 9 & 10)
Week 9: Revelation – Insights, teachings, melodies, and practices that arrive during mystical experiences
Week 10: Realization and Action – Jewish “Enlightenment,” living our realizations, being engaged with students and those in need
– To give a broad look at Jewish mystical paths: their histories, geographies, practices, and teachings.
– To allow each student to build a personal relationship with the material and find which styles and teachers of Jewish mysticism resonate the most with them.
– To learn ways that rabbinical students can be of service to those they serve who are interested in mysticism.
After each module, there will be a quiz on the content of the lecture and readings, as well as a short self-reflective writing exercise after the 5th and 12th classes.
Torah for the New Age by Rabbi Matthew Ponak
Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism by Gershom Scholem
The Receiving by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone – an excellent collection of female Jewish mystics.
The Kedumah Experience by Rabbi Zvi Ish Shalom – a very deep post-Jewish mystical philosophy with a body-centered orientation.
God is a Verb by Rabbi David Cooper – a wonderful introduction to Jewish mysticism for practitioners.
Other chapters in Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism by Gershom Scholem – there is one required reading from this book but this is an essential read for anyone studying Jewish mysticism academically. Gershom Scholem was the most influential scholar of Jewish mysticism and the major themes of his research seen in this book set the tone for a great deal of the scholarship that has followed. If you are especially interested in this type of research I also recommend Kabbalah: New Perspectives by Moshe Idel who was Scholem’s student and came to some significantly different findings.
Reflection and Practice sections in Torah for the New Age – several of the pages have prompts to deepen your relationship with the material.