Sunday, February 04, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Kabbalah: a Love Story by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

"If I write Kabbalah, no one but Kabbalists will read beyond the first pages. But if I conceal the Kabbalah inside a story, then people will have to read the Kabbalah to find out how the story ends." - Moshe de Leon from Kabbalah: a Love Story

Hidden within the bindings of an ancient copy of the Zorah (the master text of Kabbalah) is a document which answers one of the heart’s eternal questions. The document is a love letter or theology, Rabbi Kalman Stern isn’t sure which. He had received the ancient Zorah on a trip to Israel and has been using it ever since as a prop in his courses on mysticism. Today in a moment of abstraction, he fiddled with the cover and found the document which began botzina d’qardinuta (the seed point of beginning, the flash of light) and alma d’ah-tay (the mother-womb of being, the darkness).

Shortly after finding the hidden document, Rabbi Stern attends a lecture “The Seed Point of Beginning” by Dr. Isabel Benveniste, an astronomer. Isabel and Kalman meet to discuss Kabbalah and eventually develop a relationship. Their burgeoning relationship is shown in counterpoint to the one between Moshe ben Shem Tov de Guadalajara (Moshe de Leon) and his inspiration, the wife of Don Judah. Moving between the thirteenth century Castilan, the 1940s and present day, author Rabbi Lawrence Kushner slowly unveils how these various stories interconnect and in doing so, share knowledge of Kabbalah.

Kabbalah: a Love Story is Kushner’s debut novel, although he is a well-respected author of many non-fiction works on Jewish mysticism. At times the novel’s dialogue is uneven and readers may wish he had developed his characters further; however, these minor flaws are far outweighed by the manner in which Kushner weaves together his story lines.

Kushner’s novel is as complex as its subject. On the surface it is the promised love story, although an untraditional one. At its heart, it is a story of history, faith, knowledge, seeking and of course, Kabbalah. Like many of the best allegorical novels, Kabbalah: a Love Story can be read repeatedly, each reading unwraps new layers and meanings.

Read an excerpt from the book here.

ISBN10: 0767924126
ISBN13: 9780767924122

196 Pages
Publisher: Morgan Road Books
Publication Date: October 10, 2006
Author Website:



Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Oooh, this is SO on my wish list!!

Catherine said...

That looks really good. I'd never heard of it before. It's on my list now too. Have you read Bee Season by Myla Goldberg? A couple of it's characters study kabbalah and there some really amazing mysticism in there. I recommend it.