Tracey Sareff discusses her Sydney Melton Kabbalah course
“Mysticism and Kabbalah: Secret Knowledge in Judaism” provides a guided introduction to the fascinating area of Jewish mysticism. Students progress through two millennia of mystical writings covering a rich variety of centres, schools and kabbalistic figures.
All texts are grouped by period so that we can appreciate the literary and mystical depths, as well as studying the development in mystical concepts.
The “Melton method” is particularly useful when learning about mysticism because each session is grounded in the actual mystical texts which we study in English. We cover sections of the well-known classical texts including the Zohar, Sefer HaBahir and Sefer Yetzirah. Each passage is chosen because it extends understanding of mysticism in a particular era or school of Kabbalism. Discussion covers how mysticism engages with Torah and mitzvot, the enduring issues in Judaism, as well as considering the contemporary relevance of the texts.
We have numerous passages to choose from each week so we can customise each session to focus on learners’ particular interests. Also, the student text provides suggested readings for any participants who wishes to study further on any of the topics.
The course is presented chronologically. We progress from mysticism in the biblical era to cover the secrets of the Chasidei Ashkenaz, the first Kabbalists of Spain and Provence, the luminaries of Safed and Medieval Kabbalism, to reach the innovations of Lurianic Kabbalah and the rise of Chassidism.
The re-emergence and transformation of certain motifs provide an opportunity for discussing the fascinating progression of Jewish mysticism over time.
Interest in Kabbalism extended beyond Jewish scholarship to other religions and cultures, from as early as the Middle ages. In English, the long association between Kabbalah and secret societies is illustrated in the word “cabal” derived from the Medieval Latin term for Kabbalah. A broad interest in Kabbalism in our era is demonstrated by the popularity of the “Kabbalah Centre” with its many well-known attendees (disclosure: so we might not get Madonna this year).
We will discuss this adaptation of Jewish mysticism, as well as considering the writings of other modern exponents of Kabbalah. These ten sessions will provide a taste of the rich history of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.
Tracey’s course starts at Sydney’s North Shore Synagogue, commencing 20 Mar.
All welcome (including Madonna).