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Alive with Meaning
on 14 September 2006
In Part One: Foundations, the author explains that the Zohar is the central text of Kabbalah which is the spiritual heritage of all humanity. Kabbalah is not religious in the traditional sense of the term and isn't based on literal interpretations of scripture. Logical analysis is however an important tool for investigating spiritual matters. But logic in Kabbalah can take paradoxical forms. The authorship and structure of the Zohar and its relationship to the Hebrew alphabet are discussed here, as well as the dissemination of the Kabbalah. Here I have also found one of the clearest and most accessible explanations of the Ten Sefirot and the Tree of Life.
Part Two: Teachings, deals with creation, the Big Bang and the place where science and metaphysics meet. This section contains interesting discussions of fear, awe and the love of God, concealment, revelation, mercy, judgment, chaos, the Shekhina, temperance and certainty. Throughout, there are passages from the Zohar followed by Rav Berg's engaging and illuminating commentary which explains the working of concepts like Chesed (kindness), Gevurah (strength), Tif'eret (balance) and Malchut (the earthly realm) with practical examples. It includes the famous story of the donkey driver and includes analyses of the nature of desire, the significance of strangers, chaos which is evil, and the Shekhina (The Presence).
Part Three: Transformations, encompasses subjects as diverse as Noah and the flood generation, the story of Isaac, Jacob and his vicissitudes, Joseph's adventures, the golden calf, David and Batsheva. Other revelatory sections discuss concepts like soul mates, immortality, forgiveness, the reason why the wicked appear to be so strong, and how to connect to the Source of Life. In the conclusion, the author explains how Kabbalah may be used as a practical guide for transforming fragmentation and chaos into unity and fulfillment. The Zohar provides a bridge between everyday consciousness and our inner powers of transformation. And indeed, its surprise happenings, sudden insights and epiphanies have a salutary effect on the mind. In addition, the Zohar enables one to disconnect from darkness and negativity by reuniting us with the Creator's light.
Having widely investigated the esoteric side of many spiritual traditions, I have found this brief study of the Zohar of great worth. There are correspondences with other mystical paths but also significant differences. I was surprized to discover for example, a seeming acceptance of the idea of reincarnation, unusual in Western spirituality. Sure there are many directly contradictory statements but after the initial frustration, pondering these eventually does reveal a bigger picture and more profound insight. I have found this work extremely valuable in better understanding some key concepts of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The book concludes with a bibliography, index and short biography of the author.