Kabbalah: A Love Story by Lawrence Kushner

Kabbalah_1

The author blends Jewish mysticism and a welcome dash of humor in this cheerfully written short novel about the oneness of the universe and the lessons of heart and soul through the centuries.  Underlying the interwoven tales that make up the novel is a copy of the Zohar (a fundamental text of the Kabbalah) that effects the fate of all who happen upon it, and a hidden piece of paper in the book that midlife angst-ridden Rabbi Kalmen Stern unearths in an idle and curious moment.  And where did he get his copy of the book?  Kabbalah comes back to this and other episodes in the life of the lovelorn Rabbi Stern and his search for mystical meaning.  Along the way you’ll meet two 13th century scholars with a passion for Kabbalic study and Hebrew, a mysterious and catty synagogue caretaker, and a professor of astronomy who is looking for some answers of her own.

The concept of the novel reminds me of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, which is also a love story of sorts that switches between time periods, but BY FAR Kabbalah is not as dense a read – it’s more like if Tom Robbins and Thomas Fox Averill had taken Byatt’s idea and added their own senses of culture and playfulness (I am not slighting Byatt at all – I read Possession years ago and liked it very much.  This book is a quicker read).  To be sure, there’s sadness here – one story line concerns two men conversing on a transport train to a Nazi concentration camp – but even in this particular story, there’s still a nonchalant sense of hope and transcendence. 

I enjoyed the book and look forward to checking out Kushner’s other books – he is a rabbi and has written a number of nonfiction books about the Kabbalah and spirituality.  In case you’re interested, here’s a list of other books by Kushner that we have here at the Greensboro Public Library:

Jewish Spirituality:  A Brief Introduction for Christians

Eyes Remade for Wonder:  A Lawrence Kushner Reader

Honey from the Rock:  Visions of Jewish Mystical Renewal

Other books we have on the Kabbalah itself:

Kabbalah:  An Illustrated Introduction to the Esoteric Heart of Jewish Mysticism by Tim Dedopulos

Kaballah:  A Brief Introduction for Christians by Tamar Frankiel

Kabbalah:  A Very Short Introduction by Joseph Dan

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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