Wednesday, August 29, 2018

This year we will concentrate on the first pages of the Zohar, the Haqdamat Sefer ha-Zohar.  Found in Volume One of the Pritzker Edition of The Zohar.

This is how the Zohar introduces itself to you, the reader.  Instead of jumping right into a text that is, in the words of Professor Daniel Matt:

profound and intense; one who hopes to enter and emerge in peace should be careful, persevering, simultaneously receptive and active. The message is not served to you on a platter; you must engage the text and join the search for meaning. Follow the words to what lies beyond and within; open the gates of imagination.”
There is an introduction!  Ha-qda-mat.  A safe place to start, an excellent way to be introduced to the Zohar, and for experienced readers, to appreciate how the Zohar wants to be understood in its own terms.

The “Haqdamat,” introduces us to the surprising formats and set pieces of the Zohar.  We will join Rabbi Hiyya and Rabbi Yose “walking on the way." They will encounter (it is all about encounters) an amazing child filled with wisdom, a beggar with precious teachings, a belligerent donkey-driver who is a sage in disguise.

We are introduced to Rabbi Shim’on and his disciples, the chevraya: his son, Rabbi Elazar; his scribe, Rabbi Abba, and Rabbis Yehudah, Yossi ben Yaakov, Yitzchak, Chizkiyah, Chiya, Yossi and Yaakov bar Idi.
Rabbi Shim'on and his disciples are often outshone in wisdom by these most unlikely figures.  And they are almost always out of doors.  They might be in a garden or a grove of trees. If they go inside they are visiting their teachers homes. They are never found in the confines of a house of study or synagogue.
They will, time and time again, run into Elijah.  They will contemplate creation; and delve into the holiness of the Sabbath,
There will be discussions about evil, especially human evil.  There will be love songs to human creativity.  There will be observations of the connection between God and individual human beings through the consequences of combined actions.  “These actions join us to the divine reality, as we add to creation, finding our own beauty, wonder, and awe.”
And there will be fish (with messianic overtones).

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Zohar Circles

Daniel Matt

Daniel Matt, one of the world’s leading authorities on Kabbalah, has been featured in Time Magazine and has appeared on National Public Radio and the History Channel. He has published over a dozen books, including The Essential Kabbalah (translated into seven languages), Zohar: Annotated and Explained, and God and the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony between Science and Spirituality.
Several years ago, Daniel completed an 18-year project of translating and annotating the Zohar. This work, comprising nine volumes, has been published by Stanford University Press and is entitled The Zohar: Pritzker Edition. This edition has been honored with a National Jewish Book Award and a Koret Jewish Book Award. The Koret award called his translation “a monumental contribution to the history of Jewish thought.”
For twenty years, Daniel served as professor at the Center for Jewish Studies, Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley. He has also taught at Stanford and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Daniel lives in Berkeley with his wife Hana.


San Francisco

Yosef Rosen is an historian and teacher of Jewish creativity. His classes weave together the imaginative and social dimensions of Jewish creative genres—Kabbalah, Talmud, philosophy, and poetry—and invite students to discover their own genres of intellectual creativity. He is currently a Jewish Studies teacher at JCHS of the Bay. He has a PhD in Jewish Studies from UC Berkeley, where he completed a dissertation on representations of spiritual community in the Zohar. Before moving to the Bay seven years ago, Yosef spent many years in traditional and innovative yeshivot in both Israel and America. In his spare time he wanders the woodlands of Northern California and celebrates the hillsides of the Bay on his bike.


North Peninsula

Rabbi Lavey Yitzchak Derby currently serves as Director of Jewish Life at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center. Previously, Rabbi Derby served as the rabbi of Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon, California, where he was instrumental in building a community built on the principles of Torah study, spiritual quest and practice, and social justice. Lavey has also served at the 92nd Street “Y” in New York, at CLAL: the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and on the Wexner Heritage Foundation national faculty. He teaches extensively on Jewish subjects including the history of Jewish ideas, Talmud and Rabbinic thought, Kabbalah, Hasidism, contemporary Jewish spirituality and Jewish meditation. He is the eighth generation direct descendant of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, for whom he is named, and is part of a family line of rabbis that traces back to the year 1500.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Wisdom of the Zohar: A Text Study

On Sunday afternoon, January 29, 2017, Lehrhaus and the JCCSF presented a study session with two of America's greatest scholars in Zohar and Kabbalah: Rabbi Arthur Green and Professor Daniel Matt. In an intimate setting these two friends and fellow travelers taught and discussed a selection from the Zohar and took questions from the participants and the moderator, Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan. 
Lehrhaus Judaica and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco are grateful that this free program was made possible by the continuing support of the Lehrhaus Philosophy Circles by The Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation and the Koret Foundation.

(Episode 6)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Arthur Green's 'Guide' Delves into Kabbalah

"Arthur Green's 'Guide' Delves into Kabbalah," recorded December 13, 2004, on NPR's "Fresh Air."

You may recall that the Presidential election between George W Bush and John Kerry was won by Bush, however Bush's margin of victory in the popular vote was the smallest ever for a re-elected incumbent president.  Green addresses one of the campaign's accusations: that the moral high ground is held only by conservatives.  How that discussions emerges from the Zohar and leads into Hanukkah is yours to discover.