"The most important thing to say about the Kabbalah is that it is always the wrong idea to clarify it," writes David Rosenberg. This sentence comes near the end of his strange and beautiful book, Dreams of Being Eaten Alive: The Literary Core of the Kabbalah
. The book is a brief exploration of sexuality, spirituality, and psychology. It is sufficiently grounded in biblical tradition to be understood by theological conservatives, and sufficiently unconventional in tone to appeal to theological liberals. "Yes, [Kabbalah] offers meanings," Rosenberg concedes, "but, of even more relevance today, it presents a way of searching for meaning. It ranges from dreams to fear and desire, putting aside all boundaries and taboos in the search for what is truly alive." The book begins and ends with essays entitled, "How to Read the Kabbalah" and "How to Receive the Kabbalah," both of which are less instructional than exemplary. Rosenberg describes his own longings for and experiences of epiphanic moments in waking life that have the feverish and all-consuming qualities of the most vivid dreams. Between these essays lies the real meat of the book, Rosenberg's own translation of the Kabbalah. (His previously published translations include The Book of J
and The Poet's Bible
.) In this rendering, Kabbalah is an urgent and sensuous book, with valuable (if vague) instructions for living faithfully and greatly. Here's just one example of its simultaneously unsettling and comforting lessons: "Now watch closely. A dream must be interpreted, or else it remains an unread letter.... Forget a dream and no enrichment from its interpretation will come to you." --Michael Joseph Gross
From Publishers Weekly
Poet, author and editor Rosenberg is perhaps best known for The Book of J (1991), a controversial bestseller in which he translated part of the Torah and, together with his co-writer, Harold Bloom, claimed that the sacred text's true author was a woman. In this new book, he tackles the Kabbalah, adding to its secret abstruseness the assertions that it is erotic and kin to what he calls "frontier ecology." Rosenberg opens with a hard-to-read section on "How to Read the Kabbalah," followed by his translations of selections from the Zohar, the Kabbalah's canonical book. The third section, "How to Receive the Kabbalah," contains explanations of the Zohar translations. Unlike Judaism's concern with belief and behavior expressed in a social philosophy and a theological framework, the Kabbalah deals with mysticism, myths, emanations, spirituality and dreams, including the cannibal dream that gives Rosenberg's book its title. Primarily, Rosenberg interprets the Kabbalah as a book "obsessed with failed sex." Rosenberg's ruminations range so widely that they are sometimes difficult to follow; alongside allusions to Kafka and Dante, he refers to the television series Touched by an Angel and devotes nearly an entire chapter to the spirituality exhibited on Oprah. Rosenberg struggles valiantly to elucidate what he means by "frontier Kabbalah," "creative Kabbalah" and "practical Kabbalah," but the end result is a muddle.
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