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At this time of year,
it’s almost unavoidable to spend time reflecting on how to channel desires
and impulses such as anger, greed, and lust, to name a few. Jewish
sources such as Kabbalah discuss these questions and readers looking for
an accessible yet deep text will be interested in reading In The Shadow
of the Ladder. This
translation of the Introductions to Kabbalah by Rabbi Yehuda Lev Ashlag
(1886-1955) explores such issues as where do our desires come from? Why
do we have them? What is it that makes them so strong?
The translators are Dr. Mark Cohen, who earned his Ph.D. from the University
of London on the relationship between the Kabbalah and psychotherapy, and
his wife, Dr. Yedidah Cohen, a trained anesthesiologist. They live
in Safed, home of the Kabbalah since the 16th century, together with their
four children. In addition to translating the original text, they provide
explanatory chapters that make the book accessible even to readers who are
not conversant with Kabbalah.
Although Kabbalah is currently very popular, there is still a sense of
great mystery about reading it. Yet in an interview with Dr. Y. Cohen,
I learned that “Rabbi Ashlag assures us that the Kabbalists who wrote books,
only put in their work that part of the Kabbalah which is not only permitted
to all, but gives great benefit to people from all walks of life and backgrounds.
These Introductions deal with the universal reality of being a human being
on this physical planet, yet having within us a divinity. That’s a juxtaposition
which affects both Jew and non-Jew, religious or secular.”
She described In The Shadow of the Ladder as “a text which
describes an inner view, the purpose God had in his creation. Both on a
cosmic level and on the most intimate personal level. It examines the fact
that the human being is at one and the same time the crown of the creation,
and yet so separated from himself or herself. A person asks, what is my role
here on earth? Why am I here? The book deals with the fundamental issues
of free will, and what our choices are. It’s a book to take personally. It’s
not an intellectual study, but a transformative book.. I guess where people
go on from there will be very individual.”
@The Source Israel asked Dr. Cohen what is the appropriate way to read
the book as it not an “easy” read. She replied that “many people study it
in groups and reflect and meditate on it together. Also it’s a book to take
slowly, to ponder over, to see where it applies in one’s life, to put down
and then pick up again when you’ve digested some more.” A perfect text
for the beginning of a New Year.
Interview by Deborah Rosenbloom.