Friday, August 29, 2008

Alan the Kabbalist

Despite his ongoing protests, I have often suspected that Alan is a mystic at heart and now I have photographic proof! That's right, Alan has come to this holy city and been caught on film (or in pixels in this case) deeply immersed in kabbalah study.

Before you get the wrong impression, some explanation is in order. Kabbalah, a word often used to refer to the whole of the Jewish mystical tradition, comes from the root ק-ב-ל/k-b-l which in this form means "to receive" or "to accept." In this usage, kabbalah means "a tradition" or "that which is received." Jerusalem is a center of kabbalistic learning and people come here from all over the world to study with the city's many teachers --some deeply traditional, others wondrously innovative, and a handful who manage to be both. Personally, I am looking forward to the opportunity my time here affords me of learning Zohar (a central text in the Jewish mystical tradition) with Melila Hellner-Eshed. Melila is a wonderful teacher who I had the honor of meeting at the same retreat where I met Alan.

However, in another funny twist of using the holy language of Hebrew for our everyday interactions, "kabbalah" has some other meanings as well. It can mean simply "acceptance" or "approval." It is also a word that can be used for a reception desk.

And where do we now hear and use the word most in our daily lives? Well, it also means "receipt" as in "that piece of paper which you receive after you pay someone money."

So, after his shopping expeditions, Alan and I have been "studying kabbalah" together: looking over the receipts to get a sense of how much things cost and to build our grocery-shopping vocabulary. It's a good exercise which also promises to sharpen our skills at on-the-fly conversions from "shekels per kilo" to "dollars per pound."

Next time Alan claims not to be a kabbalist, I will have proof to the contrary. Here he is deeply immersed in studying kabbalah (while sitting next to the veggies he beautifully prepared for stir frying):

And in this next shot, I believe you can actually see the light of holiness shining on his sweet face:

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