In the Hutong
Amidst the Days of Awe
At the risk of wearing my faith even more prominently upon my sleeve, a little perspective on the likes of Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, and others of the Greater Hollywood Kabballah trend-surfers.
I’m what I like to call a “big tent” Jew, referring neither to the prodigious size of my Hawai’ian shirts nor to the length of my tallis, but to my conviction that all present-day Hebrews – be they Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, or Orthodox, Chassid or Misnagid, Karaite or Haredi, Observant or Assimilated, B’nei Noach, Converts, Baal Teshuvah or Frum-from-Birth – all of us are members of the same tribe and need to stop sparring with each other.
As far as I stretch that tent, however, I cannot come to include the Hollywood Kabbalists even part way under the tent flap.
It would be another story altogether if they were to say “okay, I want to study Kabbalah and genuinely appreciate it, so I will undertake to do the groundwork necessary to reach a level where I can begin to truly understand it.”
But they don’t say that.
You see, to someone who is Jewish – or even to someone trying really, really hard to be – and is moderately knowledgeable about Judaism, learning Kabballah without years of study of Torah, then Talmud, Midrash, the Rabbinic commentaries, and Shulchan Aruch, is like practicing brain surgery without first studying biology, organic chemistry, physiology, medicine, getting a couple of degrees, serving as an intern, then a resident, and passing your boards. The reasons you don’t jump directly to Kabbalah are at least as strong as not jumping directly to brain surgery.
The problem for the Hollywood Kabbalists is that such a process – which would involve decades of study and a radical change in lifestyle – is too hard. They want all of the rewards right now without putting in the required effort.
So when Madonna tells Israeli President Shimon Peres that she considers herself an Ambassador for Judaism, my response is “sounds good, Mrs. Ritchie. How about actually converting first, and then we talk?”
I mean, at least you could learn what the brain actually looks like before declaring yourself a brain surgeon?