Amy Block and Paul Gellman

Mysticism in the Jewish Tradition

Judging by the enthusiastic applause of the fifty-four people at the end of Amy Block’s and Paul Gellman’s presentation on May 19th, 2016,  the evening was a great success.

The audience shared in the dynamic enthusiasm of their presentation. They spoke of how their early experiences of growing up in Jewish households impacted their younger years. Amy loved the joy she saw in her father’s face when she accompanied him to synagogue. After his bar mitzvah Paul said he drifted away from his Jewish faith until he met and was inspired by the message and singing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Other influences in Amy’s life were her teenage years of living in Israel. Reading the book, The Jewel in the Lotus, opened up the idea of including Yoga as a deepening to her spiritual practice.

Their involvement with the Reconstructionist Synagogue, Darchei Noam, (Ways of Joy) in Toronto enhanced their sense of Jewishness and gave them an opportunity to express their Judaism in a way that felt relevant and meaningful.

Paul and Amy talked about mysticism as the human expression of union or direct communion with ultimate reality. This led into a comparison between the chakra system and the Jewish Tree of Life and the Kabbalah.

The Kabbalah is an extremely complex subject and neither Paul or Amy claim to have expertise on it, but they provided a general overview of what it is about.

Paul spoke of the inspiration Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach had on him, both from his message and singing. He said Rabbi Carlebach could move people to tears. He was a charismatic and loving person who encouraged people of all kinds to open their hearts and love each other. Amy and Paul played guitar and sang a couple of Rabbi Carlebach’s songs, joined by the audience.

Some Jewish life cycle practices and symbols were touched on. Paul and Amy described kashrut – what it means to be kosher, tikkun olam – repairing the world, in large measure by following the golden rule, bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah – the ceremony of becoming a son or daughter of the covenant, Shabbat – the 7th day, a day of rest, and shiva, the first seven days’ of mourning practice.

All in all, it was a rich and informative experience.

Submitted by Owen McCooey