A single woman got some love advice from an Israeli Kabbalist in last weekend’s New York Times:
I might have stopped being Orthodox, but its indoctrination had left me with the sense that nearly anything — God, spiritualists, healers, psychics and witches — might be equally possible. Thus I found myself in an airless Jerusalem classroom with this old rabbi, who had a white beard so long I couldn’t see his mouth and glasses so thick I couldn’t see his eyes.
And, before reciting a mystical incantation to set her up with her beloved, the kabbalist gives her some unexpected news.
Of all the things he could have said — that I wasn’t married because I didn’t pray daily, or eat kosher food, or observe the Sabbath (not to mention my nonvirginal dating habits) — a curse was the last thing I’d expected. Who would curse me? I mean, if there were such a thing as a curse.
The rest of the story (which you can read here) is both expected and unexpected. Without spoiling it too much, the kabbalist tells her that she’ll meet someone around Hanukkah time. The holiday comes and goes, and nothing happens. A year later, she meets someone. A year after that — the Hanukkah that’s just happened — they moved in together.
A few months ago, we hosted a Hasidic rebbe at our house. Like the kabbalist in the story, he received people in private, talked about their lives and gave blessings. Unlike the story, though, he didn’t charge anyone money — “Money is money,” the rebbe says, “and blessings are blessings. What does one have to do with the other?”
Two Israeli girls who went in there came out satisfied, like they’d gotten the exact thing they asked for. My one stodgy, rationalist friend came out a little shaken, like the Rebbe’d pulled one of his Jedi mind-reading tricks. The person who was the most excited to go in came out crying. It sounds like a collection of riddles, or stories whose answers I’ll never know, but in the moment, it was amazing — like watching one of those grainy family videos that you shouldn’t have a right to see, but you do. It really wasn’t about fortunetelling. It was about what you boil your life down to, when you’ve only got one thing to say.
What do you think — is asking a rebbe about your future an act of superstitiousness? Does it matter whether it is?
Pronounced: KHAH-nuh-kah, also ha-new-KAH, an eight-day festival commemorating the Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks and subsequent rededication of the temple. Falls in the Hebrew month of Kislev, which usually corresponds with December.
Pronounced: khah-SID-ik, Origin: Hebrew, a stream within ultra-Orthodox Judaism that grew out of an 18th-century mystical revival movement.
Pronounced: KOH-sher, Origin: Hebrew, adhering to kashrut, the traditional Jewish dietary laws.