The Woman’s Kabbalah: Ecstatic Jewish Practices for Women by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone 2 audio cassettes + study guide, Sounds True $18.95. (800) 333-9185
When an esoteric, mystical side of Judaism introduces a cosmos that includes a female side of God—the Shechinah—you know it’s just a matter of time before women adapt these teachings for ourselves. In the case of the Kabbalah, the secret teachings traditionally forbidden to anyone not a Jewish male, married and over 40, it has taken centuries to reach the consumer mainstream of paperbacks, websites, show biz personalities and—finally—a feminist interpretation by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone.
Firestone, a Jungian psychotherapist and Jewish Renewal rabbi in Boulder, Colorado, guides the listener through some Kabbalistic basics and then, with a Jungian interpretation, moves on to guided and creative meditations. Her goal is leading women—both Jewish and non-Jewish— into finding our own maggid or inner guide. She defines “ecstasy” not as a trance or drug-induced condition but a state of exalted delight. Who wouldn’t go for that?
On the other hand, Firestone is not giving a recipe for instant enlightenment. She advises us not to be disappointed if nothing happens at first and includes a list of resources in the study guide. The “ecstatic practice” of lighting Shabbat candles does seem doable, even for a skeptic. Firestone draws on the image of the two similar and equal candles as representing the feminine and masculine aspects of God in sacred union, bridging heaven and earth. She suggests meditating on the space between the candles as the highly charged doorway to another realm. How comfortable to have that doorway open through one of the few ritual practices at the heart of Judaism that belonged to women right from the start.