Ehyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow

Ehyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow

By Arthur Green
Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2003. Hardcover, 192 pages.

Despite its subject-the ancient and mystical tradition of Kabbalah-this book is not about the past but about the future. Ehyeh, a Hebrew word that may be translated "I will be," is one of the biblical names of God and by its very tense it points toward what is to come. Arthur Green, a professor of Jewish Thought at Brandeis University, emphasizes this name in order to introduce his view about how the Jewish mystical tradition, so long deemphasized among "modern" Jews, should become more mainstream and develop in the future. What he emphasizes above all is the oneness of the universe and the image of God as the divine in the human.

Ehyeh: Kabbalah for Tomorrow was written by a Reconstructionist Jew for Jews. Nevertheless, because Green seeks to develop a postmodern, mystical attitude, much of what he says will appeal to a wider audience. Indeed, his comments on many issues, including the environment, prayer, and the community could be easily accepted by liberally minded members of many other traditions. Although he speaks about the Jewish tradition and urges his readers to learn Hebrew, the values of the book seem to arise as much from postmodernism as from Judaism itself. Some Jews, I suspect, will find that a major problem.

I myself approached the book hoping for a more detailed account of the Kabbalah. For instance, I would have liked a fuller examination of the sephiroth and how they may be used in meditational practice. What is offered is evocative, but does not go far beyond some basic thoughts, particularly about sephiroth six through nine. Nevertheless, this is a beautifully written and informative work that surely breaks down stereotypes of what is Jewish. Forelocks have been replaced by foresight. The work concludes with an epilogue containing, among other things, a helpful discussion of recommended works about the Kabbalah. Green offers here a good beginning in Kabbalah for those who know little about it. He has shown that this Jewish esoteric tradition, in some ways so foreign in thought and expression, can be adapted to the postmodern world. Whether old-time Kabbalists would agree is, of course, another question.


July/August 2004