Author Sherri Mandell is the author of a book that won the prestigious National Jewish Book Award, and she earned a master’s degree in creative writing. Her studies of Kabbalah with scholars and mystics in Israel (where she lives) led her to this project. Jewish mysticism, it turns out, has a lot of resources to encourage those of us who use creative arts to make our way into the world.
She aims to help readers unravel “the spiritual truth of writing” and the ways that writing can lead to our understanding. She explains: “Writing is a means of appreciating the world, allowing us to pay attention and concentrate so that we notice and record the unique, sometimes fleeting truths that the divine sends to each of us, our stories.”
One doesn’t have to be Jewish to delve into Kabbalah study or to benefit from The Kabbalah of Writing.
Ten chapters are organized around the ten sefirot, or creative forces, according to Kabbalah that connect us to an infinite, ultimately unknowable, God. Mandell asks non-rhetorically: “What is being revealed to us through patterns and images that repeat, intersect, and transform themselves?” — then sets out to explore these patterns and images.
Citing both the Hebrew word for the traditional sefirot and the English word that approximates it, the chapters look closely at “Will,” “Inspiration,” “Comprehension,” “Kindness,” “Boundaries,” “Harmony,” “Endurance,” “Surrender,” “Creativity,” and “Rulership.”
Each chapter is full of more than a dozen writing exercises, based on that chapter’s theme. For example, chapter 3, “Comprehension/Bina” describes “the step beyond inspiration that allows you to develop your initial ideas” and includes exercises on noticing details, observing people with close attention, seeing contradictions in relationships, identifying themes in one’s personal memoir, becoming a wise and kind narrator, and writing about what you don’t know, among others.