"I have been teaching and studying Jewish mystical writings for over forty years," writes Arthur Green, Philip W. Lown Professor of Jewish Thought at Brandeis University. "I began as a seeker and remain one to this day. The psalm that says: 'Seek God's face always' has come to mean in my own prayer-life that the quest itself is endless, that the 'face of God' is to be found within the seeking, not only as a final goal."
Green regards everything in the light of spiritual growth. There is something very appealing about this humble stance in a scholar. We know at the outset that we are going to be in good hands for this substantive overview of kabbalistic thought and practice.
The first section of the book covers two key concepts of Kabbalah — sefirot (the One and the ten) and 'olamot (four steps to oneness) and a summary of the ancient names of God. Much of this material has been covered by others. Where Green really shines is in the second half of the book where he offers his exciting vision of Kabbalah for "the Environmental Age." He celebrates the natural world as reflecting divinity and worthy of reverence. The Judaism of the future must seek to relieve the suffering and pain of all God's creatures and to train people to be wise stewards of the earth, wind, water, and fire.
We are quite impressed with Green's fourteen point distillation of what he feels is most essential for living a Jewish life today. Here's one of them: "Recognize every person as the image of God. Work to see the Divine Image especially in those who themselves seem oblivious to it. Seek out the divinity in those who annoy, anger, or frustrate you. Hope to find and uplift sparks of holy light, even where it seems hardest. Do all the work that is needed to help others to discover the image of God in themselves." Some of the other points recommend training yourself to see the miracle of each day's arrival and departure, daily Torah study, and living the rhythm of the sacred calendar.
The author makes a good case for refitting Kabbalah for the contemporary spiritual journey. His comments on the Great Chain of Being, evil, prayer, and community (as a place where Shekhinah dwells) are succinct and to the point. Green is a formidable teacher of Jewish mysticism, and this volume amplifies and deepens the insights and wisdom contained in his previous work These Are The Words: A Vocabulary of Jewish Spiritual Life.