Orthodox teachers of Kabbala reacted with disdain Sunday to pop idol Madonna’s Rosh Hashana visit in Israel, during which she took part in a study session of Judaism’s most esoteric texts.
“It is a known fact in Kabbala that impurity and evil are inherently attracted to sanctity,” said a director of one of the most respected Kabbala yeshivot in Jerusalem who preferred that he and his institution remain anonymous.
“That’s why people of Hollywood, a place of iniquity and lasciviousness, are naturally attracted to the holiness of Kabbala.”
The director of the yeshiva said he was explaining a basic Kabbalistic concept according to which “sparks” of holiness tightly connected to “shells” of impurity are waiting to be let free. These “shells” [klipot] are naturally attracted to their polar opposite – holiness.
“Wherever there is holiness and sanctity there is also evil,” added the director, who said that during her last visit to Israel three years ago, Madonna repeatedly tried to contact his institution, but her calls were not returned. “That’s why someone like that lady – I don’t even want to mention her name – is so attracted to the Kabbala.”
Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri, son of Jerusalem-based kabbalist David Batzri, head of the Shalom Yeshiva, said that it was forbidden to teach Kabbala to non-Jews such as Madonna.
“Even Jews are not allowed to delve into the secrets of the Kabbala until they have thoroughly reviewed the entire Talmud and the legal commentaries, and also scrupulously adhere to all the commandments,” added Batzri. “But we as Jews can learn something from the interest non-Jews have in Kabbala. Even the non-Jews understand the power of the Kabbala. They are willing to come from the ends of the earth to learn it.”
During her trip to Israel, Madonna toasted Rosh Hashana with President Shimon Peres and declared herself an “ambassador for Judaism.”
The singer, who is not Jewish, met Peres at his official Jerusalem residence on Saturday evening, and the two exchanged gifts, with Madonna receiving a lavishly-bound copy of the Old Testament.
She presented Peres with a volume of the Zohar (The Book of Splendor), the guiding text of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbala, inscribed, “To Shimon Peres, the man I admire and love, Madonna,” the Yediot Aharonot daily said. A Peres aide confirmed the meeting but had no details.
Madonna arrived in Israel Wednesday night, the eve of the New Year, with her film director husband, Guy Ritchie, to attend a Kabbala conference.
Other celebrities who flew in for the event included movie star Demi Moore and her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, ex-talk show host Rosie O’Donnell and fashion designer Donna Karan.
“You don’t know how popular the Book of Splendor is among Hollywood actors,” Yediot quoted Madonna as telling Peres. “Everyone I meet talks to me only about that.” Kutcher was quoted by an Israeli daily as telling a group of Israeli businessmen and entertainers on Saturday that Kabbala had answered fundamental questions in his life and made him a better actor.
Madonna, who was raised a Roman Catholic, has taken the Hebrew name Esther, and has been seen wearing a red thread on her wrist in a Jewish tradition to ward off the evil eye. Madonna paid her first visit to Israel three years ago, on another Kabbala-centered trip.
“I can’t believe that I’m celebrating the new year with you in Israel,” Ma’ariv quoted her as telling Peres on Saturday. “It’s a dream come true.”