Written by Ambi Sitham. Ambi, a first-time Jewrotica writer, was born and raised in London to immigrant parents from Sri Lanka. She is a lawyer cum expert commentator, author and host and currently lives in Los Angeles.
The Final Redemption is the fourth of four essays that Ambi is writing for Jewrotica and is a continuation of Wandering in the Desert. Read Ambi’s first essay here. Ambi’s series of essays chronicle her love affair with all things Jewish from innocent beginnings as a twelve-year-old schoolgirl to a long-term relationship with a Jewish man that she considers one of the great loves of her life to flirting with the idea of conversion. The break-up of that relationship was followed by a continued strong mutual attraction to Jewish men throughout her life, which after one passionate fling led her to a spiritual path that resulted in the unlikeliest of realizations about her true passion for all things Jewish. This passion, in truth, is esoteric rather than erotic.
The first lecture I attended at the Kabbalah centre was led by a woman named Sarah Yardeni – the wife of a respected Kabbalah instructor Eitan Yardeni who was known in the media as ‘Madonna’s kabbalah guru’. It was a mishmash of a self-help event, but my attention was stirred when she spoke of the Kabbalistic concept of soul-mates – of one soul that upon creation split into two halves – male and female — that then lived many lifetimes, reincarnating, learning their soul lessons and eventually, if they were lucky, reuniting on the physical plane – more often than not on their last life on earth before they returned to the ‘upper worlds’.
For some reason this concept really touched something within me and whilst much of the rest of the lecture was very practical rather than mystical, many of the concepts she spoke of with regards to relationships resonated with me on a far deeper level than any of the relationship self-help books that I had read. I quietly decided to sign up to the one Kabbalah course that they recommended, thinking that at the least it would make for one of those quirky life experiences/good fodder for dinner party tales – and who knew, perhaps I would get something out of it.
Somewhat like the soul-mate lecture, the Kabbalah 1 and 2 courses were very self-help focused. Even though references were made to Kabbalistic principles dating back thousands of years, they were largely watered down. I found the courses interesting and engaging and, practically speaking, what I learnt was a useful addition to my life. But it was the final course, Kabbalah 3, where things got interesting – and challenging. The content we studied was now less practical and much more mystical. We learnt of energy days such as Shabbat and traditional Jewish holidays, past lives and ‘tools’ – scanning the Zohar – Aramaic words that most of us couldn’t understand – but were apparently energy portals to tap into the never ending light force of the Creator. Whilst I had always believed in G-d and other energies existing in the Universe, I nonetheless had a lawyer’s logical – and yes, somewhat skeptical – mind and found some of what we learnt hard to truly believe.
Then one evening in a class about reincarnation, everything came to a head. Eitan was away in New York and his wife Sarah came to teach the class and lead us through a past life meditation. Sarah lectured on how basically people who suffered in this life not only suffered as a result of their prior misdeeds and choices in this life, but also in past lives. This caused lively debate and questions from the students about seemingly innocents such as children being abused and killed and how this could happen or be justified. I didn’t enjoy the energy of the class, and as we started to do the past life meditation, I felt a sense of dread overcome me and suddenly freaked out and had to leave.
I scampered off home feeling awful thinking that all the stories about how dabbling with Kabbalah was dangerous and how they were a weird mystical cult were probably true. As it was I had been finding it hard to stomach a lot of the ‘mystical’ stuff we were now being introduced to, and I also felt we were being slowly but surely initiated further into the centre and going to Shabbats etc, which to me was akin to practicing Judaism. My view was that if I wanted to practice Judaism, I would have converted, married the Mensch and done it properly.
I took some time out from my studies, and it took a few sanity checks and talking things through with a couple of different teachers and experienced students from the centre who weren’t overly zealous for me to return to complete the course. By the time we ‘graduated’ from Kabbalah 3 I had actually started using the more mystical ‘tools’ – scanning the Zohar, attending the odd Shabbat and I had truly felt a positive impact upon my life. Life was still challenging and dating was still not really on my radar but things were definitely shifting for me for the better. Friends and family had noticed too. They had all been incredibly sceptical when I joined Kabbalah and had said they hoped this didn’t mean they would lose me to a cult. But six months into my studies when they noticed positive changes in me and my life six months they were truly happy for me and viewed Kabbalah as a positive addition to my life.