REVIEW: Matthew Ponak — Embodied Kabbalah (BOOK)
The beginning of Matthew Ponak’s new book starts, with other things, with fair warning. “Proceed with Caution,” he christens one introductory passage at the beginning of the tome Embodied Kabbalah: Jewish Mysticism for All People. “Some of these texts contain very powerful messages. Reading about topics like mystical union and ineffability can be enticing and even blissful. However, as you will find with many of the other topics, big insights need to be kept in balance with patience and levelheadedness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: https://matthewponak.com/
Ancient and contemporary teachers alike warn of the dangers of moving too quickly on a mystical journey. It is important to take a break if you are feeling overwhelmed, light-headed, or elated. Truly, the journey never ends so there is no rush. Also, remember that a foundation of healthy foods, exercise, and adequate sleep are essential for integrating the teachings of Embodied Kabbalah.”
Ponak then adds: “Intuitive or Sacred Mind is an orientation towards the world which allows insights to arise. It is a posture of openness and curiosity. With regards to the teachings in this book, no matter the original cultural and historical context of sacred writings, the mystical Jewish mentality of Torah study is to meet the text directly with a receptivity to whatever messages may come through.
Though knowledge of the origins of the texts can help us build a framework through which to approach them, the essence of mystical study involves trusting the words themselves to reveal to us what we need (this same sense of trust is beyond valuable for learning from our inner worlds as well). Regardless of any commentary in the book or any sense of the ‘proper’ way to learn from it, the lessons and messages that arise in your mind are the ones that are truly meant for you.”
This kind of generosity of spirit (pun intended) is a welcome relief from many other books I have read and covered on the subject. These days, the institutions of religion often mimic the decidedly terra firma, worldly divisiveness of politics and the culture. But there’s no sense here that any of that applies when it comes to Ponak’s interpretation of Embedded Kabbalah practices. Just straight truths, and practical philosophies that could be beneficial even in a psychosomatic sense, if you aren’t a true believer. “The very first letter of the very first book of the Torah is beit. It looks like this: ב,” Ponak writes. “This letter is part of the word bereishit, which means ‘in the beginning.’ It is the first spark in this entire lineage of sacred study. A beit is open on one side and closed on the other.
This is a hint to the nature of spiritual learning. If a person is open to Torah, then Torah will be open to them. But, if a person is closed to what may be revealed, then the text will be closed to revealing. Regardless of where you believe these teachings come from — whether they are historical documents or revelations from a Divine Source — having a posture of receptivity will allow you to enter into the shared communal wisdom that has been cultivated by Jewish mystics for millennia. I hope you enjoy the journey.”