'Kabbalah is About Cleaving to God'
For actress and comedienne Sandra Bernhard, Jewish mysticism is more than a fad--it's been her way of life for over a decade.The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People.'
Sandra Bernhard began studying Kabbalah in 1995, when her personal trainer took her to Los Angeles's Kabbalah Centre on her 40th birthday. "My trainer at the gym was Brazilian and not Jewish. He'd been studying at The Kabbalah Centre for a while and was always yelling me about it while we were training. It was very interesting to me," she recalls.
As her 40th birthday approached, Bernhard decided she wanted to make "some big changes" in her life. Kabbalah was her conduit for doing that. She explains, "I'm definitely more aware of my impatience and my level of anger and bitchiness. I've kind of been able to rein in a lot of that. In my relationship with the person I'm involved with, we can have conversations and she can point out things to me that five or 10 years ago I would not have wanted to hear from someone else. I would have gotten a lot more defensive. But that is not what Kabbalah is really about, from what I've read. Kabbalah is really about cleaving to God."
Bernhard and her daughter Cicely, born in 1998, try to keep kosher at the home they share with Bernhard's girlfriend, and they attend weekly Shabbat services at The Kabbalah Centre when they are in New York, their primary residence, or Los Angeles, where Bernhard lived for years. But Bernhard always seeks out a local synagogue at which to attend Saturday services no matter where in the world she finds herself. "I want to hear the Torah reading, because that's the energy of the week. It cleans the palate for the coming week and gives you a spiritual grounding and explanation for the things that have happened. The Torah portion represents the energy of that week, and if you understand what you're getting yourself into, you're a little less likely to blame external things."
She's worshipped in synagogues all over the world. "I've been to someshuls
that are a hoot. From Morocco to Ireland to Paris and even across the States. I went to a greatshul
--I think it was in North Carolina—aChabad