'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.
where one of the rabbis was black. His wife was wearing hersheitl
[wig worn for religious purposes] and the whole thing. I have to say I was pretty fascinated by that." She'd like to go back and make a documentary of the synagogues she's visited around the world but isn't sure how she'd get around one major roadblock: Many synagogues don't allow cameras inside, especially on the Sabbath.
Travel inspires Bernhard. She loves experiencing different cultures, and she celebrated her 50th birthday in Marrakech, Morroco, with a bunch of friends. Her daughter's middle name—Yassin—is Moroccan. It means "girl with a beautiful face" or "messenger of good news."
"Part of the reason I ended up having a kid," she says, "is because I was on a spiritual path. I don't think I would have been open enough to the experience of having a kid before. I was used to being on my own and just dealing with my own life all the time. But I wanted to make room for something else. I felt that I wanted to make a change." Bernhard does not get all goo-goo-eyed or ethereal when she talks about motherhood. "I'm a little less into the wonderment of it all, ya know? I still feel like I'm hermutha
, know what I mean?" she says, emphatically. "Cicely is someone who is extremely kind and aware of people. Just a good soul. And she just came into the world that way. I feel that's just the soul that I drew down. I mean, she's a kid. She can be difficult. You don't want a placid kid, you want somebody who can be feisty as well. But her basic makeup is very calm. She's a good kid, and she understands spirituality and love."
Bernhard never lets Cicely out of the house without herroite bendel
, the red string bracelet that many Kabbalists believe wards off evil energy. Bernhard wears one as well. "It can't hurt to have something that's keeping away bad vibes," she says almost apologetically, turning her arm to show me the red string wrapped around her slender left wrist. "I used to always rush Cicely to The Kabbalah Centre to have one of the teachers tie hers on, but now I do it myself. I know the prayers, and I feel like I have my daughter's best interests at heart more than some teacher at the centre does."
While she loves traveling, performing, and writing—she's published three books and seven albums since the late eighties—it's in her quotidian existence that Bernhard feels the most spiritually attuned. She's raising Cicely in a more Kabbalistic, Orthodox home than the one she grew up in, and she begins her day with a series of small rituals.