'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.

BY: Cathleen Falsani

 

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Bernhard never lets Cicely out of the house without her

roite 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.

"I do all my meditations in the morning. I wouldn't leave the house before I do them," she says. "The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is to say a prayer of thanks that my soul has returned to my body, because during the night your soul elevates and recharges. It's a little bit like being out of your body, which is why sleep is such a fragile place to be. So when you wake up in the morning, you give thanks that your soul has come back into your body. And then you do a prayer washing your hands because, obviously, all the negative energy comes out of your fingertips. You wash your hands and do a prayer to wash away the negativity. Those are the first two things I do when I wake up in the morning. They're kind of traditional Orthodox Jewish prayers.

"Then in my day-to-day life it's about how I'm feeling that day and whether I can stay in that positive frame of mind all day and not be felled like a tree in the forest by one of two things that shake me up, whether it's work or relationship or my daughter or something that I feel is off. You can't always be in that state of mind. You just can't. It's very hard. So that's part of the work, you know? On a physical level, I work out a lot because it helps me feel grounded. I like to shop, I like to clean the apartment, I like to do laundry, I like to make my phone calls. Routine is very important to me, which is why I like all the rituals of these meditations and prayers. It's about order. Order in the home. Order in the universe."

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