New Day Herald

Traveler John Morton in Tzfat/Safed with the Kabbalah guide

Day 6 PTS Tour of Israel

Morning and early afternoon exploring Tzfat (look it up), the old Jewish city and center of Kabbalah teachings (look it up). Our guide is a very funny and philosophically deep lifelong student of Kabbalah. A true storyteller, immersed in the “why’s” of esoteric spirituality and “how’s” of communicating it in an entertaining way.

It’s a fun to sink into the Jewish tradition that stretches from Maimonides to Groucho Marx, the technique of tricking the mind into a higher purpose through stories or jokes that twist unexpectedly like the narrow streets we walk through. You think you’re going one way, you get a bit lost, all the streets look the same, you have to form a big-picture timeline in your mind to find your way out, and lo and behold, you’re out of mundane mind-stuff and contemplating the bigger picture in the anteroom of God without really knowing how you got there. (It seems that my Jewish genetics or culture—nobody will ever figure out which it is for any group of humans—steer me down the same paths without even having to think about it consciously.)

Even the ancient synagogue that we tour has this same form of trickery, the same starting point of quotidian physicality, the same full immersion in mundane life (in contrast to the soaring loftiness of the churches we toured yesterday). It’s small, almost like a living room, there are artifacts like a little staircase or dome just hinting at something “beyond,” or an ark where the Torah is stored that could be your grandmother’s refrigerator—and then you ascend it, or open it, or contemplate it, and the stories or jokes or singing start, and suddenly you’re in another world.

The tour ends with a talk by a rabbi steeped in Kabbalah, a beautifully produced film and a verbally sophisticated sales pitch for Kabbalah books, games, jewelry, etc., that have people spending more liberally than I’ve seen yet on our trip. We have an hour or two of free time wandering through the shops, restaurants and juice bars in the inescapable sunlight that reflects off the old, almost-white (limestone?) cobblestone streets and walls to form a kind of multi-directional oven, and then we sweatily ascend the four steps to board our tinted-windowed air-conditioned buses, our home-away-from-home, our cool womb of contemporary comfort, and back to the kibbutz.

Then some rest at the kibbutz and more PAT processes, with a funny and deep sharing with John in the evening. The brevity of my description of the more inner PAT processes that happen later in the day shouldn’t be taken to diminish their significance. It’s just that like any inner process they’re hard to describe without descending into shoehorning them into a physical box, or ascending into some high-flying verbal architecture that’s too lofty to be trusted or grasped. And I’m also doing sound at a new training much of which is being constructed on the fly, so I can’t do much photography. But they’re the basis for the work we came to do, the techniques that encompass both the Jewish and Christian navigational systems on our ship to the stars.

Photos of the day to come if I can find some decent Wi-Fi.

View the Photos from PTS Israel Tour Day 6

1 thought on “Day 6 PTS Tour of Israel”

  1. Thank you, David, for these wonderful accounts of your trip. I cherish them daily. Blessings of Light and Loving to you and our Traveler.

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