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The Awakening Self

The Hebrew word Yisrael, or Israel, has been used in the Judaic tradition as a label for the Judaic "tribe" as a whole, and for the land that the tradition has held as sacred.

The name Yisrael was first used in Genesis 32 in the story of Jacob wrestling with a "stranger" from Heaven. In this story Jacob is at a crossroads in his life and he heads off alone in the middle of the night and ends up wrestling with a divine force in order to receive a blessing. This blessing finally was given to Jacob in the form of a new name, Yisrael.

This name has several mystical meanings that all relate to the process described in the story (Gordis, 1995). These definitions include: One who wrestles or struggles with the Divine; one who yearns for the Divine; the song of the Divine; and the Awakening Self (the Self that struggles to awaken to it's true oneness with the Divine).

A mystical translation of this biblical story reveals the archetypal psycho-spiritual pattern of our struggle to awaken to our true Self and the Divine:

In the middle of the night Jacob arose

and sent his loved ones and all his possessions

across the river of struggles.

Jacob remained alone.

A stranger appeared and wrestled with him

until the break of day.

The stranger saw that Jacob was strong in faith

and touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh,

causing a great strain.

The stranger said:

"Let me leave for the dawn is breaking."

Jacob told the stranger:

"I will not let go until I am blessed."

The stranger replied:

"Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,

the one who strives to awaken

and know the truth of the Divine."

Jacob asked the stranger's name.

The stranger replied:

"Why do you seek my name?"

He then blessed Jacob.

Jacob named the place Divine Face and said:

"I have seen the Divine face to face,

and my soul has withstood it."

The sun rose and was shinning on him

as he continued on his way.

- Genesis 32:23-32


Gordis, D. (1995). God was not in the fire. New York: Scribner.


In Beginning
In The Beginning
Before The Beginning
Eternal Light
The Divine Orchard
The Awakening Self
The Divine Name
Season of Liberation
The Ten Lessons
Kabbalah Q&A





Do you think the Kabbalistic concepts have validity outside of their religious context?

For instance, would it hurt or endanger a person to study the Tree of Life diagram, to use it for meditation, if it was not approached as a religious discipline?

Is Kabbalah of any use to people who aren't inclined to the type of Sacred Practice you describe?

Posted by: Bill


Yes, I do think that Kabbalistic concepts have validity outside of their religious context. I believe that these concepts are beyond the construct of "religion" or what we think of as "religious."

I personally do not believe that there is any danger in studying Kabbalah in general or the Tree of Life diagram in particular outside of a religious discipline construct as long as the individual is psychologically healthy to begin with, and that their intention is pure. A pure intention would include the seeking of wisdom for it's own sake and for the service of others and not for personal gain or self-aggrandizement. One should also have some sense, belief, or feeling for the existence of a higher and/or deeper Source of wisdom in whatever form one chooses to perceive it (God, Tao, Atman, Buddha-Mind, Higher Power, Higher Self, the Force, etc.).

And there is one final word of warning I would give to anyone who chooses to study Kabbalah, or any mystical path, ...the study of these mystical teachings challenges our constructs and conceptions of ourselves and the world ...including our notions of what is religious, spiritual or sacred ...so there is definitely a danger of loosing the self we think we are in exchange for the Self we really are.

In gratitude,


Posted by: markallankaplan



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