Lifting the Veil: Rabbi Adam Jacobs

Calm. Committed. Unpretentious. Clarity. These are words that come to mind when I think of Adam Jacobs. Are these qualities simple aspirations? We look everywhere: where is the calm? What does it mean to be truly committed? Who can speak and write about profound ideas without pretension, without sounding overly complicated? Everywhere is gray confusion; Adam is able to lift the veil a little and we can see the world more clearly.

This is what I wrote for the brochure for the Ninth Annual Aish HaTorah Gala which took place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan on November 17th 2016. Adam Jacobs, who was honoured there that night, teaches at Aish, directs the centre on the upper west side, and writes beautifully nuanced and clear thinking articles about Judaism, spirituality and modern life for the Huffington Post.  His uplifting, intellectually compelling, and positive essays explore the ancient classic texts and Jewish ideas and how they might apply to our lives today.

In one essay he writes about Helen Keller’s breakthrough moment when she moves from a world of frustration and disconnection to one of connection and understanding. He quotes Helen Keller:

“As the cool stream gushed over one hand she [my teacher, Ann Sullivan] spelled into the other the word water, first slowly then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten — the thrill of a returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!”

Adam goes on to write, that “[t]he word Kabbalah is often misinterpreted to mean ‘reception’ — implying a body of mystical information delivered from on high to those equipped to receive… The term [is actually] derived from the word makbilot, meaning ‘correspondence.’

When we build a conceptual correspondence,” Adam writes, “we create a tool by means of which we can understand reality with increased acuity. When a child makes the conceptual leap that a particular sound corresponds to a particular object, that child opens a door that allows it to enter a world of greater meaning…

The Kabbalists envisioned a future time in which the world would be so dark that we wouldn’t even know how blind we were. Could we be there now? What would you give to experience the same degree of illumination that Helen Keller had the day that she climbed out of her dark world, into the light?”

Many of his pieces can be found in his book, The Forgotten Light. You can buy it here.

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