Kabbalist, Neil Bernstein

Marilyn Higginson, Winter Sunset, Oil on Wrapped Canvas


I walked to and fro all through the house, and behold, the light is with me; I lay on a couch and covered myself up, and behold, the light is with me all the while. I said: ‘This is truly a great sign and a new phenomenon which I have perceived.’ The next morning I communicated it to my teacher and I brought him the sheets which I had covered with combinations of letters. He congratulated me and said: ‘My son, if you would devote yourself to combining holy Names, still greater things would happen to you.’

Shaare Tsedek, quoted at Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, p. 150.

Take the letters of any Torah verse
and form new words. My breath’s foul air, my flesh
wormed meat. You cannot touch the Me. The parchment
and ink that hold the verse are meat and smudges,
convenient tools. The silver case, inlaid
with jewels, the finest Baghdad work, is trash.
I cannot touch the Word. The Sabbath candles
may radiate heat, but only light is meant
to come forth. Letters recombine. They dodge,
nimble dancers, on slanting downward strokes.
Familiar figures shift. Incidental
light streams from my breast. The sudden flash
would wake the neighbors, bring down small-L law, or worse.
So I veil these beams. Light’s not enlightenment.

Neil Bernstein


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