Sandra Bernhard talks about Kabbalah

Queen of Acerbity Takes on the World

Excerpted from the Jewish Journal/March 11, 2005
By Naomi Pfefferman

Bernhard was less provocateur than balabusta during an interview last Friday afternoon. As her 6-year-old, Cicely, prattled in the background, she described the Shabbat dinner she intended to cook (kosher steak, potatoes, vegetables, challah); her daily Zohar meditations that "connect to the upper sephirot;" her Saturday sojourns to synagogue; and her new comic bit about international shul hopping.

"I like the intensity of hearing the whole Torah reading," she said. "I never miss it wherever I go."

Bernhard is even more famous - among Jews and non-Jews - as one of the first celebrities to study kabbalah. She discovered the practice when her non-Jewish, Brazilian trainer took her to a lecture at the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles on her 40th birthday. Although she had always enjoyed celebrating the Jewish holidays, Bernhard had been so focused on her career that she was feeling a spiritual void. So she frequented the center's lectures, purchased a full set of the Zohar in Hebrew and English and visited the kabbalistic city of Safed, Israel.

Why was she drawn to kabbalah?

"It's the only thing that really explains why you're doing what you do [in Judaism]. Why you light candles, why you drink wine, why you make the brachas over your food. It puts all kinds of tradition and ritual into a spiritual context.... You just start putting it into your daily routine and it just brings a sense of order."

What does she think about all the other celebrities jumping on the kabbalah bandwagon?

"If you really want to change and you're really connected to it and you can integrate it into your life day to day ... fabulous," she said. "[But] there are so many different levels of hypocrisy and weirdness in people's desire to connect to something and a lot of it is fashion."

"When you're constantly proselytizing or running around letting people know you're studying kabbalah, it's really irritating and I don't like it," she said (Bernhard doesn't name names). "I mean, I'm not judging, I'm like, great, if they're into it I think that's fabulous but I think ... you either are it or you're not."

The performer is gentler when discussing The Kabbalah Centre.

"I've gotten a lot out of it ... but it's changed a lot since I started 10 years ago," said Bernhard, who now hopes to find additional teachers for herself. "I think they are a little bit lost on their own spiritual path right now. I think they've been overwhelmed by celebrity and that's always a corrupting experience."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.