A spiritual journey—both deeply personal and strikingly universal.
One of Israel’s leading cultural figures, Dov Elbaum grew up in an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem family, and was a prodigy who seemed destined for greatness in the world of Talmud study. But in his late teens, he abruptly broke away and set off into secular Israeli society.
In this fascinating, courageous and compelling autobiography, Elbaum seeks to understand his decision and its consequences. With the structure of Kabbalah as his road map, Elbaum journeys into the deep recesses of his self and his soul. The ultimate goal of his journey is “the Void,” a Kabbalistic space that precedes God’s creation of the world, and a psychological state that precedes our formation as individuals. It is a space of great vulnerability but also of hope for rebirth and renewal.
This is an intimate, honest, revealing work, both deeply personal and strikingly universal. The Hebrew edition was a bestseller and sold over 50,000 copies.
New Spiritual Voices from Israel
An exciting new series featuring inspiring insights on Jewish spirituality from some of Israel’s most important thinkers.
“A complex book that pays great dividends.... Presents a deeper, more dynamic portrait.”
—Congregational Libraries Today
“Join Dov Elbaum, one of Israel’s most creative thinkers, on a year-long spiritual journey, whose itinerary follows the map of the ten sefirot, the aspects of God’s personality. Reading along, you’ll soon find yourself on your own voyage of discovery.”
—Daniel C. Matt, author, God and the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony Between Science and Spirituality, The Zohar: Annotated and Explained and the multi-volume annotated translation The Zohar: Pritzker Edition
“[A] wise intertwining of personal journey and Jewish direction, textual richness and struggle to glean ancient meaning and finally, fear with faith.... A deep read!”
—Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson, president, The Wexner Foundation
“Masterful ... reflects the quiet truth, ‘The hardest journey is the journey inward.’ In chronicling his [journey of] taking Jewish tradition seriously while not literally, [Elbaum] charts a path for us all.”
—Edwin Goldberg, DHL, Israel and Ida G. Bettan Professor Emeritus of Midrash and Homiletics, HUC–JIR; author, Saying No and Letting Go: Jewish Wisdom on Making Room for What Matters Most
“In the best of Jewish interpretive tradition ... illuminates not only the depth of the author’s inner life, but the wealth and complexity of Jewish religious experience through the generations.”
—Moshe Halbertal, Gruss Professor of Law, NYU School of Law, professor of Jewish thought and philosophy, Hebrew University; fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute
“[From] one of the great Jewish visionaries of our time, [a] stunning and unique ... Kabbalistic map for all of our inner journeys.”
—Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute; author, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land
“A wild spiritual ride! ... Through Elbaum’s magic touch the Torah once again sings.”
—Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean, the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University; author, Passing Life’s Tests: Spiritual Reflections on the Trial of Abraham, the Binding of Isaac and God of Becoming and Relationship: The Dynamic Nature of Process Theology
“With rare sincerity, from within his own sufferings and revelations woven into carefully selected ancient texts, Elbaum peels away worn-out expressions and summons us to dare to enter into the mist of the Sacred, to follow our ancestors into the Void in the quest for God, for faith, for life.”
—Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, vice president, Masorti Rabbinical Assembly
“Magnificent and challenging.... A book of depth, offering no pat answers to deep religious questions. In the honest struggle that emerges, Elbaum demonstrates his deep learning and gentle soul.... For those who care about the deepest theological issues ... an important guide and fellow traveler.”
—Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, executive director, Mechon Hadar; author, Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities
“Renders accessible engimatic Kabbalistic ideas, turning them into windows into the human soul. An intellectually rewarding and emotionally satisfying work.”
—Micha Goodman, director, Ein Prat Academy for Leadership; author, Secrets of the Guide to the Perplexed
“On the journey of faith, the true seeker must have the courage to stand in a place of uncertainty and ask difficult questions. [Elbaum] explores the landscape of faith, subjecting his experience to a comprehensive and profound analysis that is informed by meticulous scholarship and the determination to know God and live in the light of that mystery. This book is the inspiration for each of us to take that awesome journey.”
—Rabbi Shefa Gold, author, The Magic of Hebrew Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love
“A powerful, erudite meditation on faith, doubt, the nature of God. Dov Elbaum’s ability to harness traditional Jewish scholarship while making himself wholly vulnerable in his spiritual quest is both illuminating and deeply compelling.”
—Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author, Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion; editor, The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism.
“Elbaum, a relentless God-wrestler, shares his high and low states while teaching applied Kabbalah and the flow of the Jewish year. Will stimulate you ... to look deeply into your inner life.”
—Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, author, Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer and Jewish with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice
“Biography–as–theology is a powerful way to explore the inner spiritual struggles in which all of us engage, and Dov Elbaum’s memoir is among the best of these. His insights into faith and his wrestling with God, religion and the meaning of life will resonate with anyone seeking a deeper walk with truth.”
—Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author, Amazing Chesed: Living a Grace-Filled Judaism
“Leads us on a powerful journey out of the void to ... the mysteries of faith and hope.... Articulates a deeply meaningful system of belief for the modern thinker struggling with the challenges of our tradition.”
—Naamah Kelman-Ezrachi, dean, HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem School
“Brilliant, courageous and innovative.… Serves as a modern continuation of the literary and scholarly work of Martin Buber [and] follows in the footsteps of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s work.… Makes present and internalizes the ancient Kabbalistic perceptions in his personal life [and] creates a renewed understanding—both personal and spiritual—of a Jewish tradition that today non-Jews and non-Israelis worldwide are also fascinated by.”
—Moshe Idel, Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Dov Elbaum, an award-winning author and teacher and a leader in the new generation of Jewish spiritual thinkers, is a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and hosts a weekly television talk show. He was awarded the Israel President’s Prize for Young Writers and is the recipient of the Liebhaber Prize for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance and Cultural Pluralism.