Madonna and Kabbalah

Madawna? She loves us!

In case it wasn’t already apparent, it is now officially official – Judaism is so hot right now.

Madonna, the queen of hot-right-now, has announced herself an “ambassador of Judaism,” to Shimon Peres, no less.

Oy, what would Golda Meir think?

Madonna — excuse me, Esther — has been into Kabbalah for years now, and was in Israel for a Jewish mysticism conference. She brought along the rest of her mystical crew, too, including fellow celebrity Kabbalists Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Rosie O’Donnell and Donna Karan (actually Jewish I believe), and of course Madonna’s hubby, film director Guy Ritchie, known for making spiritual British comedies like “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch.”

Public opinion is still out on the age-old question, is it good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?
And is Madonna an ambassador we want?

I say, sure, why not? First of all, we could do far worse than Madonna. From a pure marketing standpoint, anyone who can popularize the wearing of cone-shaped bras is someone you want on your side.

Were I a Kabbalist I might be feel differently. I might be concerned about the watering down of Kabbalah. But I’m not. Growing up as a strongly affiliated Jew, I was always taught the whole only-Torah-scholars-over-forty learn Kabbalah song and dance, and that its mystical teachings have little to do with the mundane practice of Judaism. And that’s been okay for me. But for many other Jews these days, especially for those who are not as strongly affiliated, Kabbalah is a way in, a way to connect. And that’s the point. Anyone concerned with the future of Judaism and the Jewish people should agree that drawing more Jews into the fold -– or one of the many folds in the fabric of Jewish life — is a good thing. And the danger of the entirety of Judaism turning into merely a bastardized version of Kabbalah is slim to none.

Besides, Hollywood’s newish obsession with Kabbalah has less to do with Judaism and more to do with the Hollywood: As Madonna told Peres in their tête-à-tête, “You don’t know how popular the Book of Splendor is among Hollywood actors. . . . Everyone I meet talks to me only about that.” (Perhaps she may bore of it sooner than we think).

Thus the more pressing question — is all this spirituality good for celebrities or bad for celebrities? Well, Ashton Kutcher claims Kabbalah has made him a better actor (from “Punk’d” to purified?), but imagine all the pressure the average Hollywood actor must be feeling: Do I now have to become spiritual? Will studying Kabbalah make me a better actor, too? Will I be seen as somehow “less-then” if I do not visit a Middle Eastern country?

It can be daunting, but oh so fulfilling, even for Madonna who seems to have done it all. Said the former Material Girl to Shimon Peres, “I can’t believe that I’m celebrating the new year with you in Israel. . . .It’s a dream come true.”

And scene.

–Rebecca Honig Friedman

Need More Lilith?

Sign up now for a weekly batch of Jewish feminist essays, news, events--and incredible stories and poems from 40 years of Lilith.