Quills & Queues: Mystical alphabet is a tool for discovery

Local Author Richard Seidman invites readers to celebrate Jewish book month and explore the wonder of the Hebrew alphabet, the Aleph Beit, with his book, “A New Oracle of Kabbalah: Mystical Teachings of the Hebrew Letters.” Seidman will read and discuss his work at Bloomsbury Books at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9.
The book, published by Ashland’s White Cloud Press, is inspired by Seidman’s interest in the folklore and mystical teachings connected with the Hebrew alphabet. Finding most of the writing around the subject dry and confusing, Seidman set out to create a more accessible work.
“It took a lot of chutzpah on my part, since I’m not an expert on Judaism or the Kabbalah,” said Seidman. “I got the idea of focusing the book on the Alpha Beit letters, which are considered the building blocks of creation."
Kabbalah is a set of teachings originating in Judaism that is meant to explain the relationship between the mortal universe and infinity. “It’s a wide-ranging term for the Jewish mystical tradition,” says Seidman, “the study of how to receive fulfillment in our lives.”
Each letter of the Aleph Beit, says Seidman, is considered to have its own personality, and expresses a specific power or energy. For example, the letter Mem represents water and the womb; it can embody compassion and flexibility.
Kabbalah and the spiritual meanings behind the Alpha Beit can be pretty heady topics, and Seidman was determined to make the book enjoyable for anyone who was interested. “The book is partially for a Jewish audience but it is also for anyone who is spiritually minded, anyone seeking wisdom,” he says.
As a supplement to the book, Seidman created a deck of cards, one for each of the 22 letters. Each card has the Hebrew letter, name and corresponding number. The book describes letters in detail with stories and insights from Jewish, Zen Buddhism, Native American and other spiritual paths. There’s a comments section in which Seidman draws from works of literature, poetry and his own insights and experiences to illuminate the letters. He also includes instructions for making one’s own deck of cards.
“I thought cards would make the teachings around the letters more accessible, regardless of one’s knowledge in regard to the Kabbalah,” says Seidman.
This book is a revised and updated edition of a book Seidman published with St. Martin’s Press in 2001. That first book went out of print after a fire in the publisher’s warehouse destroyed the remaining copies.
For this new edition, Seidman added instructions for multi-card spreads as well as more detailed information in each chapter. He hired an artist who is also a Jewish scribe to illustrate the letters and design the colorful book cover.
Seidman emphasizes that the book is not for fortune telling.
“It is a tool to help deepen spiritual awareness and kindle our own wisdom so we can be more fully ourselves,” he said. “Often times, I’ll ask myself a question and the cards will lead to another question and then another, each question pushing me to a deeper layer of thought and clarity."
The Bloomsbury reading, says Seidman, will be interactive as he will invite audience members to offer questions that can be explored via the book and cards.
“This is a powerful teaching tool, but it can be joyful, too,” he said. “I hope readers take away the sense that we have so much within ourselves.”
Bloomsbury Books is at 290 E. Main St., Ashland. For more information visit www.bloomsburyashland.com or call 541-488-0029. The event is free and open to the public.
Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at decker4@gmail.com
 

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