Kabbalah’s Definition of “Israel”
(From an excerpt of new book, St. Francis of Assisi, A Novel Awakening to Lady Poverty)
Writing as Francesco di Bernadone
I found the truth hidden away in the crevices of my mind, buried beneath what my religious teachers had told me in classes from age eight to fourteen. Yes, there is only one God, but he can only be experienced from within.
Let me try to explain [Lady Clare]. One need no more than to practice every day by opening oneself to the voice of God. You must be as patient as Job and not try to rush anything. It may take longer for some than for others. But when you experience his presence, you’ll know without anyone having to tell you what has happened.
I learned this through the practices taught by the holy man Abu Hashim. He was a Jew who studied the mystical Kabbalah while meditating like a Buddhist monk and converting to Islam as a Sufi worshiper. He showed me the path straight to the divine. He said we all want to be like those in the “State of Israel.” No, I’m not talking about a plot of land or a state that may once have been ruled by kings and judges from the Old Testament.
The word Israel simply means “toward God, toward the Creator.” We want to be in a state of mind that is always directing us toward the Almighty. That’s what the angel with whom Jacob wrestled tried to explain to him. Being unable to defeat Jacob—and possibly put him to death—the angel said from that moment on, Jacob and his offspring would be known by the name of Israel. All who followed Jacob’s lead would be on the path to righteousness and justice.
Somehow, the word was bastardized and came to be used to refer to a homeland of sorts; people wanted desperately to belong to such a land, and they started to call themselves Israelites. It made no sense to anyone who knew the origin of the word, but only the highly spiritually evolved understood it and felt no harm would come by its new usage. Isaac the Blind, the great Kabbalah teacher who shared this knowledge with Abu Hashim, said one day, people of all the nations would learn of this and want to become known as those following the path of Israel.
It is for those following his direction that I am writing this, and I hope at least one in a thousand comes to understand my meager offerings.