Limmud Fest's mystical quest

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2010
Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan and guitarist Daphna Rosenberg

Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan and guitarist Daphna Rosenberg

There is a mystical theme to this year's Limmud Fest, which takes place in Sussex at the end of next month: Pardes, meaning "orchard", a richly symbolic idea in Jewish tradition.

"The orchard is a mystical place for coming close to God, for finding connections and delving into multi-levels of meaning," explains artist Jacqueline Nicholls, who has jointly overseen the event's programme.

But the orchard has worldlier aspects, too. It is "one of the sensual settings of the Song of Songs, an intimate fragrant place of love," she says. "And a place of food production. Through the laws of owning fruit trees, we see a vision of society of giving to the vulnerable, a sensitivity to consumption and a nurturing relationship to the environment."

This summer's guests include two spiritual teachers from Israel inspired by Kabbalah. Rabbi David Aaron, the founder of the Isralight organisation, has taught Kirk Douglas and Ehud Olmert among others.

Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan, who received semichah from the Jewish Renewal movement in the USA, runs an inclusive, egalitarian community, Nava Tehila in Jerusalem. With her husband Michael, author of The Holistic Haggadah, she has become one of the pioneers of Renewal in Israel.

"There are many emerging grassroots communities around the country that embrace a do-it-yourself approach to Jewish life," says Reb Ruth (left, with guitarist Daphna Rosenberg from Nava Tehila, who will be at Limmud Fest, too).

Her repertoire will include "a set of wonderful texts from the Zohar that explore the virtue of kissing", a session on sacred chanting and a musical Kabbalat Shabbat.

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Last updated: 3:57pm, July 28 2010