Carl Jung and the Jewish Mystical Tradition

St Niklaus Tree

By Tony Woolfson, Ph.D.

Click here to Register for Jung and the World Religions Around two hundred years ago there lived a Hungarian Hasidic Rabbi called Rabbi Eizik. He lived in a place called Kallo and one evening just before the Sabbath two young Hasids happened to arrive in town and as was the custom they sought out the hospitality of Rabbi Eizik of Kallo about whom they had heard so much. Already tales were being told of his miracles throughout Hungary, and the visiting Hasidim greatly anticipated spending the Sabbath in his company. Soon everyone had gathered together to celebrate the Sabbath, and all waited in anticipation of the sign given by the Rabbi to bring in the Sabbath and welcome the Sabbath Queen, the Shekhinah. But the Rabbi did not stir. He sat perfectly still and although all eyes were upon him he was obviously in deep concentration. The visiting Hasidim were very surprised at this because no one ever delayed bringing in the Sabbath past eighteen minutes exactly before sundown, and all knew of the rush at the end to prepare a table fit for the Sabbath Queen! Tree ImageAll at once there was a knock at the door, and a young couple entered. The young man was dressed in white, as was worn in Safed where it is told that the Holy Ari, Isaac Luria, and his disciples donned white robes before going out into the fields to greet the Sabbath. The young woman, also dressed in white, was quite beautiful, comely with very dark eyes, her head covered with a white scarf. The Rabbi rose, at the same time signalling for the Sabbath to begin. The Hasidim began singing the traditional song of welcome to the Sabbath bride. The Rabbi welcomed his guests and treated them with every respect and kindness, paying just as much attention to the woman as to the man. This was already too much for the rather traditional Hasidim, but they were guests and could neither do nor say anything. After the meal the rabbi of Kallo rose and said: “This couple has come here to be wed this day. And I have agreed to marry them.” Now these words were shocking to the Hasidim because Jewish religious law forbids marrying on the Sabbath. And so the young Hasidim began reading Psalms to themselves, to protect them from the proposed desecration of the Sabbath. At that moment the rabbi turned to the Hasidim and said, “Of course, the consent of everyone present is necessary, if the wedding is to be performed. Please tell us if we have your consent.” Tree of LifeAnd there was almost a pleading tone in his voice. Now it is one thing to witness a desecration of the law, but another thing to agree to it. As the young Hasidim did not dare refuse the rabbi to his face, they instead looked down and continued reciting Psalms, and a great fear was in their hearts. At last, when they raised their eyes, they saw that the couple were gone. The Rabbi of Kallo was slumped in his chair. After a long silence the Rabbi said: “Do you know who they were?” The young Hasidim shook their heads. And the Rabbi said: “He was the Messiah, she was the Shekhinah, the Sabbath Queen. Throughout many long years of exile they have sought each other, and at last they were together, and they wanted to be wed. As everyone knows, on the day of their wedding our exile will come to an end. But that is only possible if everyone consents. Unfortunately, it seems you could not, and the wedding did not take place.” A lot of Jewish tradition and Jewish mystical tradition can be found in this story. Another story concerns a man called Carl Jung who early in the year 1944 had a wondrous vision of the Shekhinah, or Malkhuth as she is known in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, the Sefirotic Tree. Tree Image 2The Tree of Life is a symbol that we pray will always live for us, despite human efforts to cut and burn, to despoil, to profiteer from this sacred symbol of life and death. As you view these images which show the Tree of Life in various shapes and sizes, you might wonder why it is of such major symbolic importance to both the Jewish Mystical Tradition and C. G. Jung. To learn more about the influence that the Jewish Mystical Tradition had on Carl Jung from presenter Dr. Tony Woolfson please register for the Asheville Jung Center’s 5 seminar series on Jung and the World Religions.

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    Dear Ms. Bland,

    I am sorry not to have responded earlier but I only became aware of your kind message this morning, almost two days after the event itself! Aaah, lecho dodi, so many memories, the little nearest synagogue to our house in Glasgow, occasionally on a Friday night, more recently, and more often, at the Jewish Old Age Home near our home in Zurich, ’95 – ’99, when I would attend Friday night service and the few of us would turn to the back, facing East to Jerusalem or just the door to welcome Shekhinah! Now back in Zurich these last two years, and likely going to the Jung Neumann Conference in Tel Aviv where I will do some sung liturgy including naturally lecho dodi, on Erev Shabbat to Henry Abramowich’s spoken words. I am also enchanted by Yedid Nefesh, the whole notion of Friday night’s physical satiety giving way to the ascent from matter to spirit by Shabbos afternoon and the singing of that exquisite hymn, Soul’s Beloved, identical in every way to anything of St. Juan de la Cruz.
    So congratulations and thank you.


    Tony Woolfson

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