Elly Malka

The Hermit and the Other

Loving the Other

My first book on Kabbalah was, “Experiencing the Kabbalah,” by Cicero and Cicero, that I happened to pick it up in a Borders bookstore when I was reading many self-help books. It was not a Jewish view on Kabbalah, but a Wiccan interpretation, and later I learned about the Jewish, Christian, and Wiccan forms. But, the book taught me that those who follow the path must embark on the path of the Hermit. This concept was uncomfortable to me because I’m a social person and don’t like isolation. It was a little scary to think that I would be entering a dark cave of Binah, denoted by the color black. This lofty Sephirah is not on the path of the because it is above our comprehension, but very pervasive in our lives. Binah, although devoid of color and sound, surrounds and informs of us of darkness. Of course, I preferred the light of Chochmah, another supernal Sephirah, but I knew that to understand the Tree of Life, I would have to approach its dark parts, too.

Later, I interpreted the idea of being alone as being on an internal path, and not necessarily being antisocial. Unless we are in a cave (where Kabbalah was supposedly written!) we do interact with others regularly. If our actions are impure, we can fall into the trap of using others. For example, when I got married, I used my husband to try to fill emotional gaps from the poor parenting I received as a child. I didn’t do this willfully, it was just the way things played out. Some people do use others intentionally for selfish purposes, as we know.

Of course, we never know how another person is going to treat us. But, that is not the point of mysticism. (Soon, we will learn how to protect ourselves from harm using the power of Gevurah). But, when we choose to follow the path of the Tree of Life, we view the Other as a “Thou,” and not an “It,” (to use Martin Buber’s terms). The mystic will always treat the Other as a being that is as valuable as himself, herself, or theirself. When I became vegan a few years ago, I also started to see animals in this way. All beings are equal. One of my deepest sorrows is when I am forced to concede that another person, or a sect, is so harmful that I cannot view them as such. It troubles me to have to see certain others as inferior.

Thus, our first form of Love in the “8 Forms of Love in the Tree of Life,” is “Love of the Other.” Because the next 7 steps involve deep personal introspection – the Hermit’s path – we seal off anyone external to ourselves. And, because we should not act with evil or bad intentions towards others, we begin with the Abundance of pure Love towards the Other as denoted in Chesed, Unconditional Love. As a Hermit, there is only one Chesedic quality in approaching, being, and interacting with the Other: Abundant Love.

About the Author
Elly Malka is a mystical artist and writer who was confirmed in the Reform Tradition at 18, taught Religious School for 5 years, and studied Kabbalah for 15. Her art is shown in galleries in the U.S., and she holds a Master's Degree in Creative Writing and a Teaching Credential. Elly started the study of mysticism in 1995, and wrote, and is teaching, "8 Forms of Love in the Tree of Life." Information and membership can be found at
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