Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mysterious Ways: The Kabbalah of U2

[Ver Sacrum - magazine cover by Kolomon Moser]
So, I teach a spring course in Kabbalah at the University of North Texas. This year, as an extra-credit ('lifnim meshurat hadin')on the final, I asked the students to synthesize what they had learned by offering a kabbalistic commentary to a text of my choice.

I selected U2's song, Mysterious Ways. I thought this offered obvious hooks for the Jewish mystic - mystery, moon, feminine-masculine, moving up and down. Still, I was surprised and delighted with the results. Many students did almost line by line commentaries, others kept themselves to a few sentences (but with some real zingers). Some developed a sustained POV (the song is about reincarnation, or the esoteric interpretation of the Torah, or dibbuk possession, or raising the sparks, or the influence of Lilith) while others offered more encapsulated comments directed to specific lines - one student took a stab at notarikons. Anyway, it was great. I wish I could replicate all their work, but I've got a greatest hits line-by-line series here. Kol ha-Kavod to my talmidim in 4962-002 - I really enjoyed learning with you.
(Addendum: In the last 24 hrs. it has come to my attention that the belly dancer featured in the video of Mysterious Ways is, in fact Jewish. More than that, it turns out Edge and she fell in love and were married in a Jewish-style ceremony in France! Synchronicity or sod ha-emunah, I cannot say, but it leaves me to wonder what really moved me to pick this particular song from the U2 catalog.)

Give a kabbalistic interpretation of the U2 lyrics, “She Moves in Mysterious Ways”:

Johnny take a walk with your sister the moon
V.I - [bring the] union of opposite forces - male and female, yesh [existence] and ain [negation]
K.F. - Come study the meaning of Torah
R.S. - "sister" = Shekhinah.
P.M. - "Johnny" is Kavod.
J.M. - "Johnny" represents humanity, "sister the divine structure" [sefirot]
V.P. - Moon, "yareakh," has the same root as "ruakh," spirit.

Let her pale light in to fill up your room
J.P.H. - Pale = hidden, Light= Wisdom
J. Or - "Room" signifies your body
G.A. - "Room" is the void [tzimtzum]
R.S. - This is the light of the Sefirot
C.A. - This is the relationship between Shekhinah and Man
K. Gr. - The Male and Female balanced in harmony.

You've been living underground
K.F. - You have only seen the garment...you have not understood the true meaning.
P.M. - Kavod's immersion into the material world.
A.D. - One must find the light of God...one has been inhabited by a dibbuk [trapped] in gilgul

Eating from a can
J.Or - This is living with sin.
W. Got - Only eating Torah [plain meaning] rather than the whole meal of Zohar [esoteric meaning].
J.P.H. - Taking Bible only as literal.

You've been running away
W. Got. - [From the esoteric meaning] because it's different.
Sum C. - We run from God/Love.

From what you don't understand...Love
C. Mit - As Rumi and the Old Man [in Zohar] say, "My religion is love."
W. Got - The ultimate purpose.

She's slippy
J.Eh - The creation of Lilith, who was there when Adam came into being.
C.W. - Watch out, you may find yourself with Lilith.
Sum. C. - The Holy Spirit/Love.

You're sliding down
G.A. - Israel's movement through the ages.
Sum. C. - Down the Tree of Life.
K. Gr. - Too much love [compassion] is dangerous. Must also have justice. Don't slip too far [to one side].
T.H. - "down" conceals the true meaning of the song being about God.

She'll be there when you hit the ground
K.F. - No matter how far you fall, the meaning can still be found.
G.A. - This refers to Shekhina's being at the "bottom" of the sefirot.
P.M. - This is Kavod's willingness to demean himself to glimpse the divine [One must descend to ascend].

It's alright, it's alright, it's alright
W. Got - [code] for the three times of "Holy, Holy, Holy" [Isa. 6.6].
C.W. - Its OK to be confused, God is mysterious.
W.D. - Sarcasm. You think the people in Safed are just as pious? They're hanganot-ing.
Sum.C. - Everything is as it should be.

She moves in mysterious ways....
C.D. - It describes the mysterious nature in which the Ein Sof governs the universe.
R.S. - [It is] Shekhinah.
W. Got - She is Zohar.

Johnny take a dive with your sister in the rain
K.Gr. - Water = Divine experience.
A.D. - Go to the waterside and pray. The Shekhinah will reveal the hidden to you and your soul will awaken.
W. Got - [Into] the feminine side of the Sefirot power.
K.F. - Let [God's] glory fall on you; dive as deep as you can.

Let her talk about the things you can't explain
J.P.H. - The esoteric.
V.I. - Donkey drivers and women can reveal things that are profound, even thought they don't seem important.
C.D. - A tzadik or rebbe is required to talk about the things you [the hasid] can't explain yourself.
K.F. - Find the meaning, keep asking questions.

To touch is to heal
J.P. H. - The soul.
C.D. - A nod to the folk healer tradition of the Baal Shem.
J.Or. - The master's kiss [of initiation] on [the disciple's] forehead or eyes.
C.W. - Find an exorcist; she will take this unwanted dibbuk out of you.

To hurt is to steal
J.M. - The divine structure suffers as we sin.
Sum. C. - The human experience hurts, but she /God/Spirit of Love is still present.

If you want to kiss the sky
J.Or - "Sky" signifies God
G.A. - The "kiss of God" i.e., the ideal death. Fulfill the mitzvot if one wants to achieve this.

Better learn how to kneel(on your knees boy)
C.A. - Reaching God...through [bittul] destruction of the ego
K.F. - Learn to look beyond the words.

She's the wave
W. Got - In all things, all encompassing.
C.W. - God is everything
K.F. - She is the Torah, the cause of the world

She turns the tide
C.W. - God is change
G.A. - Israel finds God through Torah.
K.F. - Torah holds the secrets.

She sees the man inside the child
V.I. - Something greater within that is not always evident on the surface - the esoteric.
C.A. - Man as created in God's image.
J.Or - "man" is God, the "child" is worldly man.
W.D. - Find one who can recognize the dibbuk.

One day you will look...back
K.F. - See that the ego slipped away...how warm is the embrace of the soul of Torah.
W. Got - Reflection once you study...you will be come more enlightened.

And you'll see...where
L.C. - Shekhina gives him visions of the glory of God.
J. Ber. - Meditating on the Sefirot, the Divine structure will reveal all.

You were held...how
W.D. - You kept nitzotzot trapped in kelippot because you didn't follow the commandments.

By this love...while
K. Gr. - God as Lover of Israel.

You could stand...there
E. Mas. - By this knowledge Johnny knows God inflicts [?] everyday with His Presence.
T.H. - Fufilling all 613 Mitzvot. You have the choice to "stand" and do nothing.

You could move on this moment
K.F. - Follow the feeling into the glory.
W. Got - Reincarnation, [your soul] moving forward.
J.M. - Return the sparks to their place, help to reunite God with His Shehkhinah.
T.H. - Move forward in your quest to complete them (the commandments).

Follow this feeling...
R.S. - This whole stanza really emphasizes Gevurah and Hesed...the idea of blind justice, while love is seen throughout.
V.I. - Take an emotional rather than rational approach of mysticism.

We move through miracle days
G.A. - Divine experience is not limited to prophetic times but ongoing.
J.M. - As we go further in this, we unlock mysteries we could not previous fathom.
J.Eh - The perfect working of justice is "miracle days"

Spirit moves in mysterious ways
J.Eh - The workings of the Sefirot.
J.Or - Pure spirit = Ein Sof
V.I. - She could also be Torah revealing herslef to the mystic.

She moves with it, She moves with it
C.W. - All change comes through God.
J. Ber. - We are all part of the mysterious God ("spirit") and the divine structure ("She").

Lift my days, light up my nights
R.S. - This line refers to the Nitzotzot, [the divine sparks]
G.A. - This refers to Tikkun.
C.W. - Invite bolder insights into your life.
W. Got - Lighting up the darkness of lack of understanding.
K. Gr. - "Days"/"Nights" - balance.
Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the belly dancer in the video is not Morleigh (Edge's wife). She's some other random dancer. Morleigh danced on the outside leg of the Zoo TV tour and is a modern (not belly) dancer by training. She was the choreographer on the tour initially and later took over the belly dancer slot from the previous dancer they had.

2:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love it.

10:24 AM  

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