Tikkun (Divine Repair) and Healing in a Kabbalistic Yeshiva: Using Sacred Texts as Healing Devices

Shlomo Guzmen-Carmeli, Nissan Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


While the study of Kabbalah is expanding in non-Orthodox circles both around the world and in Israel, Kabbalah is also studied in Orthodox (mainly Sephardic) yeshivot concerned with tikkun (divine repair) of the world and of the individual. Tikkun of the world involves a special kabbalistic prayer method, while tikkun of the individual involves methods of healing and treatment of personal problems. This article, based on participant observation conducted for a year in a Jerusalem kabbalistic yeshiva, is a response to the appeal for an ethnographic study of those immersed in Kabbalah in the traditional locale. The fieldwork findings reveal that the yeshiva, the traditional institution of study, also serves as a place of healing and personal therapy in which the sacred text occupies a central place. In the yeshiva, instrumental use is made of the text as object. From a configuration of symbols subject to many alternate interpretations, the text is transformed into a pattern of icons and signals with only one meaning. The kabbalists as therapists use texts to create personalized symbols that assist their supplicants in coping with their personal hardships. This ability is a powerful cultural tool that provides support and solace to the community of believers, and is simultaneously a powerful instrument in the hands of the yeshiva institution. We conclude that a community whose members adopt a mystical worldview, also gradually attribute iconic significance to its texts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-241
Number of pages25
JournalContemporary Jewry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Ethnography
  • Healing
  • Kabbalah
  • Text


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