Gilla Nissan is the author of the book Meditations with the Hebrew Letters: A Guide for the Modern Seeker. A teacher, poet, speaker, and essayist, she lives in Los Angeles.
Q: Why did you decide to write Meditations with the Hebrew Letters?
A: Because this wisdom arrived for this time. Hebrew has a universal vision, and the Letters service it. When I told the esteemed rabbi and teacher, Reb Zalman, all about it, he immediately said “We have been waiting for it.”
I had to write this book now - the Hebrew letters are spreading in the world and being used in many ways; there is Yoga with the letters, Tai Chi with the letters, different sound works, and more books about the letters. The fascination with them has always been around. Why? To service our needs for healing and repairing our soul.
Why a new book about the Letters? This is the first book to present the letters as practical tools for creating change and a better reality. If God created the entire world with them, we can create our small worlds as well.
Q: What do you think are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about Kabbalah?
A: The main misperception is that it is different than Judaism and even dangerous. It is not only not dangerous, it is necessary because it brings up deeper meanings and levels of life. The time has come to teach about the soul to both children and adults. Young people need a new language that speaks to them, and we can save them many trips to India where they travel looking for spirituality.
Q: What kind of research did you need to do to write the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?
A: I am by profession a Judaica studies teacher. I grew up in Israel and studied mysticism for over 35 years, so I had the background to communicate this knowledge to others. After six months from the time I received it, I started to teach people can they could work with the Letters.
This is not an academic study of their meanings, it is transmitted in a meditative state, through guided imagery and sound. I also developed a movement to each Letter - for example, those inclined can dance their name. I think we already have so much information, now we need a direct experience of what we read in the books, of the ideas. What surprised me is that it works - people receive insights that are very meaningful to them.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I hope people will experience themselves as a mystery, and will be amazed by the wisdom of their roots. That they start to sage not age, to know what they stood for before, and become deeper and more mindful human beings.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am posting social media messages from the Letters that relate to important topics; life events, questions, and celebrations. We need more rituals and celebrations. We must learn to bless our lives, just like my grandmother used to do. I am also preparing a poetry book and working on articles for Parabola - I love to write for the magazine.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I think it’s amazing to realize that the universe or God is responding to us. Compassion is increasing.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb