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The Independent Critic

Steven Bram
Steven Bram and Judah Lazarus
Steven Bram, Judah Lazarus, and Adam Zucker
Steven Bram and Rabbi Adam Jacobs
80 Mins.
First Run Features

 "Kabbalah Me" Released by First Run Features  
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If you were to say the word Kabbalah to a non-Jewish person here in the United States these days, there's a pretty good chance that one of the first things to come to mind would be Madonna, whose advocacy for the esoteric spiritual phenomenon attracted quite a bit of attention to a practice that throughout history has been studied primarily by only the most holy Talmud scholars.

In this First Run Features release, director Steven E. Bram embarks on a spiritual investiation that leads him to unite with the Hasidic branch of his family and to connect to the community of Judaic scholarship. He is eventually inspired to take a pilgrimage to Israel, where he immerses himself in the history and traditions of the Holy Land. Along the way, Kabbalah Me interviews leading authorities who discuss the complex and mystical world of Kabbalah. The DVD, now available, includes a number of wonderfully complementary bonus shorts including Oneness, Good & Evil in Kabbalah, Women in Kabbalah, Science and Kabbalah, Kabbalah celebration: Meron, and Meditation: Opening the Heart. Kabbalah Me is far more effective when Bram keeps everything personal, revealing the skepticism of his family at his newfound devotion to spirituality and religious observance yet also being surrounded by the undeniable changes in Bram's life.

Bram's journey is likely to feel familiar for many people who reach a certain point in life where re-connecting becomes a priority. I would argue that desire to reconnect is part of what fuels Facebook's popularity - we want to reach back and get to the roots of who we are and the life we've experienced whether that means reconnecting to childhood friends or former classmates or past loves or those people who inspired us yet with whom we've lost touch.

Connection matters.

Kabbalah Me is less impactful as an actual journey into the practice of Kabbalah, perhaps because creating a coherent documentary on the subject in a mere 80-minutes would be incredibly challenging but also  because I'm just not convinced the film needed to weave those threads into the tapestry of this film. It was perfectly fine, maybe even more satisfying, without it.

While Kabbalah Me may not satisfy on the level one would hope, especially those who've long been intrigued by the practice, it's a revelatory and satisfying film when taken through the personal experiences of Bram and his search for meaning and purpose in a life journey where we're often discouraged from slowing down, listening, observing, and practicing spirituality. Ultimately, it would be nearly impossible to not be moved by Bram's growing knowledge, devotion, and growth from his journey into Kabbalah and how it's presented in Kabbalah Me.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic