Madonna's brand of Judaism

materialgirlMaybe the most unnecessarily talked about story of the past few days, particularly in that corner of the world I dwell in known as the Jewish twitterverse, has been Madonna's first-person piece for Israel's largest daily newspaper, Yediot Achronot. In "I Found an Answer," the Material Girl offered a testimonial about how she found God, got religion and awakened her spiritual soul through Kabbalah. It's an inspiring story, and maybe you'll be moved by Madonna's awakening. News presses certainly were.

Despite the fact that Madonna is so far beyond irrelevant these days, this is big news. I don't know why it is, but all the media coverage -- AP, JTA, NY Daily News, E! Online and an ungodly number of other outlets -- tells me it must be. (Anyone still wondering why newspapers are struggling?) The AFP offers one of the longer stories -- they're all short -- about Madonna's column and the same lack of depth, context and analysis:

The Material Girl, who will be in Israel in September as part of her Sticky and Sweet tour, said she had travelled the world many times over, dined with state leaders and achieved a high level of success but still felt that something was missing from her life.

"I was raised a Catholic and my father was very religious, but none of my questions ever got answered," she wrote in the article that appeared in the Yediot Aharonot newspaper in English and Hebrew.

The Queen of Pop's spiritual search led her to practice yoga, study Buddhism, Taoism and the Art of War -- a 16th century military treaty -- and read about the early Christians.

"I learned a lot and I was very inspired but I still could not connect the dots and find a way to take this knowledge and apply it to my daily life.

"I was looking for an answer," the 50-year-old pop icon said.

She said her search was over after she turned to the Kabbalah, an ancient Jewish mystic tradition.

I skipped a few paragraphs at the top, and a few more follow -- but that's basically it. There is no real reporting here, just regurgitating. There certainly is no exploration of storylines like that mentioned on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog:

The Israelis who are most likely to get upset by Madonna's Kabbalistic rambling are ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are unlikely to be exposed to it, as they do not read secular newspapers. Kabbalah in its "purest" form -- before it replaced pilates, macrobiotics, Scientology or Zen Buddhism as the latest celebrity trend -- is a rather complicated and mystical body of writing in Judaism. Its sensitive content makes it "forbidden" to young and excitable religious students, and only older ones, with their rabbi's permission, are allowed to delve into its enchanted world of spirits and legends. Learning too much Kabbalah is considered to be something that might "do your head in", which is exactly why the ignorant are advised to stay clear of it. Many Jewish and Israeli writers were enticed to take a peek into the "orchard" as it is often referred to, of Kabbalah, among them are Author Laureate Haim Nahman Bialik, and the writer Asher Barash.

All this, naturally, has little to do with Madonna's Kabbalah-lite, or maybe diet-Kabbalah, judging by her latest published images. Her exciting adventures in the spiritual orchard may actually find keen readers in Israel, which in recent years is being more and more infested by irrational mumbo-jumbo of all sorts, some of it affiliated loosely to Judaism, and some related to other sects, religions and beliefs.

But we don't get that, or anything in it's place. No real details about Kabbalah; no quotes from past stories that have talked about how Kabbalah messed up Madonna's marriage and her boytoy A-Rod; no discussion of the fact that the religion most associated with celebrities, right after Scientology, is no longer seen as quite so cultish.

No, what we get is a pulpit for Madonna -- I'm OK with that -- followed by another disappointing round of stenography from our celebrity journalists.

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