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Seidman, Richard

SEIDMAN, Richard

PERSONAL:

Married. Education: State University of New York at Binghamton, B.A. (English); Lewis and Clark College, M.Ed. (teaching the deaf). Hobbies and other interests: World religions, environmental issues.

ADDRESSES:

Home—924 Garden Way, Ashland, OR 97520. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER:

Author and teacher of the deaf. Worked as a college writing instructor, technical writer, janitor, farm hand, and ice-cream pushcart vendor. Friends of Trees, founder, 1989, and advisory board member; advisory board member, Hawaii Ho'olau Hou, 1994-2002.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Urban Forestry Medal, National Urban Forest Council; Community Hero, City of Portland, OR.

WRITINGS:

The Oracle of Kabbalah: Mystical Teachings of the Hebrew Letters, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS:

Richard Seidman's life has been a journey toward spiritual fulfillment. He spent many years as a practitioner of Zen Buddhism, although he was raised Jewish in Brooklyn, New York. For a while Seidman rejected Judaism, feeling it was limited and unsatisfying. Eventually he revisited the faith he had known as a child and began to see it in a different light. Seidman was drawn especially to the Kabbalah, a source of Jewish mysticism and in 2001 authored the book The Oracle of Kabbalah: Mystical Teachings of the Hebrew Letters.

During the 1990s, after an enlightening experience at a friend's seder meal, Seidman began studying with Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield, a renowned musician, song-writer, and expert on Jewish mysticism. Hirschfield helped Seidman renew his interest in the teachings of the Jewish faith. In an online interview with the Jewish Review, Seidman explained that he started to see Judaism as "fresh, vibrant, and spiritually satisfying." To Seidman, "Aryeh was living proof that an enlightened, humane, humorous and deeply spiritual Judaism is possible."

In 1997 Seidman turned his attention to the symbolism of the Aleph Beit, the Hebrew alphabet. Jews believe that these letters hold mystical powers that enlighten people in search of answers from the divine. Seidman wrote The Oracle of Kabbalah: Mystical Teachings of the Hebrew Letters as a manual for both Jewish and non-Jewish readers. Designed as a book and card set, The Oracle of Kabbalah explains the meanings behind the letters and allows readers to use the cards to gain new perspectives on troubling situations.

Although the book is called an oracle, Seidman makes it clear that the cards have no psychic abilities and are not meant to be used to forecast future events. In an interview on the Oracle of Kabbalah Web site, Seidman commented that the cards "provide a perspective on your present situation and show consideration to keep in mind as you weigh possible courses of action." The teachings about the letters are adapted from the Jewish faith, but Seidman also draws on his studies of Zen and Native American religions to explain themes in the book. In a review for New Connexions, Jenny Swanpool said that "Richard borrows from other traditions, especially Zen, to clarify and amplify his themes, which allowed me to feel included in the Universal family even though I am not Jewish and have little exposure to the Jewish tradition."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

ONLINE

Jewish Review,http://www.oracleofkabbalah.com/ (November, 2001), Paul Haist, review of The Oracle of Kabbalah: Mystical Teachings of the Hebrew Letters.

New Connexions,http://www.oracleofkabbalah.com/ (September/October, 2002), Jenny Swanpool, review of The Oracle of Kabbalah.

Oracle of Kabbalah Web site,http://www.oracleofkabbalah.com/ (June 16, 2003), Interview with Seidman.*

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