Kabbalah for Dummies

            There are eight ways to spell Kabbalah. In addition to the most common spelling, which is Kabbalah, we have Cabbala, Cabbalah, Cabala, Kabala, Kabbala, Qabalah, and Qabala.  My extensive Google search reveals even more variants, but as these do not appear in the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, they are of questionable validity.

           I bring up the Kabbalah (Cabbala, Cabala, Kabala) because anagrams are important in this body of esoteric religious knowledge, compiled/written/invented by Spanish Jews in the 1200s and re-popularized this century by those enlightened seekers of wisdom and truth—Madonna, Demi Moore, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and A-Rod.

            I’m adding my name to this illustrious list.  I believe studying the Kabbalah (Cabbala, Cabbalah, Kabala) will allow me to deepen my knowledge of the mystical forces at work in the universe. According to Wikipedia, “Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal and mysterious Ein Sof (no end) and the mortal and finite universe (his creation).”  You never know when this kind of knowledge might come in handy.  You’re at a party and the conversation lags. You can liven things up by telling everyone around you “I will now explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal and mysterious No End and his creation, which happens to be the mortal and finite universe.”

            Another reason I want to study Kabbala is that I hope it will unlock the secrets of speedy anagramming.  My lack of skill in rearranging words to form other words has been an impediment to my moving up the Scrabble tournament ranks and, more importantly, beating my husband on a regular basis.

            How do I know that anagrams are central to understanding the Kabbalah? Every time I type “history of anagrams” into Google, the Kabbalah is right up there, along with sites for programs such as Anagram Solver, Anagram Maker, and Anagram Finder.

            There’s also a company called Anagram that specializes in “foil balloon manufacturing,” a vital component of our economy. Where would this great country be without foil balloons? Anagram holds a number of important licenses for foil balloon characters, including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Miss Kitty, Harry Potter, and My Little Pony. The company’s slogan is “More People Choose Anagram Balloons to Celebrate Life.” When I read this I had the sinking feeling that one of my former Eastern Illinois University students had gotten a job as a slogan writer for Anagram.

           My early perusal of Kabbalah websites hinted at some pretty serious roadblocks to my study of cabbalism. Traditional religious scholars suggest that a knowledge of Hebrew is central to true cabbalistic understanding. They also maintain that being a woman is a disadvantage. However, the Kabbalah Center website (http://www.kabbalah.com/about/what-is-kabbalah) believes that everyone can benefit from studying Kabbalah: “The word Kabbalah means many different things to many different people.”  (Another one of my former students may be working as a writer for the Kabbalah Center website.)

         I also came upon quite a few books about Kabbalah.  The most intriguing titles were the following: Kabbalah, Science, and the Meaning of Life: Because Your Life Has Meaning by Rav Michael Laitman, Ph.D; Kabbalistic Astrology: And the Meaning of Our Lives by Rav Berg; The Kabbala Book of Sex: And Other Mysteries of the Universe by Yehuda Berg. I was relieved to know that my life has meaning, and I was VERY tempted to order The Kabbala Book of Sex.  (The other mysteries of the universe I’ve already solved.) It was also refreshing to note that Jews—among the greatest writers in the world—are susceptible to questionable subtitles.

        I also seriously considered ordering Kabbalah for Dummies and The Idiot’s Guide to the Kabbalah, but thought “Hey, I can just check these out of the Eastern Illinois University Library.”

        Unfortunately, there was almost nothing about anagrams in the Dummies and Idiot’s books. I feel as if this entire search for the meaning of life and short cuts to anagramming has been a waste of time. (Or a waist of time, as one of my students wrote in an essay.)

        On the other hand, I now know the many alternate spellings of Kabbalah, which might come in handy in a Scrabble game.  Cabbala, Cabbalah, Cabala, Kabala, Kabbala, Qabalah, Qabala.


Alienist Litanies

My husband’s obsession with anagramming became apparent early on in our relationship. We were at Pier One, shopping for placemats. (I should say that I was shopping for placemats—Marty has no interest in them one way or another.) As I fingered a thick silk burgundy dinner napkin, I noticed Marty leaning over a display of scented candles, intently reading the little promotional blurb.

How romantic, I thought, envisioning Marty splurging on a trio of Ginger Peach pillars, or maybe Island Orchard, or even Citrus Cilantro. My fantasies leapt into the realm of the truly improbable as I imagined Marty cooking up a romantic dinner for two: cognac shrimp with buerre blanc sauce, orange fennel salad, and fresh strawberries with cream for dessert.

“Hey Daiva,” he yelled across the store. “Look at this. Neroli candles! Neroli is a Scrabble high-probability six-to-make-seven stem.”

I wavered between pretending not to know who this person was and walking up to him and shouting “Stop this! Stop this right now.”

Before I could do either, he continued: “Neroli with a blank has eight anagrams. Proline, alienor, aileron, loriner, retinol, loonier, nerolis, eloiner.”

Soon after the neroli incident, Marty announced that he had a little romantic surprise for me. I imagined a box of Godiva chocolates or a bouquet of bright pink tulips or maybe even some jewelry.

“I’ve anagrammed your name!” Marty exclaimed with pride. “Your first and last name. There are several variants of Daiva Markelis, of course, but my favorite is Avid Sailmaker.”

I don’t know what he expected from me—a huge kiss, a squeal of delight, a gold star—but all I said was “I’ve never gone sailing.”

Occasionally Marty tells people my name anagrams into Avid Sailmaker. Sometimes these people are perfect strangers. One of my fears is that one day Marty will just skip the “This is Daiva” and go right to “This is my wife, Avid Sailmaker.”

An even greater fear is that if I die first, my tombstone will read: “Here lies Avid Sailmaker. RIP.”

I was thinking of anagrams today because of Justin Bieber, who posted on his Instagram account that he was lingse. Highly intelligent fans figured out that lingse anagrams into single. The brouhaha brought on by The Bieberizer’s announcement almost eclipsed coverage of Hurricane Sandy.  Well, not really. I look at the Entertainment section of my MSN homepage once in a while in order to, well, you know, keep up with the young people.

I wonder whether Selena Gomez feels a sense of ferlie?