Rabbi Matthew Ponak

My teaching is rooted in Jewish mystical texts and branches into numerous religious and secular ways of connecting to wisdom. I grew up in a culturally-Jewish household but did not develop a personal relationship to Judaism until I was a teenager. At sixteen years old, I walked into an Aryeh Kaplan-style mysticism class and felt, for the first time, a spiritual yearning inside of me. I followed that yearning to an Orthodox yeshiva in Israel and then to a specialization in Religious Studies in university. Through study and practice, I have come to realize that we all have a deep need to find a balance between our inner lives and outer lives, between our self-understanding and our responsibilities to each other. Today, I consider myself an "independent" Jew who has learned something valuable from all of the major denominations.

Over the years, I've gained a bird’s-eye view of the Jewish world. I understand what helps people feel at home and also why people sometimes leave the community in search of meaning elsewhere. I, myself, have spent time exploring other traditions, including two years earning a Masters degree in Contemplative Religions from a Buddhist-inspired university in Colorado.

Currently, I am a freelance rabbi who teaches individual and group classes on a wide variety of topics, with a specialty in Kabbalah and Jewish history. In my private practice, I often work with students who have been walking their unique spiritual path for some time and feel drawn to learn more about their Jewish roots. I also tutor rabbinical students in Hebrew and Aramaic, and in the decoding of texts ranging from the Bible, to the Talmud, Halakhic material, the Zohar, and Hasidism.

I am also trained in Focusing, a mindfulness method for body-centered self-awareness, an approach which can be used to explore any topic or ritual more deeply. My book, "Embodied Kabbalah: Jewish Mysticism for All People," with a foreword from Rabbi Arthur Green, makes 42 spiritual texts accessible to a modern audience, with a focus on the balance between spirituality and everyday life.

Rabbi Matthew Ponak Favorite Subjects

Great Jewish Disputes

Hebrew Language


Introduction to Judaism

Jewish Denominations / aka Streams of Judaism

Judaism and Comparative Religion


Mental Health



Rabbinical Literature




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