Joel David Bakst is a teaching rabbi and scholar of Talmud and Kabbalah who, while living in Jerusalem for 20 years, studied and taught in Orthodox yeshivot.
Raised in a Southern California Conservative Jewish home, Joel became a ba’al teshuva (newly religious) at the age of 20 bringing full circle his lineage from a long line of rabbis. Both his grandfather and uncle were Orthodox rabbis, his great grandfather was chief rabbi of St. Louis, MO and his great, great grandparents made aliyato Eretz Yisrael and are buried on the Mount of Olives. He is the 8th generation of Rabbi Avraham Ragoler of Skhlov, the brother of Rabbi Eliyahu, the famed Gaon of Vilna, whose unique teachings and School of Kabbalah, have been a focus of Joel’s esoteric studies.
Joel’s spiritual search through comparative religions led him to Israel in 1971 where, upon enrolling in a traditional Eastern European style yeshiva, he became part of the original Ba’al Teshuva movement, the initial great wave of assimilated Jews returning to traditional Judaism. For 10 years he pursued a path towards rabbinical ordination and studied Talmud, Halacha (Jewish Law) and mussar (Jewish Ethics). During the next 10 years, while continuing his Talmudic studies, he also began a search into Hassidic and Kabbalistic literature.
He studied under Sephardic kabbalists (Moroccan and Tunisian) along with Ashkenazic teachers and colleagues versed in Kabbalah. Uncommonly, Joel has had the honor of having immersed in all four of the great rivers of Kabbalah that flow from the holy Arizal (Lurianic Kabbalah): 1) R. Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov (the Besht), 2) R. Shalom Sharabi(the Rashash), 3) R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal), and 4) R. Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna (the Gra).
Joel continued his rabbinical education and continued on a path of intense Torah study and practice as well as teaching the traditions he received . He has lectured and taught in Israel, the United States and India. Joel is the author of numerous works on rabbinical methodology, esoteric Judaism, the prophetic confluence of Kabbalah with the new sciences and the messianic role of the maps and models pouring forth from modern technology. A guiding light for Joel’s stimulating approach to Torah teaching is stressed by the Gaon of Vilna, “There can never be a contradiction between the esoteric (sod) and the exoteric (pshat)”.
Concurrent with his traditional yeshiva training, Joel had also taken a deep interest in the Torah’s interface with world religions and Noahide movement. He has done extensive research into the Talmudic, Midrashic and medieval rabbinical sources concerning Noachides, Christianity and the “Seventy Nations”. This investigation includes many obscure and little known Kabbalistic teachings about Yeshu HaNotzri (Jesus of Nazareth) , the role of Christianity and Islam as well as the role of Oriental religions in our “Final Generation” – the present period on the cusp of entering into the Messianic Era. “In the Torah world it has always been known that the non-Jew can best access his true essence and mission from an authentic Jewish perspective. As we are currently accelerating toward the Edge of Time the Torah and her ancient sages are beginning to reveal that a key to the mystery of Jewish existence is also to be found in the eternal mystery of Philo-Semites and especially wihtin the growing movement of Noahides”.
Continually evolving, the City of Luz web site is the culmination of over 35 years from the time he began a systematic study of Torah in search of a coherent interdisciplinary Torah-based system. City of Luz offers the beginner, as well as the advanced talmid chacham (Torah scholar), a unique approach and collection of methodological tools that teach both conscious learning and direct experience. The secret of Luz allows for a seamless interface between every field of Talmud, Halacha and Kabbalah. The City of Luz also interfaces Torah itself with every school of science, theology and mysticism found among the Seventy Nations of the world, both ancient and contemporary. City of Luz is the ultimate interdisciplinary meta-tool for eveyone, regardless of religion or belief system.
Joel lives in Southern Colorado where he has been teaching in his yeshiva to a dedicated group of Jews and Bnai Noach for more than 10 years.