Pop superstar Madonna on Friday said all the puzzle pieces in her life started falling into place upon discovering Jewish mysticism.
After decades as a performer and a provocative celebrity, Madonna made her debut as a newspaper correspondent with a piece about her spiritual awakening, published Friday in Yedioth Ahronoth.
The 50-year-old pop icon has taken the Hebrew name Esther and came to Israel on private pilgrimages in 2004 and 2007 along with other Kabbalah devotees.
In the article, Madonna, who was raised Roman Catholic, describes hearing about Kabbalah for the first time at a dinner party in Los Angeles while pregnant with her daughter Lourdes, who is now 12. She had recently completed a star turn in the movie Evita, she writes, but still felt like something was missing in my life.
She went to her first class, taught by a teacher named Eitan, after years of practicing yoga and reading about Buddhism, Taoism and early Christianity.
"I heard what he had to say and I knew at this moment my life would never be the same," she writes in the article, which the paper published both in Hebrew and in the original - and apparently unedited - English.
"Life no longer seemed like a series of Random events," she writes. "I also began to see that being Rich and Famous wasn't going to bring me lasting fulfillment and that it was not the end of the journey."
The Kabbalah Center's devotees have included other celebrities such as Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears. Many mainstream Jewish scholars see the Center's self-help teachings, its sale of Kabbalah-themed merchandise and its embrace by non-Jewish pop stars as a perversion of Judaism's ancient and secretive mystic tradition.
Some rabbis were particularly incensed by Madonna's song, Isaac, about the revered 16th-century Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, which featured on her 2005 album, Confessions on a Dance Floor.
Jewish tradition has long held that Kabbalah is so complicated and so easily misunderstood that students may only begin to approach it with a strong background in Jewish law and only after age 40. The discipline's elements include the study of mystical texts, prayer and meditation in an attempt to draw closer to the divine.
The criticism appears to have had no effect on Madonna's popularity among Israelis. Originally scheduled to give one concert in Tel Aviv, Madonna added a second after the first show quickly sold out.
Madonna is bringing her Sticky & Sweet tour to Israel with two performances scheduled for September 1 and 2.
The pop diva first appeared at Hayarkon Park 16 years ago as part of her Girlie Tour, and also visited Israel in 2006 during the Jewish High Holidays along with 2,000 other students of Kabbalah.