Madonna incurs the wrath of the rabbis

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The Independent US

The song in question is called "Isaac" and is believed to be about Isaac or Yitzhak Luria, a scholar born in Jerusalem in 1534. The track is on Madonna's forthcoming album Confessions on a Dance Floor, which is due to be officially released on 15 November.

But an Israeli newspaper has reported that some rabbis have reacted strongly to the news that Madonna has written a song about Luria and have accused her of trying to cash in on the association with him. One has gone so far as to suggest Madonna will suffer divine retribution for her actions. It is not clear whether any of these rabbis have heard the offending track.

Rabbi Rafael Cohen, head of a seminary named after Luria in the northern town of Safed, told the Maariv newspaper: "There is a prohibition in Jewish law against using the holy name of our master, the Sage Isaac, for profit."

He added: "One can feel only pity at the punishment that she will receive from heaven. The Sage Isaac is holy and pure, and immodest people cannot sing about him."

Another rabbi, Israel Deri, who serves as deputy chair of the Religious Sites Authority, which oversees Luria's burial site, called for Madonna to be thrown out of the community. "Such a woman brings great sin on kabbala. I hope that we will have the strength to prevent her from bringing sin upon the holiness of [Luria]," he said.

The track was written by Madonna and co-producer Stuart Price. It contains a reading by Yitzhak Sinwani, of the London Kabbala Centre near Bond Street, which Madonna has attended with her husband, Guy Ritchie, the British film-maker. The centre yesterday failed to return a telephone call seeking comment.

Neither Madonna nor her spokeswoman have commented on the dispute. On her website, Madonna says: "Confessions on a Dance Floor is all about having a good time straight through and non-stop ... I want people to jump out of their seats."

Madonna, trying to recover from her 2003 album American Life, which was her worst selling, was born a Catholic but in recent years has been attracted to kabbala. She has reportedly adopted the Hebrew name Esther, wears a red string around her wrist to ward off the "evil eye" and has introduced other celebrities to the cult. In 2004, she made a widely-publicised visit to Israel and visited many sites important to kabbala, but did not travel north to Luria's grave.

The interest of such celebrities has sparked criticism among many of the rabbis who specialise in studying and teaching kabbala. Jewish tradition holds that kabbala is so powerful that students may not approach it until after the age of 40. Among its elements are mystical meanings which are drawn from holy books by recombination of letters and other signs.