Like a Prayer

Halevi, Yossi Klein
May 2004
New Republic;5/10/2004, Vol. 230 Issue 17, p18
The author speculates about why the Kabbalah Centre has attracted such a wide following. I'm at the international headquarters of the Kabbalah Centre--the new-age movement that claims to have reached over three million people, including non-Jewish pop stars, such as Madonna, Mick Jagger, and Britney Spears. It draws on just enough authentic Kabbalah to make the deception credible to the credulous. Concepts like the evil eye and blessed water do exist in Jewish mysticism, but they are Kabbalah's least spiritual and intellectual elements. And that's precisely why the Centre is promoting them as Kabbalah's essence. In fact, the Centre doesn't merely trivialize Kabbalah; it inverts its intention. Where Kabbalah's goal is to transcend this world, the Centre's goal is to master it. Though the Centre insists it promotes free will and freedom of thought, some accuse it of abusing its spiritual authority and even of destroying families. Much of the resentment of former devotees focuses on the Centre's first couple, Philip and Karen Berg, who founded the organization in the early '70s and still direct it. Detractors accuse the Bergs of living lavishly, exploiting young volunteers as personal servants, and turning Kabbalah into big business. Indeed, the Centre has some 50 branches around the world, which peddle its products. Why have so many apparently intelligent, successful people fallen for magical trinkets like blessed candles and red strings? Was the Centre promising its people the end of death, the ultimate chaos? Did the Centre believe that we could literally become gods in these bodies?


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