|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California,
The Kabbalah Centre International is a non-profit organization located in Los Angeles, California that provides courses on the Zohar and Kabbalistic teachings online as well as through its regional and city-based centers and study groups worldwide. The presentation of Kabbalah was developed by its director, Philip Berg, along with his wife, Karen Berg. The Kabbalah Centre International has a multi-ethnic, international staff of teachers that offers kabbalistic study and guidance to its worldwide student community.
Traditionally, Rabbis believed that the mysteries of Kabbalah were so complex and so easily misunderstood that it could only be taught to devout students (mostly males) only after age 40. Therefore, some traditionalists had seen the Kabbalah Centre as a perversion of Judaism's ancient and secretive mystic tradition.
The Kabbalah Centre was founded in the United States in 1965 as The National Research Institute of Kabbalah by Rav Philip Berg (born Feivel Gruberger) and Rav Yehuda Tzvi Brandwein. Brandwein in turn was the dean of Yeshivah Kol Yehuda in Israel (a precursor of the US Kabbalah Centres) which was founded in 1922. After Brandwein's death, and after several years in Israel, Philip Berg and his wife Karen Berg, re-established the U.S. Kabbalah Centre in New York City.
The Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles was opened in 1984. After the death of Rav Berg, Karen and Michael act as directors and spiritual teachers of the organization. The organization is a registered non-profit with over fifty branches worldwide, including major ones in Los Angeles, New York City, London and Toronto.
Relation to religion
According to its views, all widely held spiritual or religious belief systems are merely specific branches of a universal wisdom. The effect of this is a resemblance of religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, as well as new-age teachings, to Kabbalah. In accordance with this belief, the Kabbalah Centre does not present itself as an alternative to any religion in particular, but rather, as a supplement to it.
Some biblical passages, such as the Passage of the Red Sea, are understood to be codes to life and unseen universal laws which the Zohar and writings of the Kabbalists throughout history unravel. According to Rav Berg "The Zohar reveals the dynamic interplay and interconnectedness of our universe and man's relationship to it." The Kabbalah Centre has produced a series of the Books of the Bible with Kabbalistic commentaries to each of the Weekly portion of the Torah.
One should primarily be concerned with their relationship with the essence of God, rather than God himself, as he is beyond comprehension. The essence of God is referred to in its teachings as Light.
Kabbalah Centre teaches the Kabbalistic concept of Klippot. The idea is that everyone has a direct and clear connection to the upper metaphysical-spiritual world of the Light (Ein Sof, unbounded God), but that this channel is blocked by Klippot, restricting the spiritual energy from entering the physical body. It is through study and practice of Kabbalah teachings and Jewish law (which the Kabbalah Centre says is early Rabbinistic construction to aid in practicing Kabbalah without revealing its secrets) that one removes Klippot, and it is by violence and negative behavior that one adds Klippot.
The Kabbalah Centre has a strong belief in astrology and asserts that astrology has always been part of Judaism. Astrology was studied by Jewish scholars throughout the Middle Ages, though it was opposed by more philosophically inclined thinkers such as Maimonides.
There is a strong belief in the Kabbalah tradition that cosmic forces affect everything, and knowing how to understand them can prove to be valuable to the aspiring Kabbalist. Rav Berg, the founder of the Kabbalah Centre, wrote numerous books on astrology during his career.
In a book written by Yehuda Berg, a former teacher at the center, he recommended that men not masturbate as semen generated without loving, shared intention does not serve its purpose. He also wrote that a man should not orgasm before the woman, as it injects selfishness into the act of love making. Other thoughts on sex include that a man should not orgasm with the woman positioned above him, as she is then drawing energies into herself from below, instead of above. The most Light is derived from sex that occurs just after midnight on Saturday morning.
Madonna studies regularly with a personal Kabbalah Centre rabbi, no longer gives concerts on Friday night (which is the onset of Shabbat), wears the red string around her left wrist for protection and to ward off the "evil eye" (Ayin Hara), has introduced Jewish ritual objects such as tefillin ("phylacteries") into her videos and tithes regularly to the Kabbalah Centre. In July 2006, it was reported that Madonna was leaving the Kabbalah Centre and one media columnist speculated that one reason was alleged financial irregularities of donations to the centre. Despite uncorroborated allegations of financial irregularities, the rumour turned out to be false, and Madonna continued to attend Kabbalah Centre events. In August 2006, Madonna collaborated with the Kabbalah Centre on a project called Raising Malawi, which provided relief aid to the African nation of Malawi. In March 2016, Madonna and her son Rocco attended a Kabbalah Centre prayer session as she attempted to fix her relationship with him.
Other celebrities that have been associated with the Centre include Britney Spears, Roseanne Barr, Sandra Bernhard, Anthony Kiedis, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Lucy Liu, Alex Rodriguez, Rosie O'Donnell, Naomi Campbell, Donna Karan, Elizabeth Taylor, Mischa Barton, Paris Hilton, Ariana Grande Nicole Richie, James Van Der Beek, Kyle Richards, Heather McComb and Lindsay Lohan.
According to media sources, some of these celebrities have since stopped studying with the Kabbalah Centre.
Controversy and criticism
Beginning in 2011 the Kabbalah Centre was put under investigation by the IRS and FBI for financial malfeasance, especially following the abandonment of the Raising Malawi school project with millions of donors' dollars unaccounted for. Such investigations commonly take up to three years. In 2012, it emerged that the Kabbalah Centre had accepted a $600,000 donation from an 87-year-old woman with dementia whose financial advisor is married to a center official. In November 2013, two lawsuits were filed by former donors alleging that their gifts (amounting to more than $1 million for a new building in San Diego and for a children's charity) were misused.
Other media criticisms have alleged that The Kabbalah Centre is an "opportunistic offshoot of the faith, with charismatic leaders who try to attract the rich and the vulnerable with the promise of health, wealth, and happiness." Some Jewish organizations distinguish it as non-Jewish and consider its patronage by Jews problematic. The Centre's sale of Kabbalah-themed merchandise has been criticized as a perversion of Judaism's ancient and secretive mystic tradition.
There was media controversy in 2005 related to a recorded comment by a Kabbalah Centre leader regarding the Holocaust. According to a BBC news article, Eliyahu Yardeni, a senior figure in the London Kabbalah Centre has been quoted as saying, "Just to tell you another thing about the six million Jews that were killed in the Holocaust: the question was that the Light was blocked. They didn't use Kabbalah." The Kabbalah Centre also made claims that spring water sold by the group had among its effects a curative effect on cancer. Reportedly, 10 cases of Kabbalah water were sold to cancer sufferers for £400.
In November 2015 the centre was ordered to pay $42,500 damages to one of its former students after it was found to have been negligent in the supervision of one of its co-directors, Yehuda Berg, who had caused emotional distress to the student.
Asia and the Middle East
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- Barrett, Wayne, "Madonna's Malawi Disaster"m Newsweek, The Daily Beast, April 3, 2011.
- Rick Cohen,"Kabbalah Center Accepted $600,000 Donation From Woman With Dementia", Nonprofit Quarterly, April 11, 2012.
- Kim Christensen, "Kabbalah Centre accused of misusing more than $1 million in donations", Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2013.
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