I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it—
A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot
My face a featureless, fine
Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?—
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me
And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see
Them unwrap me hand and foot—
The big strip tease.
These are my hands
I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.
The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut
As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.
It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical
Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
That knocks me out.
There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart—
It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby
That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there–
A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
23-29 October 1962
Once again, i discover that there is no Santa Claus, that the charming man who had asked for my phone number and said he worked with mentally ill people , WAS mentally ill, that the person who wanted to meet for coffee, wanted to meet to convert me, that the nice friendly sephardic jewish gathering was really a bank account wanting to refill, that religions do not place a large photo of a man or woman while praying, that god does not send a bill, but people do, and how..
I had entered the kabbala center in Tel Aviv and thought i had died and gone to heaven but though the people were friendly, the milk turned sour after a few days when i had reflected upon the level of the talks given by women in shiny sparkling shoes , that in fact this was nothing very deep or profound, it was supermarket unsophisticated knowledge and way too much emphasis on astrology.
My grandfather had said that Kabbala is only learned when one is over 40 years old and had studied the bible in depth but apparently anything is possible in a sect and everyone is welcome, even Madonna.
Recite this prayer and you will be safe from the devil, promised a charasmatic grey haired man who would have run for office had god not tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to represent him.
The yoga center was very similar, there was always a gift shop to visit after the lectures that preached against the ordinary life promising a life led by spirituality and eternal life if one would only follow the teachings of the masters. If only i could follow anything that is followed by the masses that is..
It feels good to be amongst other people who do not seem to want to cheat you but what you wish and what you find are not the same.
the disappointed divorcee, the struggling young parents, the lonely adolescent grown old in years but not in mind, all those are the target population of the sects who never say what they are but they are soul hunters, who wish to capture and hold people prisoners in feelings of obligations to buy their way into heaven..
Published by Task Force on Cults and Missionaries
Los Angeles, CA 1995
Who is “Dr. Philip S. Berg”?
Philip S. Berg is the charismatic founder and leader of a quasi-Jewish cult functioning under the name of “Research Centre for Kabbalah.” It has branches in New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, a few other cities. Berg portrays himself as an orthodox rabbi and proclaims his “Kabbalah Centre” to be a Jewish orthodox institution. IN his youth he did study at an orthodox Yeshiva in Brooklyn NY, and it seems that he was ordained. Berg claims to have a doctorate (all his books go under the name “Dr. Philip S. Berg”). In some of his books he alleges to have a doctorate in “comparative religion,” while another source claims his doctorate to be in “jurisprudence in biblical law.” When personally confronted about the discrepancies, and questioned about his alleged doctorate, he admitted (in a published interview) that in fact -he has no academic degree at all – and that his alleged “doctorate” is “part of his smichah (ordination)”. Everyone knows, of course, that there is no such thing. For his public lectures Berg advertises himself invariably as “the greatest Kabbalist in the world;” “the world’s foremost authority on the Kabbalah;” “a living Kabbalist and the rarest of teachers;” or other such flamboyant terms of self-aggrandizement. Outside of his own Centre and circle of followers, neither the academic nor the Jewish religious worlds know anything about him except for the anomalies of his centers. They have absolutely no regard for him, his teachings, writings or activities. In fact, he is universally condemned by both the orthodox rabbinate and contemporary schools of Jewish mysticism in Israel, the USA and elsewhere, as a charlatan.
What is the “Kabbalah Centre”?
One of the most extensive articles about Berg and the Kabbalah Centre was published in a national Canadian Jewish weekly, the Canadian Jewish News, dated March 18, 1993, pp. 2, 6-7 and 9. It exposed, with names, some of the Kabbalah Centre’s anomalies, such as:
In the autumn of 1990, a Marilyn McLeod was dying of cancer. She was visited by a “Rabbi” Yardeni of the Kabbalah Centre who persuaded her to purchase a complete hard cover set of the Zohar, as well as a few other books about Jewish mysticism, for hundreds of dollars. Marilyn was also told to change a mezuzah and her Hebrew name. For $250, they changed her mezuzah, gave her about a dozen audio tapes from the centre, and changed her name altogether. Though Marilyn couldn’t read any Hebrew, she was told to simply scan the Zohar for its healing properties. Shortly thereafter (January 1991) she dies.
Other cases are cited of people unable to read Hebrew (let alone Aramaic – the language of most of the Zohar), and who could ill afford the high prices charged, who were persuaded to purchase the Zohar and other works, who were told that mere scanning of the books would help them in their quest for spiritual fulfillment.
Young people drawn into the centre were persuaded to help with maintenance of the building and other jobs.
When thoroughly questioned, Berg “readily concedes that ‘most’ of the students as well as the teachers at the centre would likely not be able to read or interpret a page from the Hebrew Zohar.” Nonetheless, he maintains, in an alleged “paraphrase of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai” that :you can learn from someone who doesn’t know”.
Both in the interview as well as in their promotions, Berg calls his centre “Yeshiva Kol Yehuda,” alleging affiliation and association with (as the continuation or successor to) the Yeshivah Kol Yehuda in Jerusalem, originally founded in 1922 by the late Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag and later headed by the late Rabbi Yehudah Tzvi Brandwien. Berg calls himself as “Rabbi Brandwein’s chief student.” [Note: see further on, chapter X, about this false allegation!]
The Kabbalah Centre offers its classes and publications to an indiscriminate mixture of “man, woman, child, non-Jew,” religious or secular.
Berg condemns rabbis who criticize and censure him and his organization as “jealous; they are simply jealous of how we are teaching people.”
A former student who spent 18 months studying at the centre and “thousands of dollars on books and tapes,” decided to investigate orthodox Judaism and realized how far removed the centre is from traditional Judaism. He said that at first “everything was very impressive. Everything made sense to me. They were in synch with what I knew about spirituality. But then I did a little outside reading and I started to realize that to know Kabbalah you need to be at a level of personal development. They never mention that. They don’t talk about kashrut, mitzvot or tefilah (prayer). They never mention G-d. They talk about a light, about power. They offer instant gratification and instant answers.”
All the above is extracted from the Canadian Jewish News article. None of these matters was ever questioned or denied by Berg or the Centre.
Berg’s Use of “Libel Chill”
Berg has literally millions of dollars at his disposal. The net assets of his New York branch in 1990, according to IRS-returns, are close to 10 million dollars. Using the principle of “libel chill,” he scares detractors who will speak out openly against him with expensive libel and slander suits. That is why rabbinic condemnations of him and his centre are usually couched in very careful and often veiled wordings. One rabbi was not that careful: Canadian rabbi Emanuel Schochet, a rabbinic scholar and authority on Jewish mysticism well-known throughout the world, author and editor of numerous primary texts, dared to speak out against Berg and the Kabbalah Centre in a lecture delivered in 1993 in South Africa. On his return to Canada, Berg hired one of Canada’s top-paid lawyers in libel to sue Rabbi Schochet for $4.5 million dollars for “libel and slander.” Rabbi Schochet condemned the Jewishly unacceptable practices of Berg and his centers of
a) using horoscopes and astrology in general in counseling their victims,
b) the indiscriminate use and teaching of sacred and complex teachings of the Kabbalah to people totally illiterate in anything Jewish and devoid of Jewish observances as well as to gentiles,
c) the exorbitant prices they charge for the sale of the Zohar and other writings pressed upon their victims at mark-ups of over 500% of the fair market-price,
d) acts of extortion by scaring naïve people with all kinds of evil and curses that will come upon them if they refuse to offer money for the Kabbalah Centre, and ludicrous promises of physical health and wealth if they will purchase their publications; and other such flagrant violations of Jewish law and tradition, as well as other samples of immoral behavior.
Documented list of Perversions
Dr. Phil Abramowitz, Director of the Task Force on Missionaries and Cults at the Jewish Federation of New York, circulated a memociting: “Only some if the items have been brought to his attention regarding the work of Dr. Philip Berg:
Two people complained about Berg advising two women to divorce their husbands. He claimed that he had seen it in the Kabbalah or in some mystical dimension that they should divorce. [Note: This, incidentally, is a common and well-documented practice of the Kabbalah Centre: when a married couple disagrees about association with the Kabbalah Centre, especially when this involves immense financial commitments, the one in favor of Berg is usually advised to divorce the disagreeing spouse because “the marriage is spiritually unsuitable.”]
A young man from the Chaim Berlin yeshiva claimed that his father’s manuscript had been taken by Berg and printed under Berg’s own name.
On 42nd Street in Manhattan, Berg’s followers have been seen trying to solicit passers-by ( s, Puerto Ricans, Jews and non-Jews) to buy Berg’s publications and as well to encourage them to attend his lectures.
An observant family in Toronto had called in to complain of the circumstance where their child was terminally ill. Berg had claimed that he could cure the child through Kabbalah and had required a payment of some thousands of dollars. The child died.
The Toronto Vaad HaRabonim and the Queens Vaad HaRabonim had issued statements to the public about avoiding the learning in Kabbalah Centers as well as purchasing books which were on the market. (This was all enacted to foil the work of Berg.) [Note: The Chief Rabbi , the Bet Din of Johannesburg, and the Rabbinical Association of South Africa, also issued decrees of condemnation against the Kabbalah Centre and managed to drive them out of their country.]
Philadelphia Board of Rabbis complained that Berg’s followers had been abusive to their members when demanding that appeals be made for Berg’s organization in synagogues. When they were asked for Haskamot (letters of approbation) none were ever produced.)
Numerous calls have been received from Jewish residents in Flatbush and Queens complaining that Berg’s representatives are making solicitations on behalf of the Kabbalah center and refuse to leave the premises until they are given money. In fact, they literally put their “foot in the door” – they claim that Berg had taught them that it is better to get abuse in this world and to have the world to come – “A Lichter Gan Eden.”
There are stories of kids livings in Berg’s basement, being paid a minimal wage and going out promoting his books and seminars.
Complaint was made from the New York City Department of Finance that 3 of Berg’s representatives had come to the Department saying that they wanted to give Mishloach Manot gifts – (traditional gifts of food given to friends on the festival of Purim) – to Jews working in the Department. They were furnished with a list of names of Jews working in that Department. When they approached the Jews, they did not admit that they had obtained the names from the Department, but, rather, said that Berg had instructed them according to Kabbalah to buy his Kabbalah books and attend his Shiurim (classes). They were also frightened by the claims of what would happen to them if they would not attend these lectures.”
The same memo also cites reports from Rabbi Yitchak Sladowsky, Executive VP of Vaad HaRabonim of Queens:
Parents had complained that children were “taken in” be Berg and were being estranged from their families.
The Vaad have been told that Berg held seances (and ) together with the youngsters and tried and got them to try and make contact with the dead and to transcend their own souls.”
The Canadian Jewish News – article quotes Arnold Markowitz, director of the Cult Hotline of the New York Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, that he has received a fair amount of calls complaining of “high pressure” and abusive tactics employed by the Kabbalah Centre’s New York branch. “The calls, usually from current and former members and their relatives, tell of people ‘totally consumed’ by the centre ‘while neglecting family and work.'” Markowitz said that the centre exhibits many cult-like qualities similar to “name” cults like the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon. He adds that his research “has shown the centre to impart ‘an inordinate amount’ of submission to its rules – the neglect of other pursuits – a his level of suggestibility, denial of privacy and a strong focus on a self-appointed, charismatic leader, namely, Berg. It also employs some ‘hard-sell’ tactics usually associated with better-known cult groups. The centre displays a strong inwardness too: ‘They see the outside world as unenlightened. It’s a very ‘us-versus-them’ mentality.'” The article cites the same type of reports from Dr. Phil Abramowitz of new York Jewish Community Centre’s Task Force on Missionaries and Cults, Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and Julius Ciss of the Toronto counter-missionary group Jews for Judaism.
Mockery of Jewish Law and Tradition
Selections from Berg’s Writings
Berg masquerades as an observant “orthodox rabbi.” Anyone who observes his practices or reads his books, however, will discover an altogether different picture:
The very fact that he is suing a Jew, let alone an orthodox rabbi, in a secular court, instead of – at best – summoning him before a Bet Den (religious court) is one of the most serious offenses against Jewish law which is binding upon all religious Jews, states unequivocally:
“It is forbidden to submit a law-suit for adjudication before gentile judges and their courts of law even if the sentence will conform to Jewish law. This is prohibited even if both parties agree to submit the case before them. Whosoever submits a law-suit for adjudication before them is a rasha (totally wicked person) and is regarded as one who reviles, blasphemes, and rebels against the Torah of Moses our Teacher! GLOSS: The Bet Din is authorized to ban and excommunicate him until he will remove the authority of the gentiles from his fellow (Jew). One excommunication also anyone who supports the one who goes to the gentiles!” (Schulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, section 26, paragraph 1)
Following here are a few examples of Berg mocking and denying fundamental principles of traditional Judaism in his writings:
Berg writes in his tract called THE KABBALAH CONNECTION, p42:
“Like the scientists, the leaders of the three main streams of Judaism today are interpreting the body of the Torah according to their own Desires to Receive and the Desire to Receive embodied in their congregations. Unhappily, whereas the sages who presented commentaries on the Talmud, from Rashi and Rabbi Tam of the Tosafot and others worked and disagreed with one another in the spirit of pure science inspired by G-d and believing totally in what they wrote, the last century has seen a turning away from the sanctity of Halacha – away from pure science in favor of applied science which, in this case, means conforming more readily and easily to the mainstream of contemporary life. The reality of gufei Torah thus is lost, abandoned and forgotten. We no longer inquire, as did the sages of the Talmud, into the nature and structure of the “cables” of observance – the physical aspect of communication with the metaphysical plane. We have become, instead, obsessed with the need to tailor Judaism to fit as many Jews as possible”.
In other words, the gospel according to Berg declares that there is no longer any valid Halacha. Halachic authorities in the last century are but professional “tailors” who cut, weave and sew to order, their Halachic pronouncements seeking to accommodate the desires and caprices of as many customers as possible.
In the same tract, p. 43:
“Judaism is not concerned with conforming to a strict religious way of life in which it is perceived that if one wants to be considered a Jew he has to perform certain ritual tasks. On the contrary, the goal is to connect to metaphysical forces through which we can fulfill our Desire to Receive The Torah, properly understood, can completely fulfill all our needs, and once that goal has been achieved, the barriers that have been created between Jews and non-Jews will collapse”.
And on p. 44:
“The aspect of Law does not have its customary secular implication of conformity and sanction. The Halacha of binding of Tefillin each morning is not a rule laid down by the Torah to keep the Jewish people in line. It merely bears witness to the fact that for six days in every week, the Tefillin is in tune with the paths by which energy is flowing, and that if we want to use that energy, this is the means by which we can connect with it. Halacha, properly understood, is therefore descriptive rather than prescriptive. To say, that a particular deed or action is “Halachically incorrect” is not to say that one is doing wrong, is not an observant Jew or is not fitting into the mainstream of Judaism. We are merely making the observation that the particular action is question is not properly connecting with the energy pattern available to it.”
Even the most ignorant Jew knows that the word mitzvah (pl. mitzvot) means commandment, thus a Divine edict and obligation. Halacha, regardless of the etymology of that word, means specifically Jewish LAW, in the plain sense of that term.
The Torah states very explicitly that the observance of Mitzvot goes with promises of rewards in the here-and-now or the hereafter, while the violation of mitzvot incurs punishment – ranging from purely spiritual penalties to fines, flogging, excommunication and capitol punishment. [See also further on, chapter VII.]
Berg, therefore, displays sheer ignorance, stupidity, an outrageous perversion of the facts, and a total distortion of the Torah. His nonsense of mitzvot being “descriptive” (suggesting that it is optional) rather than “prescriptive” (which means obligatory), is the typical claim of licentious renegades who seek, and wallow in, anti-nomianism (discarding the legitimacy and relevance of law). The Torah, and all of Jewish tradition, makes it very clear, beyond any shadows of doubt, that to act “Halachically incorrect” is indeed to “do wrong” – which requires (even on the unintentional level) an act of repentance.
There is not a single instance where the authorities mentioned talk in their cited commentaries about manipulating “energies” or connecting “cables.” They would condemn this as idolatrous. The Halachic and Kabbalah authorities condemn most severely those who would use “practical Kabbalah” or seek to tap the supernal lights or energies. They state that people like that invariably become wicked and despicable heretics and will have a bitter end.
[For sources see: Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Pardes Rimonim XXVII:27; Rabbi Chaim Vital (citing Rabbi Isaac Luria), in Sha’ar Ru’ach HaKodesh, Tikun III, in Likutei Torah, section Shemot, and also in Sha’ar Hamitzvot, section Shemont. See also Rabbi Yehudah Hechassid, Sefer Chassidim, par. 204-5, and the commentaries there.]
Berg’s indiscriminate and unqualified involvement with Kabbalah resulted in precisely all that these warnings predicted. Like the alchemists of old, who pursued the study of the Kabbalah and the occult sciences in order to produce gold to indulge their desires, and like all others who sought to master the Kabbalah for personal gain, Berg reduces the Torah and Jewish tradition into a manual of magic and astrology to manipulate Heavenly forces or energies to attain personal gratification or to avoid personal misfortune. Berg’s “system” promises his followers that they can turn Almighty G-d into their private lacky, a genie in a bottle, to do their bidding. The Torah (Halacha), which Jewish tradition sees as the revelation of G-d’s Will, G-d’s commandments, G-d’s prescription for the proper life, behavior and human self-discipline, are discarded by Berg as rabbinic myths, orthodox naiveté, a nefarious plot of ignorant religious fanatics to control the ignorant masses.
Slander of Rabbis and Halachic Authorities
More selections from Berg’s Writings
In the introduction to the book THE ZOHAR: Parashat Pinhas, p. xxxiii-xxxv, Berg repeats his anti-orthodox diatribes: “There are those who pose as religious leaders who, for their own selfish reasons, spread false requisites for the study of the Zohar and discourage people from “indulging” in its sublime treasures. Either these rabbis fear for their positions, because people tasting of the Kabbalah might embarrass them with the incisiveness of their questions, or, perhaps, because their own upbringing deprived them of this because their own knowledge, they see no reason to allow others of “lower standing” to be given the opportunity of partaking of Kabbalah’s spiritual elixir.
These kat (cults) of Rabbis have been, and are still in some quarters, blemishes and disfigurements on the face of Rabbinic Judaism. “The arid field of Rabbinism, the P’shat seekers are the fools and hate knowledge.” (Tractate Sanhedrin, P. 99B) These Rabbis of ill-repute attempt to conceal from the layman the facts that the foremost Jewish legalists and Talmudists were also famous Kabbalists.”
What a stupendous statement! All the great authorities who warned and cautioned about the study of Zohar and Kabbalah that this is for the properly qualified only, authorities which include Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (author of the Zohar), the foremost Kabbalists like Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Rabbi Isaac Luria and Rabbi Chaim Vital, the Vilna Gaon, the Baal Shem Tov, the Siftei Kohen, and so forth, in Berg’s view “posed as religious leaders,” made their pronouncements for “selfish reasons,” “feared for their positions,” and were “afraid of embarrassment”!!! They were “cultists” – “blemishes and disfigurements on the face of Rabbinic Judaism,” “Rabbis of ill-repute.” Berg, knowingly fully felt that his followers are even more ignorant than he and would never bother (or know how) to check his allegedsources, invents from his fertile imagination a quotation from the Talmud, “Tractate Sanhedrin P. 99B.” It so happens that his quotation does not exist either there or anywhere else. There is nothing even remotely on that whole folio of the Talmud!
Berg claimed for a “fact” that “the foremost Jewish legalists and Talmudists were also famous Kabbalists.” Some, indeed, were. Many, however, were most definitely not, such as, for example, the greatest of them all, i.e., Maimonides. In fact, many Kabbalists severely condemned the super-rationalist approach of Maimonides. Rabbi Isaac Luria who had the greatest respect and admiration for Maimonides, states nonetheless that Maimonides, being of the left pa’eh (corner) did not merit to know the wisdom of the Zohar!” (Sha’ar Hagilgulim, ch. 36. See also Rabbi C. J. D. Azulay, Shem Hagedolim, s.v. Harambam. See also Maimonides’ introduction to his Guide, and the comments thereon by one of the foremost Kabbalists, Rabbi Joseph Ergas, Shomer Emunim 1:9)
And where is Berg’s evidence for Rav Saadiah Gaon, Rashi, Rabbenu Tam and so many others? (If Berg assumes that a commentary on Sefer Yetzirah, implies involvement with Kabbalah, obviously he does not know anything about Sefer Yetzirah. Many, including Rav Saadia Gaon, read it from a philosophical, non-Kabbalistic – or, at least, not in the normatively understood Kabbalistic – perspective.) C. In this vein, Berg also presents an original revisionist account of history. He writes in the same introduction, pp. xliii-xliv: “The fundamental purpose of Hasidism, which borrowed from the example of the Sephardim, was to inject spirituality into the religion, as opposed to the thoughtless formalism prevailing within the liturgy and ceremonies of their fellow Jews in Lithuania, the Mitnagdim. For this reason the Hasidim did not enjoy either credibility nor popularity among MitnagdimŠ The place that was assigned to the Zohar in the scheme of prayer and ritual by the Hasidim was one of the basic points at issue between the two sectsŠ It was and is essentially a contest between the formalism of dogmatic ritual, as practiced by Mitnagdim and the spiritually-directed practices of the Hasidim. Like the Sephardic Jew, the Hasid maintained that the quintessence of the Jewish religion lay in the internal-spiritual study of Talmud, combined with a determined belief in the efficacy of prayer. Thus, both groups opposed the robotic, despiritualized form of prayer observed within all three factions of Judaism –[reform, conservative, orthodox]. The Mitnagdim, contrarily, although they could not reject outright the validity of the teachings of the saintly Tannah, R. Shimon bar Yohai and his Zohar, regarded Jewish life and religion as consisting of strict obedience to the laws based upon the literal study of the Talmud and the precepts. The Talmud, without the assistance of R. Shimon Bar Yoshai’s interpretation, is, to the Kabbalist’s way of thinking, an exercise in lifeless, rigid ritualism, the result of which has been an abandonment of the study of Talmud, not only by most Jews, but even by the majority of Orthodox Jews.” One need not be a scholar at all to know that the foremost leader of the Mitnagdim, the fiercest opponent to Hassidism, was R. Elijah, the Vilna Gaon. To reduce that confrontation to an argument about the stature, study and use of the Zohar, is absolute ignorance about both the struggle between the Hassidim and the Mitnagdim and personality of the Vilna Gaon, his teachings and writings. The Vilna Gaon wrote some of the most incisive commentaries on the Zohar. Like few before or after him, he wrote extensively about the absolute necessity of studying the Kabbalah (see, for example, the anthology Even Shelemah). His prayer-book, and accounts of his practices and customs, follow Kabbalistic teachings and devotions. He taught Kabbalah to his disciples. Nefesh Hachayim, the major work of the Gaon’s principle disciple Rabbi Chaim of Voloszin, is based completely on the Zohar and the writings of Rabbi Isaac Luria. The Lithuanian School of Kabbalah, founded by the Gaon, continued generation after generation, through the author of Aspaklaryah Hame’irah (which is partially printed in the margins of the standard editions of the Zohar) to the recent works of the late Rabbi Shelomoh Eliyashuv. So much for our alleged “doctor in comparative religion”-‘s knowledge of Jewish history in general, and history and development of Kabbalah in particular.
Denying Fundamental Principles of the Torah and Inventing new ones
If all that were not enough, another of his books, modestly, titled “The Ground Breaking Book that tells you all about Reincarnation – THE WHEELS OF A SOUL,” p. 46, has the following pronouncements of “orthodox rabbi” Berg.
“We are taught from childhood that if we do something good, G-d will reward us and if we do something bad, He punishes us. Never believe it.”
In other words, Berg tells you not to believe one of the “13 Fundamental Principles of Judaism” (Principle 11, in Maimonides’ formulation) that “G-d rewards those who perform the commandments of the Torah and punishes those who transgresses its admonitions.” According to this “greatest Kabbalist” we are not to believe the numerous passages in the Torah that speak explicitly of reward and punishment, such as Leviticus ch. 26 and Deuteronomy ch. 28-29; or in the Shema recited twice daily – Deuteronomy ch. 11:13ff., to mention but some major sources.
In the same tract, p.29, Berg alleges that “Reincarnation is not a question of faith or doctrine, but of logic and reason.. the Bible is its Fountainhead;” and p. 51: “By now it should be quite clear that reincarnation is discussed and accepted in the Bible, and that by virtue of that acceptance it is an integral part of Judaism and Christianity alike.”
Very interesting. Why is it, then, that some of the greatest authorities of Judaism, including Rav Saadiah Gaon (to whom Berg makes several references and who says of the idea of reincarnation that it is no less than “madness and confusion”), R. Abraham Ibn Chinya, R. Abraham Ibn Daud and R. Joseph Albo, denied and rejected the idea of reincarnation? One need not be too great a scholar or student of religion to know that one can hardly imagine something more absurd than Berg’s assertion than “Judaism is not concerned with conforming to a strict religious way of life” requiring the performance of certain religious tasks. Religious law and ritual is the very foundation, the beginning and the end, of the Torah and Judaism. Berg’s teachings are no more than a poor-echo of the basic claim of the apostle Paul, in the New Testament, and later of the movement of the false Messiahs Shabbatai Tzvi and Jakob Frank, that the laws or rituals of the Torah and Jewish tradition are no longer required. So is his claim that “proper understanding of the Torah,” i.e., the teachings and doctrines of Bergism , will remove “the barriers that have been created between Jews and non-Jews.”
Berg and his people make constant use of astrology and horoscope-readings to “counsel” those who come to them. They pretend to see all kinds of negative forces or auras threatening their victims, and then advise them that the “pending evil” can be avoided by means of hefty contributions to the Kabbalah Centre. A favorite ploy of theirs is to suggest the amount of $30,000 for reprinting the Sulam-edition of the Zohar, payable either by post-dated cheques or credit-card. The use of astrology, of course, is forbidden by Jewish law. To be sure, there have been a good number of Jewish scholars who believe in the principles of natural forces and influences suggested by astrology. Nonetheless, Jewish law and tradition state quite clearly that Jews are not to consult horoscopes and astrology. Maimonides condemns astrology as a form of idolatry. The Schulan Aruch, the universal Code of Jewish Law, composed by Rabbi Joseph Karo who himself was a great Kabbalist and studied with Rabbi Isaac Luria himself, states unequivocally: “One is not to consult astrologers or fortune-tellers – GLOSS: because it is written ‘You shall be wholehearted with the Lord, your G-d’ (Deuteronomy 18:13), and how much more so, therefore, it is forbidden to consult those that use divination, enchanters and sorcerers.” (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, section 179, paragraph 1). The Zohar is also very emphatic in prohibiting a Jew’s use or consultation of astrology (see Zohar, vol. I (Book of Bereishit), p. 90b; vol. II (Book of Shemot), p. 172a; and vol. III (Book of Vayikra-Davarim), p. 216b; etc. For Maimonides’ condemnation see his Code, Laws of Idolatry, chapter II, par. 8-9 and 16, and his Book of Commandments. Vol. II, par. 32).
Jewish law and the Kabbalists explicitly forbid the teachings of Kabbalah to people who do not have a good knowledge of basic Jewish law, and who are not meticulous with the observance of Jewish law and tradition. (See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, section 246, par. 4, and the commentators there. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Or Ne’erav, part I, ch. 6 and part III, ch 1-4; Rabbi Chaim Vital, Introduction to Eitz Chayim; Sidur of Rabbi Isaac Luria, ed. Rabbi Shabtai of Rashkov, sect. Kavanat Halimud, p.130.) In the same context, Jewish law and the Kabbalists state that teachers of Kabbalah must themselves be Torah-scholars of unimpugnable character, people of the highest moral standing and religious observance. (See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, sect. 246, par. 8; and the Kabbalah-texts cited above.)
Jewish law forbids the teaching of Torah, let alone Kabbalah, to non-Jews. (See Maimonides, Hilchot Melachim, chapter 10, par. 9. Zohar, vol. II, p. 111b and vol. III, p. 73a.)
Berg recently published a Jewish prayer-book according to the rite of Rabbi Isaac Luria. The basic text is no more than a reprint of earlier such prayer books. Berg, however, added footnotes which copy various gimatriyot (numerical equivalents) of words or phrases etc. which appear in numerous texts. In order to fool naïve people, he tricked a number of prominent Israeli rabbis to write approbation’s for this prayer-book. The fact that he tricked them is obvious from the texts of these approbation’s: they refer to him as “Rabbi Berg, Rosh Yeshivah (dean) of Yeshivah Kol Yehudah in the USA” In truth, of course, this is a fictitious title and a fictitious school! In America, Berg claims to be the dean of a Yeshivah Kol Yehudah in Jerusalem, and in Israel he pretends to be the dean of a Yeshivah Kol Yehudah in the USA Berg and his disciples parade these approbation’s as evidence that he has the support and respect of these rabbis for himself and the work of the Kabbalah Centre. In truth, the approbation’s merely recommend the publication of a prayer-book of the rite of Rabbi Isaac Luria. They make no reference to the “personality” or work of Berg, his cult, or his activities. Moreover, these rabbis obviously never saw or examined Berg’s prayer-book. They simply gave an approbation for a seemingly innocuous publishing effort. If they had seen Berg’s work, they would had no choice but to condemn and ban his prayer-book; for Berg there commits the fatal error of attributing Divine quality to idolatry: In the first paragraph of the Aleinu-prayer there is a verse which reads: “for they [the heathens] bow to vanity and emptiness and pray to a god which helps not.” In a demonstration of crude ignorance, Berg understood the word el (god) in that phrase to be a reference to Divinity, and thus attributes to it a gimatriya which applies exclusively to G-d (see his prayer-book, p. 280, note 9; and this fatal error is repeated on pp.359 and 405). We have here a typical example of a Midrashic interpretation on the verse “The fool proclaims his guilt” (Proverbs 14:9), namely, that “A fool proclaims his guilt with his own guilt with his own mouth!” Attention has already been drawn to this blasphemous stupidity, and chances are that Berg will soon reprint his book to hide his ignorance.
Berg’s “Prophetic Powers”
A good sample of Berg’s keen mystical insights, which cannot be explained by anything but an implied status of prophecy, is to be found in that same tract, The Wheels of A Soul. In chapter 12, titled ‘The Man Who Returned as His Nephew,’ Berg claims to have determined that a certain individual did not violate the terrible sin of suicide but must have been murdered. His “proof” is as follows. Aryeh was born on Cheshvan 9, 5719, corresponding to the civil date of November 12, 1958. [Berg did not bother to check a calendar. The 9th of Cheshvan 5719 corresponds to October 23, 1958! In my case, no connection is ever made with his birthday.] On August 19, 1978, ‘Aryeh’ was found dead, and his family was deeply perturbed by the question whether he committed suicide or was murdered. Thus they called on Berg to resolve this question. Berg discovered that Aryeh’s brother had a baby born on the 29th of Nissan 5739 (which corresponds to April 26, 1979), and was named after his uncle. From this, Berg concludes that the baby-Aryeh must have been conceived in the preceding (Jewish) month of Elul 5738 (thus between Elul 1, 5738, corresponding to September 3, 1978, and Elul 29, 5738, corresponding to October 1, 1978). Referring to a passage in the writings of Rabbi Isaac Luria about babies corn or conceived in the month of Elul, and combining this with the fact that the dead man and his new-born nephew have the same name, Berg concluded that this “indicates that the two Aryehs were the same” (i.e. that the baby must have been an incarnation of his dead uncle). Now, from September 3 to April 26 there are 235 days, which is 33 weeks and 4 days, or 7 months and 23 days. From October 1 to April 26 are 208 days, which is 29 weeks and 4 days, or 6 months and 26 days. Normative birth occurs in the ninth month. This clearly raises the obvious question: How would Berg know that the child “must have been conceived” between the end of the 7th month and the end of the 8th month prior to birth??? Secondly, Berg claims that there is a Talmudic interpretation that says “anyone below the age of 20 cannot be condemned to death in the event of premeditated murder.” In his notes he cites “Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, p.’ – leaving the page number blank. He had to leave it blank as he could not find it for the simple reason that no such quote exists there, or anywhere for that matter. To give Berg some benefit of doubt, we may assume that he might possibly have been confused by remembering something about no punishment being meted out before the age of 20, which appears in the commentary of Rashi on Genesis 23:1, learned by little children in grade 1 or 2 of a Talmud Torah. The source for this can be found in tractate Shabbat 89b and in the Jerusalem Talmud, Bikurim 2:1. The problem however, is that this refers specifically to the punishment of karet (excision of the soul) from Heaven. Indeed, a simple study of the Torah-text, undertaken by even little children and without need of any commentaries, shows that there are several cases in the Torah itself, explicitly prescribing capital punishment for youths below the age of twenty. Berg thus again displays arrogant ignorance and distortion, and on this he bases his case that the baby must have been an incarnation of his uncle. Thirdly, from his “prophetic assumption” that the baby is an incarnation of its late uncle, Berg arrives at the stupendous conclusion that the dead Aryeh must have been murdered and could not have committed the sin of suicide. For, says Berg, if he had committed suicide he would not have been reincarnated! How convenient. First he takes for granted that there is a case of reincarnation, and thus concludes that therefore there could not have been a suicide. Even a child can recognize the absurdity of this circular argument.
Berg the “Inventor”
In his interview with the Canadian Jewish News, Berg claims, in a curious switch from his precious pronouncements on the Mitnagdim, that the Vilna Gaon said that “Kabbalah should be our first pre-requisite, before Talmud, before anything else.” While now recognizing the Gaon’s connection with Kabbalah, he crudely invents a quote and falsifies the Gaon’s statements. It is quite obvious that he is totally ignorant of the writings of the Vilna Gaon. The Gaon clearly follows Jewish orthodox tradition and declares: “He who wishes to deal with the ‘great and wondrous things’ but will not first observe the laws and learn them, ‘shall not be enriched;’ for ‘who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot’ and does not walk in ‘great and wondrous things’ before filling his belly with the ‘bread that sustains the heart of man.’ Without this, it is impossible to attain the secrets [mysteries of the Torah];” Gaon’s Commentary on Mishlei 21:17. Likewise, the Zohar, volume II (Book of Shemot), end of p. 115a states: “For him who makes an effort [with Torah] the merit the World to Come it is called a ‘possession’Š in context of ‘the Possessor of Heaven and Earth’ (Genesis 14:19), ‘Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding’ (Proverbs 4:5). After acquiring [it] for himself, he shall have freedom. There is one who is acquired forever, and there is one who is acquired for six years..” In his commentary on this passage, Yohel Or, p. 10c, the Vilna Gaon explains: “‘He shall have freedom’: that is, he shall then busy himself with the ‘Tree of Life’, the secrets of the Torah, which is referred to as the ‘World of Freedom’. There is one who is’: that is, throughout his life he will never attain he secrets.’ And there is one’: that is, until he will study the Talmud, and thereafter the secrets of the Torah, for thence he will attain the ‘inner awe’ and make an effort which is not for the sake of receiving a reward. For then he shall be on the level of ‘a child in Atzilut’, as known. Thus it is said, ‘If there is no awe there is no Torah, if there is no Torah [there is no awe: the first [phrase] refers to the external awe and the plain sense of the Torah, and the second to Kabbalah and the inner awe.”
In that same interview, one of the teachers of Berg’s centre appeals to a famous Kabbalistic work, Or Hachamah for support of their antinomian behavior. This quote is again a distortion. The author, Rabbi Abraham Azulay (following a principle already established by R. Isaac Luria) merely distinguished between the originally “concealed study” of the Kabbalah and the presently permitted “open study” of the Kabbalah. He does not make it a free-for-all. The alleged attribution that “only through Kabbalah will we forever eliminate war, destruction and man’s inhumanity of his fellow man “does not exist, not even by allusion.
The allegation, made in the same interview, that “many scholars credit the Chassidic movement for bringing Kabbalah out of the darkness and to the masses” is sheer nonsense. This goes right counter to the very teachings of Chassidism: both the Baal Shem Tov (founder of the Chassidic movement) and the Maggid of Mezrich (successor of the Baal Shem Tov) cautioned most severely against teaching Kabbalah to an attributed the antinomian and immoral perversions of the Frankist to their improper study of the Kabbalah, undertaken cavalierly without adequate preparation and perspective. [See Sefer Baal Shem Tov, vol. I : p. 27f, and vol. II : p. 198; Or Ha’emet, p.86.]
Lies and More Lies
In context of the shameless incident of duping a dying woman into purchasing books and tapes, and to change her name, the Canadian Jewish News quotes the Kabbalah Centre’s teacher’s defense: “Marylin was persuaded to change her Hebrew name because it is the center’s belief that one should not be named for a deceased relative but rather a figure in the Torah.” This is hardly a credible excuse when his mentor, Berg himself, writes in The Wheels of a Soul, p. 110: Parents should always name their children after relatives or loved ones, who were giving people, with whom they felt a soul affinity.”
Berg and the Kabbalah Center claim association with the Kabbalistic Yeshivah “Kol Yehudah” in Jerusalem, founded by Rabbi Ashlag in 1922, and later by Rabbi Brandwein. In fact, their billboards identify the centre as “founded in Jerusalem in 1922,” and their leader as “Dean,” as if the centre is identical with that Yeshivah. The truth is that Yeshivah Kol Yehudah (and there is only one in Jerusalem) denies any association, of whatever kind, with him. Both the families and successors of Rabbi Ashlag renounce Berg and the Kabbalah Centre and their activities, severely criticize them for their antiomian behavior, and call him a charlatan far removed from anything to do with genuine Kabbalah.
In an interview with an American magazine, JEWISH LOOK, April 1975, Berg relates that he met his alleged mentor, Rabbi Brandwein, in the summer of 1962. Then he proceeds to make ignorant as well as false and presumptuous claims:
He states that Rabbi Brandwein made an original contribution by being the first to publish the writings of Rabbi Isaac Luria in a “logical and coherent order.” This, of course is nonsense. Rabbi Brandwein merely published most of the major texts of Rabbi Luria as a set, when previously they had been published at various times as individual volumes. For anyone familiar with the contents of the works, a “logical and coherent order” would be quite different than the order (and numbering) of Rabbi Brandwein’s edition; a sequence of vol. 4-5, 1-3, 7-8, 12-15, 9-10, 14, 11, 13, 6, makes much more sense. This is not said to belittle, in any way or manner, a truly valuable contribution by Rabbi Brandwein:
a) he made these works available, when most of them were out of print and difficult to obtain;
b) he published them in comfortably readable print, and affordable volumes; and
c) he added references to sources in Biblical and Rabbinic writing and numerous cross-references to the writings of Rabbi Luria.
Berg claims that “Rabbi Brandwein and Berg embarked upon an unprecedented publishing venture – [referring to the above mentioned publication of the writings of the Ari] – Š they published all of the Ari’s dazzling writings in 14 volumes.”
The truth is:
The first 10 of the 14 volumes published by Rabbi Brandwein appeared in the years 1960-1961, thus before Berg ever heard of Rabbi Brandwein and who – by his own admission – he first met in 1962!
Rabbi Brandwein did not complete the publication. He managed to complete only a small part of the first section of Volume 14 (Peri Eitz Chayim, one of the most important texts) before he passed away. His son completed the edition of that volume (in the same style) many years later. Likewise, the Sefer Halikutim (which became volume 15) was edited and published much later by Rabbi Brandwein’s son-in-law. There are many other texts of the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria which have not (yet) appeared in that series. Berg also states that “they (i.e. Rabbi Brandwein and Berg) published a 10-volume edition of Ha-Sulam.” Berg insinuates that he was instrumental in the publication of this work when it had actually been published already, completely, by the author (Rabbi Ashlag; died 1954) himself, in 21 volumes. There was thus no more than a technical publishing-effort of a photogenic reprint condensed to 10 volumes.
High finances of the Kabbalah Centre
In the 1988 “Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax” submitted to the USA Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, covering the fiscal year July 1, 1988 to June 30, 1989, signed by Berg himself on January 14, 1990, Berg’s so-called “Research Centre of Kabbalah” of New York, NY, declares: Gross Sales (minus returns and allowances) of inventory (i.e., “Cost of good sold”) valued at $241, 744, for the amount of $2, 824, 449, thus a “Gross profit of $2,582,705 (two million and five hundred and eighty two thousand and seven hundred and five dollars”!!!!! This means a gross profit of 1168% (One thousand and one hundred and sixty eight percent). This is in addition to “collecting contributions” of another $648,048. Line 75 of that “Return” indicates that by the end of the fiscal year, Berg’s outfit in New York had a net worth of $9,675,448, for a net gain of $6,164,550 from the beginning of the fiscal year! Against this income and profit, their functional expenses for that year are $79,311 for “program services” and $158,853 for “management and general” (including $96,758 for “depreciation, depletion etc.”), for “Total functional expenses of $238,164.” The same return (Part II, Statement of Functional Expenses) notes that “Research Centre of Kabbalah” acquired right to publishing over 15 books and 15 audio-video tapes, cassettes over the next 10 years worth of $2,585,000.” Since their primary publications are Berg’s materials, one would assume that this amount paid (largely, if not exclusively) to Berg himself who officially received compensation (salary) of only $12,000 for that year. In comparison, the smaller “Kabbalah Centre” in Toronto, Ont., Canada, reports in their Charity Return for the year ending December 31, 1989, filed on June 28, 1990, receipt of contributions in the amount of $445,780, and assets of $330,852. The Toronto-branch also claims that in 1989 it spent $25,422 for “management and administration costs,” and a whopping $399,247 for alleged “charitable programs.” (The return-form does not provide for information on value and income of books, tapes etc. sold.)
Is there need for saying anything more? All the above clearly shows who Berg and the Kabbalah Centre are and what they are doing. Let the people see, know and judge for themselves.