The Kabbalah Centre
Published by Task Force on Cults and Missionaries
Los Angeles, CA 1995
is "Dr. Philip S. Berg"?
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.
is the "Kabbalah Centre"?
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:
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.
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.
people drawn into the centre were persuaded to help with maintenance
of the building and other jobs.
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".
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!]
Kabbalah Centre offers its classes and publications to an indiscriminate
mixture of "man, woman, child, non-Jew," religious
condemns rabbis who criticize and censure him and his organization
as "jealous; they are simply jealous of how we are teaching
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."
the above is extracted from the Canadian Jewish News article.
None of these matters was ever questioned or denied by Berg
or the Centre.
Use of "Libel Chill"
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
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,
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,
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.
list of Perversions
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:
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."]
young man from the Chaim Berlin yeshiva claimed that his father's
manuscript had been taken by Berg and printed under Berg's own
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.
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.
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
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.)
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."
are stories of kids livings in Berg's basement, being paid a
minimal wage and going out promoting his books and seminars.
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
same memo also cites reports from Rabbi Yitchak Sladowsky, Executive
VP of Vaad HaRabonim of Queens:
had complained that children were "taken in" be Berg
and were being estranged from their families.
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."
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.
of Jewish Law and Tradition
from Berg's Writings
masquerades as an observant "orthodox rabbi." Anyone
who observes his practices or reads his books, however, will
discover an altogether different picture:
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,
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!
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)
here are a few examples of Berg mocking and denying fundamental
principles of traditional Judaism in his writings:
writes in his tract called THE KABBALAH CONNECTION, p42:
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".
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
the same tract, p. 43:
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".
on p. 44:
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.
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.]
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
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
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
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
of Rabbis and Halachic Authorities
selections from Berg's Writings
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
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."
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!
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)
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 Mitnagdim. 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 sects. 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.
Fundamental Principles of the Torah and Inventing new ones
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.
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."
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."
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).
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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' 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."
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.
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.]
and More Lies
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."
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.
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:
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:
made these works available, when most of them were out of print
and difficult to obtain;
published them in comfortably readable print, and affordable
added references to sources in Biblical and Rabbinic writing
and numerous cross-references to the writings of Rabbi Luria.
claims that "Rabbi Brandwein and Berg embarked upon an
unprecedented publishing venture - [referring to the above mentioned
publication of the writings of the Ari] - they published
all of the Ari's dazzling writings in 14 volumes."
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!
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.
finances of the Kabbalah Centre
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.)
a need for saying anything more?
the above clearly shows who Berg and the Kabbalah Centre are
and what they are doing. Let the people see, know and judge