The Truth about the Kabbalah Centre
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
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
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
Nonetheless, he maintains, in an alleged "paraphrase of Rabbi
Shimon bar Yochai" that :you can learn from someone who doesn't
- 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
[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
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 memo
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
- On 42nd Street in Manhattan, Berg's followers have
been seen trying to solicit passers-by (Blacks, 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
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!
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,
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
) 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
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
(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
Rabbi Chaim Vital (citing Rabbi Isaac Luria), in Sha'ar Ru'ach
III, in Likutei Torah,
and also in Sha'ar Hamitzvot,
See also Rabbi Yehudah Hechassid, Sefer Chassidim,
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 black magic and astrology to manipulate Heavenly
forces or energies to attain personal gratification or to avoid
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
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
(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 alleged
sources, 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.
See also Maimonides' introduction to his Guide,
and the comments thereon by one of the foremost Kabbalists, Rabbi
Joseph Ergas, Shomer Emunim
And where is Berg's evidence for Rav Saadiah Gaon, Rashi, Rabbenu
Tam and so many others? (If Berg assumes that a commentary on
, implies involvement with Kabbalah, obviously
he does not know anything about Sefer Yetzirah
including Rav Saadia Gaon, read it from a philosophical, non-Kabbalistic
- or, at least, not in the normatively understood Kabbalistic
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
and the spiritually-directed practices of the
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
] 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
. 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.
, 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
- 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
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
., 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
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
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).
is also very emphatic in prohibiting a Jew's
use or consultation of astrology (see Zohar
, vol. I (Book
), 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
;" Gaon's Commentary on Mishlei
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
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
[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
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] -
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
- 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
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
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.
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