24 October 2011
Celebrities gave Kabbalah Centre cachet, and spurred its growth
Los Angeles Times reported
"We have become aware of a group of young men promulgating the sale of so-called kabbalistic literature and of their establishment of classes in this topic," the rabbis wrote to the city's orthodox community. "We categorically state that the group known as the Centre for Kabbalah Research is not approved nor endorsed by the undersigned rabbis."
The letter was circulated among Jewish groups around the world. In Jewish enclaves where the center had long gone door-to-door soliciting donations, there was sudden hostility. People ordered members off their front porches and sometimes out of their neighborhoods. The repercussions reached the Bergs' two sons, who were students at an orthodox yeshiva in New York. Their teachers told them to abandon their father, according to a former member who at the time was close to the family.
The rabbis' denunciation might have been fatal to a more traditional Jewish organization. But the Kabbalah Centre taught that the closer a person drew to the light -- God -- the more the forces of darkness would target him. Followers saw the criticism as proof that the Bergs were on the right spiritual path. They hailed them as prophets.
Members of the chevre, the center's religious order, discussed the intense level of spiritual development one would need just to be Karen's assistant and lined up to eat Philip's leftovers as a way to show their devotion, former members said. The center's synagogues around the world had special chairs for the Bergs' exclusive use, even though they might visit only once a year.
It became standard practice to address the Bergs in the third person. "Does Karen want water?" followers would ask her. "How is the rav today?" they would inquire of Philip.
A large painting at the Toronto branch showed Philip in what struck one visitor as a classic Christian pose: Jesus leaning against a rock.
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