Kabbalist Rav Berg
The Kabbalah Centre, 2000
This promising book of less than two hundred pages was a bumpy read that alternated between being interesting, informative, repetitive, and also an invitation to the reader to follow studies in centers located worldwide. I have always been intrigued by the Jewish religion because of its age and deep roots in world history. Equally, I’ve been dismissive of it because of its clannish inbreeding that seemed so similar to the young organized religion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) I grew up around. To me the attitude of both churches “reek of elitism,” as Berg wrote of his church. He is attempting to be more open and inviting.
Berg documents his years of study under master teacher Rabbi Yehuda Tzvi Brandwein
during the tumultuous time in Jerusalem around the 1967 Six Day War. He begins brusquely by stating a few facts and then plunges into a Kabbalah definition of the Messiah. I understood Messiah to mean the one who returns to save the world from destruction, such as Jesus Christ. Berg writes that the “Kabbalah teaches that humanity itself is the true Messiah. When humanity achieves a level of spirituality that merits our redemption, that redemption will have already been realized by the spiritual transformation that has taken place.”
I found this an interesting twist and worth thinking about. It is also belief in this definition that has led Berg’s establishment of The Kabbalah Centre around the world. He is bringing teachings out of the shadows and following what he was taught to make The Kabbalah and its teaching more accessible. This, he believes, will help the world achieve the level of redemption that will save us all.
The book is an odd little blend of esoteric teaching, cool, near boring description of daily life during his tenure with Rabbi Brandwein, and a sprinkling of platitudes. “Pay in advance for a future debt,” jumped at me as a platitude, that is now reduced to the popular phrase “pay it forward,” but then I reconsidered. The phrase has been repeated so often in the current popular culture it is now a platitude, but a few years ago when this book was published it wasn’t. I’m never against giving someone earned credit, so perhaps Berg is seeing some results.
Curious readers who want an easy introduction into The Kabbalah’s teachings would enjoy this book. If this was a break-out book to bring The Kabbalah into mainstream consciousness, it did so with well-planned baby steps. Serious students of comparative religions would find it simple. There’s an interesting tale that gives understanding to the concept of the religious desire to suffer more and worthwhile ideas about the psychology of hate and desire. It is packaged in an easy to read book and I’m sure it has brought more people to The Kabbalah Centre.