Rabbi Philip Berg, who brought the teachings of Kabbalah to a celebrity following that included Madonna and Britney Spears, has died.
Launching her world tour in Israel, Madonna appealed for Middle East and world peace.
It’s fashionable to look at Passover as a universal idea. This makes sense; after all, how much more universal can you get than the theme of human freedom? Also, it’s a lot easier these days to be outer-directed and feel outrage at injustice.
International pop star Madonna, who will launch her upcoming world tour in Israel, has added a second concert date in Tel Aviv for a "Concert for Peace."
Michael Jackson’s life was full of contradictions, and his relationship to Jews and the Jewish community was no exception.
Along with homework time, crafts and supervised games, grade school students in several Los Angeles Unified School District elementary schools this spring are getting something different at their after-school programs: spiritual awareness.
The Matrix, the Kotel, the Days of Awe are all linked in this music video from Ori Murray shot in Jerusalem.
A former trainer for Alex Rodriguez said the star ballplayer's interest in Kabbalah caused the break-up of his marriage.
Letters to the Editor
Historically, rabbis have proclaimed that in order to study kabbalah, one has to be a learned Jewish man older than of 40. So imagine how surprised those rabbis would be today if they could peruse a modern bookstore: There are now a plethora of tomes on the subject, making kabbalah available to the layperson -- male, female, Jew and non-Jew -- the dummy and idiot alike (which is it better to be?).
Many of those holier-than-thous who are bad-mouthing Madonna were once themselves on the wrong side of the tracks before they rediscovered Judaisim
I am in Morocco for five months on a Senior Fulbright award from the State Department and the Moroccan government, researching Judeo-Spanish songs from Northern Morocco for their connection to liturgical poetry and kabbalistic practices.
When it comes to spirituality, Safed lacks nothing. But the Israeli mountain town (also spelled Tzfat) has been struggling economically since last year's war with Hezbollah. That's why local tourism authorities are hoping a Rosh Hashanah visit by the Material Girl will bring real material benefits to its 30,000 residents. Madonna, returning to Israel for the first time since September 2004, plans to visit Safed - the world center of Jewish mysticism - along with Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and other points of interest as part of a tour being organized by the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre.
The model for the day was dying for the sake of rebirth. Think meditation, think spiritual awakening, think psychoanalysis.
And yet despite these avocations, the 40-something Kenneth Klee said he felt there was something missing in his life. He's now studying for his smicha, or ordination, as a rabbi, which he intends to compliment his sideline as a spiritual counselor.
Although all the presenters were united by their passion for the study and practice of Kabbalah, the most observable differences lay in their approaches as to how Judaism's most sacred and intimate teachings should be disseminated.
The new "Encyclopaedia Judaica" is to be published Dec. 8 by Macmillan Reference USA and Israel's Keter Publishing. The 22 volumes contain more than 21,000 entries on Jewish life.
7 Days in the Arts
"Eve of Destruction" by P. F. Sloan.
Haruach sings with a modesty and softness that enhances the simple and good-natured spiritual messages of her songs. That, in itself, is an unusual trait, because audiences have come to expect artists who make spiritual/new age, religious music to have overproduced studio performances.
Around the Pico-Robertson neighborhood -- and the city -- the standard lectures were being given on topics ranging from the Book of Ruth to Israel, but something off the beaten path was taking place on Robertson Boulevard in a lecture at Anshei Emet Synagogue. The subject was "Kabbalah and the Red String."
When I was in my early 30s I joined a havurah, a group of professionals seeking a deeper Jewish involvement. And during this time of year, just after Passover, we didn't know what to do with the counting of the Omer. How could we make it relevant and purposeful?
Biting off more than most of us can chew, husband and wife authors Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams have taken on the enormously ambitious task of tackling that age-old question: How did the world get here, and does our existence really matter? Their new book, "The View From the Center of the Universe, Discovering our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos" (Riverhead Books, 2006), uses cosmology -- the astrophysical study of the history and structure of the universe - to meld "Meaning" and science to reach a greater understanding of the origins of life.
Scene and heard.
Roseanne Barr says she has two secret ambitions. One is to celebrate the bat mitzvah she never had as a youngster growing up in Salt Lake City. The other is to become prime minister of Israel, a sort of Golda Meir II.
The stereotypical Jewish woman is strong, supportive, receptive and respected. Growing up, she is showered with love, pampered by objects and experiences of beauty and quality. She keeps a welcoming home. She attends to detail, wants what she wants and is unapologetically "high maintenance." She is wise, and capable of keen manipulation. She is emotional -- following her heart more than her mind. She is nurturing, loyal, generous and willing to sacrifice. She finds total fulfillment only when she has balanced her work with marriage (preferably to a doctor or lawyer) and children. Most significantly, she loves receiving beautiful clothing, fine perfume and dazzling jewelry.
Guitarist and composer Adam Del Monte has the musical sophistication and spiritual depth to explore Jewish mysticism beyond the trendy or superficial.
Now, on her latest album "Confessions on a Dance Floor," the track that is receiving the most attention and critical acclaim is one called "Isaac." About a month before the CD's release on Nov. 15, rabbis in Israel claimed the song was about Rabbi Isaac Luria, the 16th-century kabbalist better known as the Arizal, and they blasted Madonna for using his holy name for profit.
Tel Aviv police have arrested the director of the Israel Kabbalah Centre, following complaints that he had fraudulently exploited a dying cancer patient and her husband.
Since the early 1990s, Rabbi Abner Weiss, former rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation and current rabbi at the Westwood Village Synagogue, has been using kabbalistic tools in his psychology practice. Recently, he published "Connecting to God, Ancient Kabbalah and Modern Psychology," a book that asserts the congruity of the two disciplines.
7 Days in the Arts
Is the celebrity-studded Kabbalah Centre bringing the benefits of age-old Jewish mysticism and learning to the masses, or is it a multimillion-dollar family enterprise scamming the gullible?
That basic question, raised with growing frequency and ever-larger headlines in recent years, was given a surprisingly well-balanced national airing last week on the ABC-TV newsmagazine, "20/20."
More fashion for a cause? You betcha. After all, why "Livestrong" when you could "Get Sababa?"
Lance Armstrong's yellow "Livestrong" bracelets to benefit his cancer foundation are already passé. But hoping to start a fashion craze of her own, 27-year-old Traci Szymanski has launched Get Sababa, a clothing line in progress, complete with the now-requisite rubber-band bracelets. (Hers are blue-and-white tie-dye.)
My 90-year-old mother-in-law, who was born in Jerusalem, says that when she was a child no one had heard of red string. It was red ribbon then, and a bit was tied around her wrist after she recuperated from typhus.
"Derech Hashem -- The Way of God" by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Feldheim, 1997).
Quietly studying a page of the Talmud on a crowded plane, the great Orthodox teacher and thinker Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was interrupted by a passenger in the next seat.
"Pardon me. What is that you are studying?" the man asked.
Soloveitchik explained the nature of the Talmud, and that he was a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University.
The man was incredulous. "Do you mean that people spend their entire lives thinking about religion?" he asked. "Why, I thought that all of religion could be succinctly summarized as 'Do unto others what you would have them do unto you'!"
I have never been to the Kabbalah Centre, never studied with one of their teachers, and cannot comment on their practices. My sole direct exposure was to watch a videotape produced by the center, "The Power of Kabbalah: A Documentary," from 1996, in which they claim, among other things, credit for producing the Oslo accords -- credit which they may be presently inclined to disavow. But no matter. I spent an infuriating hour reading "Becoming Like God" by Rabbi Michael Berg. If I can succeed in persuading one person not to buy this confused, contradictory, intellectually disreputable and Jewishly perverse volume it will be well worth the exasperation.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of spending some time with high-level members of the Knesset. Much was on the agenda: security, elections, the wall, the settlements and Madonna's proposed trip to Israel. These leaders were abuzz with the possibility that she would be coming to Israel and now that she has, I say to her, "You go, girl!"
Madonna's just-completed visit to Israel has been called a lot of things: scandalous, threatening, inspiring, encouraging, cheap.
Marcus Weston is a thin, good-looking Londoner who in his casual attire and unobtrusive kippah could pass for typical Pico-Robertson Modern Orthodox guy. On this cool Tuesday night in December, he offers his audience a reassuring smile.
It's official. The Kabbalah Centre has usurped the Church of Scientology's status as Hollywood's hottest creed of choice. These days, it seems like every celeb looking to add meaning to his or her glittering but empty life of fame and fortune is joining the red-string-wearing, holy-water-selling, quasi-Jewish group.
David Shamouelian believes he has tapped into what he thinks is a sure-fire marketing tool: 4,000 years of Jewish mysticism.
Madonna doesn't like to explain her music videos, but in her newest one, "Die Another Day" (the title track for the soon-to-be-released James Bond movie), while wearing a dirty, white tank top she sneeringly sings to the camera, "Analyze this, Analyze this." So we will.
It's 10 a.m. on Shabbat at The Kabbalah Centre on Robertson Boulevard and the crowds are starting to converge in anticipation of the Torah reading.
I entered the tea-scented room, took a yoga mat and joined a circle of 20-somethings seated on the hardwood floor.