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Black holes bend light toward them.

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Holes are portals from the domain of good to that of evil. Likewise, black holes suck up matter, energy, and information from the universe. They give something, too. The gravitational waves emitted when black holes merge provide a window on the past. Listening to the converted gravitational in sound form, scientists can hear a kind of cosmic song—the sound of the first darkness, if you will. Or, more simply put, scientists are finding—like the mystics before them—that all of existence emerged from one thing that multiplied, and continues to multiply, in the endless act of creation that is the universe.

In his own scholarship, Wolfson uses scientific concepts to illuminate mystical texts, and vice versa. Many science types are wary of spirituality, however. If nothing else, mystical and philosophical metaphors offer clues for the direction of scientific exploration. Wolfson recognizes the distinctions between science and spirituality. They believe that they have the keys to redeeming themselves and humanity.

And what is it precisely that the center is offering its adherents? What sets the center apart from other postmodern belief systems like Scientology, which have subverted the traditional relationship between spirituality and authenticity by insisting that authenticity itself is fungible or even beside the point, is that it has wrapped its ardent ecumenical message around the kernel of a centuries-old, highly ritualized religious tradition.

These include observing Shabbat and a multitude of holy days; keeping kosher; maintaining a separation of sexes in synagogue; the wearing by men of crocheted yarmulkes of the modern Orthodox style that prevails both here and in Israel; and the wearing of skirts and sheitels by married women. The chevra are the chosen among the chosen, provided with housing, clothes, schooling for their kids, even plane tickets.

Still, given the proselytizing ambitions and will to visibility there are a total of 10 centers in the United States and 16 internationally , it is difficult to get anyone close to the center to admit to this underlying belief system for fear of appearing too insular and exclusive.

Kabbalah and Mysticism | My Jewish Learning

The history of kabbalah is long and thorny, filled with reversals in attitude toward the dissemination of its wisdom. Although kabbalah was studied from early on by elite circles of Spanish Jews and from the 15th century through the 18th century by scattered communities in the European and Islamic worlds, the prevailing attitude within the normative Jewish community was restrictive. Fear of its antinomic implications being ever present, kabbalah was generally considered to verge on the dangerously heretic in its speculative and personalized approach to a hidebound and communal religious tradition.

It was tenuously approved for study only for devout married men over the age of 40 who were well versed in the Talmud and Jewish law or for exceptionally gifted and sturdy-hearted yeshiva students.

Luciferian Roots of Kabbalah

Fast-forward to the last decade and a half. Enter Philip Berg and his second wife, Karen he and his first wife had eight children before they divorced , who set up shop out of their Queens house with an original following that numbered no more than their two sons and a clutch of Israeli disciples.

Spanish Kabbala

Philip Berg, born Shraga Feival Gruberger, who changed his name in the s, was a former insurance salesman; Karen was his onetime secretary. When it comes to spreading the gospel of the theosophical system of kabbalah, lineage is all; if you can establish a proven generational link to a master kabbalist, you are immediately vaulted into a privileged position to transmit its enigmatic philosophy. It is Ashlag who is the linchpin of the outwardly egalitarian but intensely hierarchical operation that is the Kabbalah Center — or, as many would argue, the justification behind an illegitimate group of squatters who lay claim to its ancient, sacral territory.

A crucial and highly controversial figure who was born in Poland and immigrated to Palestine in the early s, Ashlag began to revolutionize traditional attitudes toward the dissemination of kabbalah, prying open its historically hallowed, coded concepts.

Restoring Kabbalah to Mainstream Judaism

The Bergs have sold kabbalah as a source of inspiration to an audience that has nothing to do with academics and their careful distinctions between where one line of kabbalistic wisdom the theosophic Lurianic strain ends and another the ecstatic Abulafian strain begins. They have succeeded in boiling down an attenuated, arcane and often tedious system sprinkled with numerological symbolism and elaborate, loop-the-loop interlinkings of God, the world and the evil eye into an accessible lifestyle philosophy offering succor to the unaffiliated and disheartened of whatever racial or ethnic origin.

Theirs is a canny reading of the infectious malaise of secular life and the widespread yearning for a transcendent context as well as an up-to-the-microsecond sense of branding. Still, the fact that the movement seemed to speak to a hodgepodge of impulses and to represent a less than pristine — indeed, a somewhat tabloid — version of the religion I had been brought up in piqued my curiosity.

My interest crystallized after a meeting with Madonna in the winter of , months before my own first visit to the center. A core kabbalistic concept is gilgul neshamot , which refers to the recycling of departed souls. Finally, in what seemed to me a startling detour, she asked whether I believed in death.

I answered somewhat bleakly that I did.

But it made eminent sense that her link to the center would be based on something more than an altruistic vision of egoless self-betterment and earthly bliss, which is the message she conveys in her statements and songs. Although my curiosity was initially intellectual, the unfortunate — or, as some might have it, propitious — timing and my own sense of grief undoubtedly made me less skeptical of the form of solace the center had to offer.

These practices are no more "evil" than the miracles of the prophets, or the miracles that Christians ascribe to Jesus. In fact, according to some of my mystically-inclined friends, Jesus performed his miracles using kabbalistic techniques learned from the Essenes , a Jewish sect of that time that was involved in mysticism. To give you an idea of the nature of Kabbalah, I will briefly discuss one of the better known, fundamental concepts of kabbalistic thought: the concept of G-d as Ein Sof, the Ten Sefirot, and the kabbalistic tree of life.

This explanation is, at best, a gross oversimplification. I do not pretend to fully understand these ideas. According to Kabbalah, the true essence of G-d is so transcendent that it cannot be described, except with reference to what it is not. This true essence of G-d is known as Ein Sof, which literally means "without end," which encompasses the idea of His lack of boundaries in both time and space. In this truest form, the Ein Sof is so transcendent that It cannot have any direct interaction with the universe. The Ein Sof interacts with the universe through ten emanations from this essence, known as the Ten Sefirot.

These Sefirot correspond to qualities of G-d. They consist of, in descending order, Keter the crown , Chokhmah wisdom , Binah intuition, understanding , Chesed mercy or Gedulah greatness , Gevurah strength , Tiferet glory , Netzach victory , Hod majesty , Yesod foundation and Malkut sovereignty. The middle five qualities are mentioned explicitly and in order at I Chronicles Yours, O L-rd, is the greatness gedulah , the strength gevurah , the glory tiferet , the power netzach , and the splendor hod.

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Jewish mysticism offers a poetic explanation of the Big Bang and black holes

I have seen this passage translated in widely varying ways, but the Hebrew corresponds to the names of the Sefirot in order. The Ten Sefirot include both masculine and feminine qualities. Kabbalah pays a great deal of attention to the feminine aspects of G-d. The Sefirot are commonly represented as in the diagram at left.

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There is great significance to the position of these various attributes and their interconnectedness. The Sefirot are not separate deities, as some might think by taking this too literally. They are intimately a part of G-d, and yet they are in contact with the universe in a way that the Ein Sof is not. The Sefirot connect with everything in the universe, including humanity. The good and evil that we do resonates through the Sefirot and affects the entire universe, up to and including G-d Himself.

Readings in this area should be undertaken with extreme caution.

About the Author

There is entirely too much literature out there under the name "Kabbalah" that has little or nothing to do with the true Jewish teachings on this subject. Any book on the subject of practical Kabbalah should be disregarded immediately; no legitimate source would ever make such teachings available to a faceless mass audience. Books written by Christians should be viewed with extreme skepticism, because many Christian sources have reinterpreted Kabbalah to fit into Christian dogma.

There is a nice online introductory Kabbalah course available from Aish.