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The Governor and the Kabbalah Bracelet

Embattled New York Governor David Paterson, who recently dumped his reelection bid after coming under investigation in a domestic violence case, has begun wearing a kabbalah bracelet which he hopes may help to ward off some of the bad luck that has been dogging him this year. "It was explained to the governor that the red string is a symbol of protection [that] wards off problems and tribulations," said spokesman Morgan Hook. ”His attitude was that he'll take all the help he can get," If only the troubles of life could be solved simply by wearing a piece of red string! The governor is not the only well-known personality who is banking on a red string for help. Kabbalah bracelets are all the rage in Hollywood these days and can be found on the wrists of stars such as Madonna, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears. According to the Kabbalah Centre, (which sells the strings for $26 each), they're worn to protect a person from "the unfriendly stare and unkind glances," a belief that has some roots in Mediterranean cultures where the color red is worn to ward off the "evil eye" (See The Evil Eye ) For those who aren't familiar with their background, these bracelets come from a Jewish tradition of tying a red string around the stone marker over Rachel's grave seven times while reciting various Hebrew prayers. Judaism.com explains that these prayers include Psalm 33,  the mystical prayer Ana B'Koach and Asher Yatzar. The string is then cut into bracelet size lengths and is worn on the left hand as a symbolic request for spiritual and physical protection and blessings. They are worn on the left hand because the left side of the heart is said to be full of blood and is home to the Nefesh, which is believed to be the vitalizing animal soul in a person.  Kabbalah is an extremely complicated belief system with many different variations so it's not possible to give a truly accurate "synopsis" in a blog. The best I can do is provide some basic information. According to the late Walter Martin, Ph.D., in his book, Kingdom of the Occult, Kabbalah is based on the idea that the Torah, which is the name for the Hebrew Bible, is the Divine revelation of God. Kabbalah is the occult, or secret interpretation, of this revelation. Known as the "secret Torah", it is said to teach the meaning behind the words of the Torah - the so-called inner Torah - in order to contemplate the many aspects of God and the nature of man as well as the truth about creation and other key questions in life. This "secret Torah" was been passed down through the centuries orally until the 12th century when it was finally put into writing in a book known as the Zohar. As Dr. Martin summarizes: "The heart of Kabbalah, the driving force behind all Kabbalistic teaching down through the centuries, is the quest for secret supernatural power; the belief that it is possible for people to access the power of God and use it to transform themselves and the world around them." While there are many different kinds of Kabbalah, Dr. Martin separates the majority of followers into one of three groups - Judaic Kabbalah, Hermetic Qabalah, and Hollywood Kabbalah. Because Kabbalah bracelets are associated with the latter, I'll focus this blog on that version of kabbalah and tackle the others some other time. According to Dr. Martin, Hollywood Kabbalah is the creation of a former insurance salesman named Shraga Feivel Gruberger, who changed his name to Philip Berg after leaving his wife and eight children to marry an ex-secretary named Karen. The new Rabbi Berg took the essence of traditional Kabbalah and combined it with his own thoughts and ideas to produce a New Age version of the religion which became popular among Hollywood's stars. The Bergs and their two sons, Michael and Yehuda, now run the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles along with fifty other centers around the world. John Lawrence Reynolds, author of the book, Secret Societies, calls Berg's Kabbalah enterprise "a Wal-Mart of fashion-of-the-day spiritual trinkets and treatises. . . . With titles like God Wears Lipstick and a twenty-two volume version of the Zohar, the collection represented at best a successful marketing exploitation of gullible dilettantes and at worst a mockery of an ancient tradition." According to Dr. Martin, Berg, who has never been able to prove himself to be a legitimate Kabbalah instructor, teaches that people are responsible for everything that happens to them. He even went so far as to say that the Jews died in the Holocaust because they failed to study Kabbalah. His Centre teaches bizarre ideas such as the "technology of the soul" which is a belief that just looking at one of the 72 Hebrew names for God can cause actual changes in the structure of the cells. It also claims one can scan the Zohar with the fingertips in order to magically gain something from it. You don't have to read it - you just have to scan it to get something from it. "Berg apparently wants his students to 'think' Kabbalah, and the power and energy will come to them. And, in the end, he may not be so far off the mark," Dr. Martin writes, "for what the philosophy of Berg cannot supply, the kingdom of the occult stands ready and willing to provide. Berg's teaching method contains a well-known hallmark of the occult: the constant mantra of open your heart and reach for the light. The only catch is that what may come to the Kabbalah searcher is not the light of Yahweh Elohim, but the false light of Lucifer, son of the morning. It is real, but it is far from right." The fact that Hollywood Kabbalah has an even darker side is evident in many reports of abuse connected with Berg and his Centre. One case occurred in 1992 and concerned Rabbi Abraham Union who tried to warn the Jewish community about what the Bergs were doing in their Centre. The day after he alerted the Rabbinical Council of California to the goings-on, he found a severed sheep's head on his doorstep. That evening, several young men appeared at his home and asked in Hebrew, "Did you get our message?" Cult expert Rick Ross reports that former members of the Centre describe how they were controlled and manipulated by the Bergs, saying that the couple controlled "everything connected to the lives of the crew, who marries who, who separates, who leaves the country and goes to another branch, and when he is to be transferred even from there. [Berg] is asked whether it is permissible to become pregnant, and Karen [Berg] is asked how to have sexual relations." Another former follower admitted: "I felt it was a great mitzvah [meritorious act] for me to clean Karen's washrooms. I used to clean her slippers with a toothbrush." Another says "If the Rav [Philip Berg] would have told me to jump off the roof, I would have done it and with great pleasure." This and other information caused Ross to conclude to CBS News in 2008: "The Kabbalah Center is really not recognized within the organized Jewish community. It's really more of a family business, run by Philip Berg, his second wife Karen, and their two sons. In my opinion, the Kabbalah center can be seen as a cult." Even more alarming is the fact that Hollywood stars such as Madonna are promoting Berg and his cult-like ideas all over the world. For instance, the Kabbalah Centre's Spirituality for Kids (SFK) curriculum is right now being taught to children in orphanages Madonna built in Malawi, as well as in the Centre's global kids camp program known as Kids Creating Peace.  No doubt those little ones are sporting the same little red bracelets right now, but instead of providing the promised protection, they are opening a door into a dark and spiritually dangerous belief system.  

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