21. I have heard people say that some well-known centers for the study of Kabbalah mislead and exploit people. What is your view?
There is an inherent self-contradiction in the idea of a commercial center that "markets" the Kabbalah to all-comers. Traditionally, the authentic mekubalim maintained a modest profile, out of respect for the great holiness of Kabbalistic wisdom and its great power.
The establishment of conspicuous, popular, money-making centers for the study and practice of "Kabbalah" has proved to be a profitable way for some to cash in on the great explosion of public interest in spirituality and mysticism since the 1970's. The Kabbalah's traditional inaccessibility and its reputation for conferring special, even magical powers, made it all the more intriguing and "saleable".
The proliferation of classes and popular literature "explaining" the Kabbalah worldview in the language of the "New Age" has unquestionably done much to bring greater awareness of the Kabbalah and respect for its profundity to a wider public.
Far more questionable is the service performed by teaching advanced meditations involving Divine names to beginners who have no background knowledge and who often do not observe the Sabbath and other Torah laws, while not informing them that without Torah practice, such meditations are meaningless and can cause harm. The marketing of Kabbalah knowledge and techniques as if they are attainable without Torah observance is a blatant distortion, leading students to believe they have attained high spiritual levels when in fact they have been sold a fantasy.
There have been numerous complaints from former students at such centers about the use of emotional blackmail and cult-like mind-control techniques to keep students locked into the group and to secure large donations. For a selection of web articles about personal stories and experiences, go to:
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5763 - 2003 All rights reserved