Philip Berg



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Fast Facts
rav-berg.jpg
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Shraga Feivel Gruberger, Philip S. Berg, Rav Berg, Rabbi Phillip Berg,
Function: 
Rabbi
Traditions: 
Judaism, Kabbalah
Main Countries of Activity: 
USA, Israel, Europe
Date of Birth: 
28/08/1929
Place of Birth: 
Brooklyn, NYC, NY, USA
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Date Left His/Her Body: 
16/09/2013
Other Related Gurus: 
His Kabbalistic mentor: Rabbi Yehuda Brandwein. Female kabbalist & his wife: Karen Berg (currently runs the Centre), His Sons: Michael & Yehuda Berg

Biography

Philip Berg (original name: Shraga Feivel Gruberger) was born in Brooklyn to an Orthodox Jewish family. After being educated at a yeshiva he was ordained as a rabbi in 1951 and started working as an insurance salesman at New York Life two years later. His first wife was named Rivkah with whom he had several children. It was Rivka's uncle, Rabbi Yehuda Brandwein, dean of the prestigious Yeshiva Kol Yehuda, who Berg first met on a trip to Israel in 1962, and who would become his Kabbalistic mentor. There is some disagreement over who succeeded Rabbi Brandwein as dean of Yeshiva Kol Yehuda - Berg has claimed to have replaced Rabbi Brandwein in that role, but that claim is disputed by Brandwein's son Avraham, who is the current dean.

In 1965, Berg established the "National Institute for the Research of Kabbalah". Later, the organization's name was changed to The Research Centre for Kabbalah and finally, The Kabbalah Centre.

After Rabbi Brandwein's death in 1969, Berg returned to the U.S. and began working again with his former secretary and future wife, Karen, on the condition that she let him teach her the Kabbalah, a discipline traditionally reserved exclusively for men. In 1971 Philip and Karen married and traveled to Israel. Then, in 1973, the Bergs returned to Queens, where they established their full-time headquarters during the 1980s.

Following a stroke in 2004, Philip Berg stepped back as Administrative Director of the Kabbalah Centres, before passing away in 2013. At present the organization is run by his wife Karen Berg and sons, Yehuda and Michael Berg.

Celebrity followers

Madonna - The media has paid much attention to celebrity devotee Madonna who, joined by her husband Guy Ritchie, studies regularly with a personal Kabbalah Center rabbi, no longer gives concerts on Friday night (which is the onset of the Jewish Sabbath), wears the red string around her left wrist for protection and to ward off the "Evil Eye" (Ayin Hara), has introduced Jewish ritual objects such as tefilin ("phylacteries") into her videos and tithes regularly to the Kabbalah Centre of Berg.

Others - Britney Spears was introduced to the Kabbalah Centre by Madonna, though her ongoing relationship with the organization remains a matter of speculation. At one point, Spears was ridiculed for getting a Hebrew tattoo on the back of her neck, the letters Mem, Hey, and Shin, a sequence from the Zohar that is associated with Healing. Tattoos are forbidden by Jewish law. Lindsay Lohan has also recently been associated with the faith, wearing red string on her wrist. She is said to have formed a friendship with Madonna and reportedly has taken the name of Rose following her conversion from Catholicism. Other celebrities that have been associated with Berg's Centre include Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Donna Karan, David Beckham, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Zac Efron and Lauren Conrad.

Teachings

Overview of Kabbalah

Kabbalah (Hebrew: קַבָּלָה, קבלה‎), which literally means "receiving", is the mystical aspect of Judaism. It refers to a set of esoteric teachings meant to define the inner meaning of both the Hebrew Bible and traditional Rabbinic literature, as well as to explain the significance of Jewish religious observances.

The Kabbalah contains the long-hidden keys to the secrets of the universe as well as the keys to the mysteries of the human heart and soul. Kabbalistic teachings explain the complexities of the material and the nonmaterial universe, as well as the physical and metaphysical nature of all humanity. Kabbalah shows in detail, how to navigate that vast terrain in order to remove every form of chaos, pain, and suffering.

According to the Zohar, generally considered the foremost Kabbalistic text, the study of the bible is divided into four levels:

  • Peshat - the simple direct meaning of the biblical text.
  • Remez - literally "hint" — biblical allusion and allegory.
  • Derash - Rabbinic scriptural interpretation of the bible.
  • Sod - literally "secret" - the kabbalah, the secret inner meaning of the bible.

Kabbalah teaches doctrines that are accepted by some Jews as the true meaning of Judaism while other Jews have rejected these doctrines as heretical and antithetical to Judaism.

The Study of Kabbalah according to Philip Berg

As opposed to the Jewish orthodox view that Kabbalah should and can only be studied thoroughly as part of the whole Jewish doctrine and the study of the bible and only by Jewish people who keep the Commandments of the bible, Berg has established a popular venue for the study of the Kabbalah and opened it to all people, regardless of religion, faith and tradition. In this, he has drawn enormous anger and criticism from various Jewish Orthodox establishments.

Berg is a popularizer of Kabbalah and draws on various aspects of popular culture to explain the often cryptic texts of Kabbalah. He sees pop phenomena, like all things, as genuine revelations of the "light" the presence of God.

Origins of the Universe

The light is understood as part of the duality in the "light filled vessel" metaphor central to Berg's cosmology. In Berg's view, the Kabbalistic origin of the universe is in agreement with the Big Bang - prior to a massive explosion, a sacred vessel was united with the light that filled it. The light was the force of creation and the vessel the force of desire/receiving. When the vessel desired to create, the two separated, resulting in void, followed by an explosion which shattered the vessel. These broken shards of vessel and light became the imperfect physical universe.

Free Will

All aspects of human life are spiritual but require Kabbalah - especially its concept of "restriction" in the sense of self-control, nonreactivity and proactivity - to harness them beneficially.

Negative aspects of the world - death, illness, pain, frustration, poverty, failure, loneliness, and so on, result from human mistakes but exist for the benefit of humans: they are opportunities for each individual to reveal light through behavioral corrections or "tikkun". By sharing with others, humans reveal more light, use this creative force to "become like God", and "make the world a better place".

Combatting One's Ego

A core principle is the importance of sharing, viewed as directly opposing the influence of the ego, defined in Berg's Kabbalah Centre texts as the "desire to receive for oneself alone". By actively combating the influence of the ego and increasingly sharing in life (both physically and emotionally), Berg promises that one will experience lasting satisfaction, fulfillment and the removal of "chaos" from life.

Sharing is based on the principle that one ultimately lives life with a single ongoing choice - whether to be influenced by the ego or the "light". Berg teaches that the ego, sometimes referred to as "satan" (pronounced sa'tan) was created by the "light" in order to give humanity free choice.

Astrology

Berg advocates the use of astrology readings to counsel his students, and has written numerous books on the subject. Berg asserts that his beliefs in kabbalistic astrology are strongly influenced by the classic work of Kabbalah, Sefer Yetzirah, attributed to Avraham.

Reward and Punishment

Berg believes that as living things, and as part of God, we have control over our own actions. Berg holds that God does not reward people for good behavior and punish them for bad behavior. Instead he believes that bad behavior lead to bad effects. The reason for rules in the Torah is to prevent adverse effects. If we all kill, what can happen? We can be killed. If we all steal, what can happen? We can be stolen from. According to Berg, the commandments were put in place by God to bring harmony to a chaotic world, not to judge people. Some claim this teaching is generally considered outright heresy in Orthodox Judaism, as it contradicts one of the Jewish principles of faith according to Rabbis Joseph Albo and Maimonides. Still, Berg's belief does correspond with that of his teacher Yehuda Ashlag as suggested in Ashlag's article "There is None Else Beside Him".

Berg has written:

We are taught from childhood that if we do something good, God will reward us and if we do something bad, he punishes us. Never believe it.

Reincarnation

A central part of Berg's theology is a belief in reincarnation. He holds that this phenomenon can be proven true by logical argument. This idea is accepted as true by many Orthodox Jews, but some Orthodox Jews, and most non-Orthodox Jews, view the entire idea as false, due to a lack of talmudic sources as well as writings from Rav Saadia Gaon that it comes from the "Indian religions." It is also felt that the concept is philosophically untenable.

Reincarnation is not a question of faith or doctrine, but of logic and reason...the Bible is its Fountainhead.

Applying Teachings to Daily Life

Berg emphasizes the application of the wisdom of Kabbalah in life, as opposed to text strict study of the Zohar. Students are encouraged to attend courses that explain how "chaos" (i.e. potential and current problems) can be removed from life by understanding and applying a variety of spiritual "truths" that are based upon Kabbalistic concepts.

Non-reactivity

Students are encouraged to understand the importance of non-reactivity, such as when prompted by circumstances to be angry or judgemental towards others. Such behaviour is described as reactive, "disconnecting' the student from the "Light" or more properly called "en sof". In such situations, students are strongly encouraged to be "proactive" (i.e. act from love) and to "restrict" what is seen as the ego's attempt to make you "disconnect".

Berg teaches that if humanity as a whole continues to be influenced by the ego, exhibiting traits such as "hating for no reason", the "Light" (energy) will be blocked, creating chaos - potentially an armegeddon scenario. This is viewed as avoidable by "spreading" the wisdom of Kabbalah to as wide an audience as possible.

99%

The "99%" is a frequently referenced terminology in Kabbalah Centre teachings which refers to the division of true reality. The five senses provide access to a mere 1% of reality, which is the byproduct of a 99% reality that cannot be accessed by the senses. Since the circumstances of the unperceivable 99% of reality dictate those of the 1% normally perceived, one must use Kabbalistic wisdom to access the 99%, thereby providing context to the 1%. No occurrence in life, in the 1%, is accidental or random; rather it is completely the calculated result of the 99%. All confusion, and appearance of chaos is an illusion created by the absence of such context. The 99% is characteristic of pure joy, understanding, and truth.

Klippot - Peels

Kabbalah Centre teaches the Kabbalistic concept of Klippot (Peels, skins in Hebrew). The idea is that everyone has a direct and clear connection to the upper metaphysical-spiritual world of the Light (Ein Sof, unbounded God), but that this channel is blocked by the peels that cover him, restricting the spiritual energy from entering the physical body. It is through meditation and practice of Kabbalah teachings that one removes Klippot, and it is by violence and negative behavior that one adds Klippot.

Sources: 
Kabbalah websites, Wikipedia, Kabbalah Centre website

Locations

The Kabbalah Centres & Study Groups
Type: 
Center
Details: 

The Kabbalah Centre is a spiritual and educational organization dedicated to bringing the wisdom of Kabbalah to the world. It was founded by Philip Berg in 1965. Its headquarters are in Los Angeles, California and it has many local centres throughout the world, among these its prominent location in Manhattan, NY, and its active centre in Tel Aviv, Israel. Study groups are also organized in other cities throughout the world.

Address: 
The Kabbalah Centre
1062 S. Robertson Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90035, USA
(located between Pico & Olympic)
Phone: 
(310) 657 5404
Daily Schedule & Opening Hours: 

The centers offer some study events free of charge but their main activity is the teachings through various courses available at the centers and online. They include: Power of Kabbalah I/II/III, Wheels of a Soul, DNA of Success, Writings of the Zohar, and Ten Luminous Emanations.

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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

Living Kabbalah: A Practical System for Making the Power Work for You

by Yehuda Berg

(Hardcover)

Based on the belief that Kabbalah should be lived, not merely studied, Yehuda Berg’s latest book presents a practical, systematic approach to integrating the insights of millennia-old wisdom into daily life in order to achieve total fulfillment. Drawing on his popular workshops and courses, Living Kabbalah guides readers through this process, showing how to overcome the negative thoughts and patterns that hold them back; create positive change in their life; unlock their potential for greatness; achieve true prosperity and live with abundance; and reconnect with their dreams and make them happen. An engaging blend of explanation, inspiration, and motivation, Living Kabbalah includes exercises, self-assessments, and suggestions for journaling, as well as meditations and other tools, that anyone can follow and use as a pathway to transforming their lives. The book is an official publication of the Kabbalah Centre International, with a huge worldwide constituency.

Recommended DVD & Video: 
Cover image

Becoming Like God : Kabbalah And Our Ultimate Destiny

(DVD)

For the first time in history, an incredible opportunity is available to humankind: the opportunity not simply to pray to God, obey God, fear God, or reject God, but in fact, to become like God. This revelation of human destiny was discovered by Kabbalistic scholar Michael Berg while translating the Zohar, the 23 volumes of ancient aramaic text that comprise Kabbalah's key text. ***Taken from back of DVD case