The London Times reprints Yossi Klein Halevi’s riveting piece on the Kabbalah Center, first published in the New Republic (and being riveting on the subject is no mean feat, considering how much has been written on the subject recently).
As one of his side points, Klein Halevi raises one of the most tragic, yet least known accusations against the Center: “‘They tell their people that family isn’t important, that the Centre is your new family,’ claims one woman, who says her husband became deeply involved with the Centre and divorced her.”
Years ago, when I first moved to Toronto, I had two friends whose fathers became involved in the local Kabbalah center – and who both hold the center responsible for their parents’ divorce, for the exact same reason.
I discovered this when our friendships were still very fresh, and I made the mistake of inviting both friends over for the same Shabbat meal. At some point, the subject of the Kabbalah center was raised. One friend detested the place as a result of what it did to her parents’ marriage, and couldn’t bear to hear anything positive about it. The other, who was closer to his father, agreed that the Center had encouraged his parents to separate, but maintained that his father was right to associate with the Center because of its ‘spiritual benefits.’ He himself, it emerged, kept a copy of the Zohar on the dashboard of his car, because the Kabbalah Center told him it would ‘protect him,’ and told us how you ‘absorb spirituality’ simply by running your fingers over the lines of text. He’d bought the Zohar directly from the Center for what seemed to us an exorbitant amount of money.
Needless to say, this didn’t go down very well on the other side of the table (the rest of us simply could not believe what we were hearing), and a full-blown screaming match ensued. It was easily the most awkward meal I’ve ever been at – let alone hosted.
At the time, I didn’t understand just how popular the cult-like Center was (or was about to become). But I knew enough to understand that this was their modus operandi the world over: divide and conquer, and hopefully profit.
INCIDENTALLY, while most commentators complain that the Center has “dumbed down” Kabbalah, Klein Halevi explains that it’s much worse: “it inverts its intention. In traditional Kabbalist meditation on the names of God, the goal is to transcend the separated self and experience oneness... In the Centre’s world, though, the spiritual quest isn’t about God, but the seeker... Where Kabbalah’s goal is to transcend this world, the Centre’s goal is to master it.”