The Kabbalah Centre, a Los Angeles nonprofit organization directed by the Berg family of Philip, Karen, Yehuda, and Michael, is one of the foremost kabbalah educational centers in the world. Success of the Kabbalah Centre over other kabbalah educational centers is at least partially related to the simplicity or tidiness of its courses and its association with celebrity followers, such as Roseanne Barr, David Beckham, Victoria Beckham, Sandra Bernhard, Madonna Ciccone, Zac Efron, Paris Hilton, Donna Karan, Ashton Kutcher, Lindsay Lohan, Demi Moore, Guy Ritchie, and Britney Spears. In fact, “Madonna bracelets” are simply the standard kabbalah red string bracelets, known as Madonna bracelets because of their most notable proponent and not because of any direct link to Catholicism.
The Kabbalah Centre appropriately introduces kabbalah to mainstream scrutiny as a supplement to religious faith; indeed, kabbalah is never intended to become more than that. The Kabbalah Centre has been criticized as opportunistically making kabbalah appear too simple, such as by attributing the kabbalah red string bracelets with automatic powers. The real relationship of technical kabbalah practice to its results is much more complex, and more criticisms are analysis of Kabbalah Centre followers’ behavior rather than of Kabbalah Centre teachings.
Introduced in the 1990s by Sandra Bernhard into kabbalah, Madonna has singlehandedly greatly assisted in promoting awareness of the Kabbalah Centre. Raised a Catholic, she has now adopted many of the mizhwoth, such as Torah study, Sabbath (canceling Friday night concerts), tfilin, tithing, and freewill offerings, even more so than when exposed to similar teachings within Catholicism.
Madonna has promoted kabbalah beliefs, both generically and as taught at the Kabbalah Centre, through her 1998 album “Ray of Light” (abandoning the former message of “Material Girl”). She has also been strongly evangelistic about the Kabbalah Centre, proselytizing many of the other Hollywood names already mentioned into kabbalah beliefs.
It is hard to tell whether any internet-promoted kabbalah center is more tradition-approved or more of a backwoods cottage industry. The marks of the true kabbalah center are not size or fame but fidelity to truth itself as revealed in the cosmos. All authority is subject to questioning; how much more so when the authority holds the blueprint of heaven and earth.
When dealing with the Kabbalah Centre teachings, some foundational paradigms must be retained. The Kabbalah Centre generally downplays pshat interpretation in favor of the other three strands, but the Talmudic rule is that no matter what the rabbis learn from the other three strands, the pshat is always present and never to be ignored utterly. The Kabbalah Centre generally uses the word “God” for Ein Sof and “Light” for God’s manifestation, which tends toward depersonalization of one’s relationship with God, rather than as an intelligent Creator whom King David calls “holy Spirit” in Psalm 51. Also, the Kabbalah Centre favors modern rather than ancient astrology, and overly favors the Chesed side of the kabbalah tree of life, rather than evenly balancing this trait with Gevurah (justice and severity). With these imbalances recognized, interaction with any of the 50 Kabbalah Centre branch offices can proceed fruitfully.