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Bnei Baruch anyone?
Posted by: outtathere ()
Date: December 29, 2006 03:41AM

Hello Folks--A lot has been written about the Kabbalah Centres and Philip Berg, but I'd like to ask if anyone here has any knowledge whatsoever about the outfit at:
That's Bnei Baruch, somewhere in Isreal.
Anyway, long story short, I want to communicate, if possible with anyone who knows about them--or--anyone here who speaks/writes Hebrew because it's more likely that the "dirt" on them, if there is any, would be in that language rather than English.
Thanks for any help.

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Bnei Baruch anyone?
Posted by: skippypb ()
Date: December 30, 2006 06:31AM

Hey Renee, I came here wondering the same thing... I've scoured the web for information on Bnei Baruch and the ARI Online Learning Center, but keep coming up empty-handed. I don't suspect there is a problem for the following reasons:

- Everything is free. All of the books that you can buy can also be downloaded for free and they don't try to hide that fact. The articles, music, classes, audio and video archives, forums, everything is free. And if you do want to buy the books, the prices recently changed... you now pay [i:0e331ab81c]less[/i:0e331ab81c].

- Free gifts. Twice with orders I was sent additional products (two books and an MP3 CD audiobook) and last week I was sent a book for free that I did not request, but certainly welcome its arrival.

- Volunteering is hard. I wanted to see if my services could be used at all and found little information on how to volunteer. What little information I did find was somewhat difficult to locate too.

- No pressure to give anything up or change life. Even though it deals a lot with not being selfish, they repeatedly lay claim that that doesn't mean you have to give anything up or donate or do anything that people usually associate with being unselfish. Numerous people have asked about lifestyle changes and are all told that no changes need to be made unless that person wants to make the change.

- No pressure to convert others. Converting others is actually discouraged. Information is only handed out to those that want it. If someone doesn't want it, you are supposed to back off. Bnei Baruch is a fairly small group of people and not trying to change it through force.

- The upcoming convention in New York is really cheap for hotel and three meals a day. I checked out the non-group rate at the hotel (for just the room) and found it only about 80 dollars less. 80 bucks for three meals a day and all the set-up, clean up, and presumably airfare for Rav Michael Laitman, doesn't seem like much to me. Definitely not a large profit either way.

- The main teacher, Rav Michael Laitman, is not glorified. He is just the main teacher as a result of his teacher being taught by (and the son of) Yehuda Ashlag, a principle Kabbalist. There is no extra praise for Rav Laitman... I've only heard him mentioned in relation to the studies, not in relation to him being great or wonderful.

My only concerns with the group from many months of online study:

- Study groups online are not at all suspicious to me, but I suppose there is potential with the local study groups, which are in no way authorized or supported by Bnei Baruch, of being unhealthy. Anyone who wants to can form a study group and use the Bnei Baruch materials, so there is the chance that a local group might be bad. I've heard a couple bizarre stories about local groups, but those stories always conflict with the actual teachings of Bnei Baruch (in other words, psycho people start a group that isn't actually based on the Bnei Baruch teachings, but pretend that they are). If a local group is bizarre, just stick to the online groups.

- Online forum is occasionally censored. I haven't ever seen any topics deleted, but moderators will lock topics if debate becomes too difficult for them to argue against (that's my perception, they will often say it is irrelevant). This is an odd one -- sometimes they lock a topic, sometimes they don't. I guess it depends on the mood of the moderator that day. Some topics are reasonably locked -- forum rules lay out guidelines that include not discussing certain subjects (the forum is intended to only discuss Bnei Baruch's way of doing things and nothing else).

Completely my own opinion, but I think there is nothing to worry about with Bnei Baruch as an organization and using their study methods. If you ever run into a problem with a local group (which are not endorsed by Bnei Baruch) then you still have the online groups to study with, which I have seen nothing fishy about. And if you run into a problem with the forum (which is unlikely, especially the forum at which isn't nearly as moderated) then you can still use all of the resources and video lessons and go it alone. Or you can start your own study group with people you trust. Because of the Kabbalah Centre I was very worried about Bnei Baruch, but I just don't see anything that worries me. Bnei Baruch is really unobtrusive and doesn't seem to glorify any person, ask for any money, ask for conversions, or ask for volunteers. It's just a whole lot of information for you to do with as you please.

Of course I welcome hearing anything negative about Bnei Baruch, but from my own experience, I have seen nothing troubling. After all, if I wanted a cult the Kabbalah Centre is only half an hour away from me and they are so much more trendy.

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Bnei Baruch anyone?
Posted by: outtathere ()
Date: December 31, 2006 11:59PM

Hey there Skippy--

Thanks so much for your long response. Your general views echo many of my own conclusions about Bnei Baruch--just a great amount of information to do with, use, as you see fit, right? A "leader" who doesn't appear to be in it for any of the usual cult leader trips? No requests for money whatsoever, free stuff, difficulty even, when it comes to trying to help out? But, it may be possible that I was with them ("with" meaning studying, working for (online), and attending one of their "Congresses") longer and with a bit more involvement than it seems you have, and I began to see many cracks in the seemingly harmless facade.

In fact, there's so much bullshit going on there, both intellectually and personally, that's it's a wonder the stink isn't more obvious.

Alas, I am sad (but glad) to have to report that my search for the negative has hit pay dirt in the last few days. And, I have been personally contacted by a man and his wife who had actually lived there with daily personal contact with all the rest of them, including Michael Laitman. As many here I'm sure will attest, THAT is the way to know what's really going on with a place (aside, ofcourse, from obvious foolish nonsense that they want you to "believe" [on faith]). THEN you will know if it's a legit thing or a rat's nest.

It's a rat's nest.

Let me share a link with you, which is to a cult site in Hebrew (I don't know where they are, in Israel I guess):


I found this after many many many google searches on every combination of
Kabbalah Bnei Baruch opinion bad sucks negative Laitman
and other things I could think of. And thank gawd (not) I finally found that ONE thing! Just that! It was enough. For me, at least.

This page is the only one in English on that site, but my cruising around in there and clicking on everything told me that it was an outfit warning people about various cults. They've got write-ups on Berg, Scientology, TM, Landmark, Rael, etc. AND on Bnei Baruch! Oh yeah. But it's in Hebrew.

As you will see, the author wishes to remain anonymous. But I found the "contact us" link, and just wrote and asked to get in contact with the man, PLEASE. And, they did, and he wrote me back willing to write more, and to hear my story. Also, his wife has written me as well.

So for now I will leave it at that. I will be looking forward to hearing what you have to say after you've read the letter. Please do write again! I think that something like this has the possibility to open up some well-crafted darkness to the light.

Lastly though, I will share one thing I wrote to him, one thing (of many) that kept bothering me:

[Here's one last thing that I think, which is that there is a major spiritual/intellectual impasse involved, one major point about which you must either agree or run away from screaming: if you haven't developed the "sixth sense", you must take everything written about the upper world, about the Creator, anything at all that is not apprehended by the five senses, anything intangible, you must take it on faith. You must believe, despite any suspicion to the contrary, what you are told, because you haven't been there, and the information cannot be obtained by those who are deficient in that new "sense." [i:3130b7672b][b:3130b7672b]Now this is either the case--or--it is one of the most incredible cons ever to fool masses of people!!![/i:3130b7672b] [/b:3130b7672b] (Well, aside from religion in general that is--you have to believe in god, heaven, spirits, and all the invisibles on faith, don't you?) I mean, you can't beat that one, can you? You have to keep going and going and going, doing what ever is required to pass the maschom, or whatever it is, giving up your mind, your own critical faculties, going along with the "group," acquiring the sixth sense, so that you, too, will become one of the spiritual elite! Oh but GOD help you if you're a woman! In that case, all you have to do is assist the process by helping with circulation!! You don't even need to study much at all, just stick with your man, or your group, and float along on the strength of their attainment. But you see, I am not one of those kinds of women that can do that. I want to do my own thinking, come to my own conclusions. I'd have been in a real mess if I had married a kabbalist, wouldn't I??][/color:3130b7672b]

Ok, that's it for now. I would love to hear any and all opinions about this.


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Bnei Baruch anyone?
Posted by: outtathere ()
Date: January 01, 2007 12:15AM

Ok, I've read some of the other posts on other subjects here, and I see that many here, if not most, are still "religious" if not cult-involved, and that some elements of my previous post might be offensive.
Let it be known that my atheism (newly REdiscovered) and distain for "belief" does not mean that I want to hurt anyone, even if inadvertantly. I have been around this block many many many times (I am 53) now, and I just have a very cynical way of seeing all of this.
My new "bible," if you will, is a book called Bullshit and Philosophy, edited by Hardcastle and Reisch.
I am DONE with religion. I am done. But this is me.
I came here to get more information on Bnei Baruch.
Peace out.

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Bnei Baruch anyone?
Posted by: skippypb ()
Date: January 01, 2007 07:11AM

[outtathere], that one webpage is startling. Thank you for sharing it. As you hear from this person and/or his wife, please continue sharing their stories. There is such a lack of information about any potential danger that I'm very worried. Also, you mentioned your own stories and a lot of bullshit that you've seen... please share ALL of it. I know it may take up a bit of your time to tell your story, but *please* share it. As you know, there is only that one web page in English, so I am very limited in understanding what the dangers may be. I have found the books and classes so refreshing and energizing and honestly don't want to believe that there's a problem, but if there is I definitely need to know NOW.

And from your own point of view, are the Bnei Baruch texts acceptable, even if the organization is not? Thank you, Renee.

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Bnei Baruch anyone?
Posted by: skippypb ()
Date: January 01, 2007 08:09AM

A few more things popped into my head that are questionable... but not necessarily bad.

1. Many times Rav Laitman quotes famous Kabbalists in his books... but if you research that particular Kabbalist, that person's views on Kabbalah often contradict Rav Laitman's views. The quote is used as if a golden piece of support that Rav Laitman is teaching the same old tradition, when, in actuality, the quoted Kabbalist and Rav Laitman teach things differently.

2. Some scientific notions don't hold much water. Reading "From Chaos to Harmony," there are certain examples of animal nature that I've thought, "Y'know, there are exceptions to that." A simple example is in regards to animals' thought processes. Science increasingly has shown that animal's thoughts are more complex than we give them credit for. If you know Koko (from the Koko's Kittens books), there is a gorilla that can use sign language, including to express emotion and desires, which would seem to contradict the book's ideas.

Then there's their contradictions on homosexuality. According to Rav Laitman, in humans, it's a flaw in the body that can essentially be overcome. But this contradicts the claim that the animal world is 100% altruistic, as homosexuality has been observed in over 1,500 species (and over 500 of those are well-documented). So if the animal world were 100% altruistic, and humans need to also be 100% altruistic, homosexuality could still exist.

3. I included that last bit because it goes along with my next thought. It is repeatedly said that actions in this world are insignificant, that it is only the intention behind those actions that matters. Yet there are exceptions made, such as the marriage requirement. As you mentioned, a woman doesn't have to do anything spiritually, yet a man must for some reason have a marriage ceremony with her, even though she could hate Kabbalah. It's illogical at best.

Anyway, even these points aren't very strong against Bnei Baruch, but they are things I thought of since my first post. Maybe they'll remind others of something fishy. If Bnei Baruch isn't a healthy place we need to get that message out now. And if it is healthy, well, carry on. But above all things, can the material be trusted, even if the organization can't be. I would love to keep reading the texts with a clear conscience.

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Bnei Baruch anyone?
Posted by: outtathere ()
Date: January 02, 2007 01:28AM

Well, I don't know how you could possibly continue with these people. No, and not kabbalah either! Bah humbug.

Look, try this: go to any one of those pages you're reading and studying now, and try to forget you've seen it before or thought you understood it. Then, with every single idea you read, ask yourself, What does that MEAN? What are they saying, EXACTLY? Does that make sense? Do I have to suspend my OWN thinking rational mind to go along with this? Now I don't know if you're willing to do this, but for myself, if the answer to the last is yes, well, you can kiss it goodbye.

Here, let me give you an example, from:

"The science of Kabbalah is unique in the way it talks about you and me, about all of us. It doesn’t deal with anything abstract, only with the way we are created and how we function at higher levels of existence."[/color:6e77afd156]

What?! [i:6e77afd156]Hello?[/i:6e77afd156] Nothing abstract, huh? Well, what is the way we are "created" (according to THEM), if not abstract? What are "higher levels of existence" if not abstract? In fact, they will tell you that the "upper worlds" are utterly UNKNOWABLE, except to the Kabbalists (of which there are very very few, conveniently), and that, you must have faith in their writings, and theirs alone, for information about the structure of those worlds, [i:6e77afd156]and, how to get there yourself.[/i:6e77afd156] Did you know, in fact, that they will slowly but surely encourage you in the beginning to read NO material on Kabbalah that is not Laitman, or Baal HaSulam? Hmmmm. This is CLASSIC cultish behaviour. "You won't understand it; it will [i:6e77afd156]confuse[/i:6e77afd156] you." Yeah, right. Now, you know what I said to someone a while ago? I said, what I think is that their whole scheme is just an elaborate, intricate way to drive someone INSANE while still believing they are perfectly fine! But really, not to put too fine a spin on it, you might as well believe in Santa Claus or unicorns, for all the rational proof that can be given of their claims.

Further, this was from the most elementary of their pages. How much more subtle and convoluted will it get as you continue do you suppose?

And then, here, let me give you a link, one directly from BB, and about BB, which might give you additional pause:


here is a quote from the beginning of that page, my emphasis:

The Hatzlaha program is run by Bnei Baruch is a non-profit group that is spreading the wisdom of Kabbalah to [b:6e77afd156]accelerate the spirituality of mankind. [/b:6e77afd156]The group was established in 1991 and registered as a non-profit organization in 1997.
[b:6e77afd156]The purpose of the organization is to spread the Jewish and Zionistic values, Israel's importance [/b:6e77afd156]and the Wisdom of Kabbalah, as a spiritual method for society and the individual, among Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. The group's additional goals are [b:6e77afd156]immigration absorption[/b:6e77afd156], assistance to the needy etc.[/color:6e77afd156]

Hello?! You can count me out of that!
My friend, can you spell W O R L D D O M I N A T I O N ??? LOL! Remember what the fellow said about the "parade"? Scary.

C'mon, roll around in there for a while and see what you think, now. I will share more after that, if you wish; not much time today for writing.

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Bnei Baruch anyone?
Posted by: skippypb ()
Date: January 02, 2007 02:06AM

I agree with you on the abstract thought part. It is all abstract.

My mind is very critical and I question everything I read (although apparently I have trouble questioning the source itself). I have read things before that required some degree of doublethink (to borrow from 1984), but it never really bothered me. Most things do make sense to me without any suspension of my rational mind. So most of the teachings do not concern me at all.

My main concern right now is the last part you wrote about -- the "world domination" part. *That* is of grave concern, of course.

As for the reading only Laitman-approved texts, I understand that completely. I have read numerous books on Kabbalah in the last year and they all disagree with each other. So if you're going to study with Bnei Baruch, it would be chaotic to have some people reading other books and then trying to combine incompatible ideas. It's like a dozen people trying to work together to make a batch of cookies when each person has a recipe for a different kind of cookie. Bnei Baruch doesn't try to hide this either. It's pretty simple, if you study with them you study their way. You wouldn't go to a Catholic Church and demand Lutheran teachings.

When you have time, please share the rest of what you know. You're setting off some strong warning signs that need to be heard, especially since any "dirt" on Bnei Baruch is most likely only in Hebrew. Everyone deserves to know the whole story on an organization, not just the happy front.

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Bnei Baruch anyone?
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: January 02, 2007 02:17AM

It is meaningful to apply some basic "warning signs" to any group before getting too involved.

See []

[b:119a05c8ee]Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.[/b:119a05c8ee]

Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.

Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.

There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.

Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.

There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.

Followers feel they can never be "good enough".

The group/leader is always right.

The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

[b:119a05c8ee]Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader. [/b:119a05c8ee]

Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.

Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.

Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".

Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.

Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.

Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.

A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.

Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.

Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.

Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

[b:119a05c8ee]Ten signs of a safe group/leader.[/b:119a05c8ee]

A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.

A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.

A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.

A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.

A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.

A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.

A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.

A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.

A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.

A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

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Bnei Baruch anyone?
Posted by: skippypb ()
Date: January 02, 2007 08:43AM

Thank you, Rick. How many warning signs are too many based on your experience? Here's a rundown of things I've seen. Maybe Renee can add or share more information from her experiences.

With Bnei Baruch I haven't seen any financial disclosures, although you can donate if you wish (not pushed at all... the most "pushing" I've seen was a blanket request that if you can afford the books, their purchase would help offset costs of the free video lessons). Of course I've never asked for a financial disclosure nor seen anyone request such a thing.

Followers can never be "good enough" until the final correction. I've never read anything that says anyone in Bnei Baruch has reached the final correction, and there is no punishment for not being good enough because everyone is working on it at their own pace.

Rav Laitman is considered always right, but we are always told to only go by what we personally experience.

No other process of discovery is acceptable or credible. Bnei Baruch is considered to be the "authentic Kabbalah." Of course, from my own research of other methods of Kabbalah, they are all very different from one another, so I don't find this an outlandish claim. Presumably each one thinks it is correct, hence so many very different methods. Oddly, the only one that I know of that doesn't think it is the only way is the Kabbalah Centre (lol).

I am happy to report that I don't exhibit any of the warning signs about people involved in potentially unsafe groups.

Within Bnei Baruch there are a number of advanced students that teach and help moderate forums for Bnei Baruch in English (Rav Michael Laitman does not speak English, so it is all translated). So the next part is based on numerous people who are not leaders in the strictest sense.

Of the four advanced students I have worked with, two are completely non-judgmental towards questions, one just spouts out an answer, and the last has mood swings. One day he'll be supportive, another day he's obviously sick of answering questions and will be a little short. The four do not act as a unit, so if the one guy is short with someone, another one may come along and smooth things over. Among the four there is no ranking of authority. They just are who they are.

There doesn't seem to really be any decision making going on. Classes are taught virtually every day of the week for advanced students, beginner classes twice a week. I'm not sure what could be classified as decision making in there.

At least in the virtual class, I don't have much contact with any group members outside of the classroom setting. I really only know one person outside of the classroom setting. So when someone leaves the group, I have no means of contacting that person. But I've never seen anyone discourage such a thing either.

As discussed before, if there is a paper trail regarding Bnei Baruch or Rav Michael Laitman, it would most likely be in Hebrew (or possibly Russian).

Rav Laitman and the group both have to constantly remind people that they must put family and work ahead of their Kabbalah studies. It is noted that progress is made by intent, not by time devoted to study.

The critical thinking part is hard. Kabbalah deals only with spirituality, not with anything in this world, and the Bnei Baruch method (which takes 3-5 years of serious study to achieve) allegedly develops a "sixth sense" for the spiritual, completely different from our other five senses. So thinking critically about the material prior to that level is useless because you're thinking about something that is impossible to understand at that point.

Because I cannot communicate directly with Rav Laitman, I don't know how he deals with constructive criticism. The group itself seems open to ideas on improving how to teach.

I am in favor or excluding other Kabbalistic texts because other methods are so different. A lot of beginners bring in questions about Kabbalah Centre texts (which no other method of Kabbalah approves of KC texts). Some other methods believe in magic and astrology (which Bnei Baruch does not, as supported by articles written by Rav Yehuda Ashlag, a famous Kabbalist of the 20th century). Other methods believe in literal readings of the texts (Bnei Baruch believes in the language of the branches, which is a code system that, when learned, allows reading of all Kabbalistic texts without guidance from a teacher). Other methods believe Kabbalah is an offshoot of Judaism and should be rooted there. With such a wide array of beliefs, it would be a nightmare to try to argue them all. I accept that if I am studying with Bnei Baruch, I use their books and their teachers. If I want to study something else I can, but I can't ask them for understanding on those books, because they don't agree with those books. Also, because the teachers are regular people with regular jobs and regular lives, I think it would be wasteful for them to use their time answering such questions. I'm glad they're devoting their time to this method.

I've written another novel ;-) So Rick, please give any insights you might have based on what's been shared. I feel safe and feel that I can leave and be perfectly okay mentally/physically/everything, and that if I stay I am also safe. My only potential concern is with the organization perhaps having some political power desires for their future. I'm asking for your insights because obviously lots of people have been in dangerous situations and felt safe. I'm still living my own demanding life, my money is still mine, I'm happy (and happier still with the group). Is there something I should worry about? Are there questions I should get answers to right away? If I get in deeper, how many signs should I see before I get out? And hopefully Renee will continue with what information she has too.

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