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kabbalah center and Bnei Baruch
Posted by: skippypb ()
Date: April 30, 2007 07:59AM

Your question puzzles me. What ISN'T dangerous about BB?
1. They lie about who they are and what their purpose is. They transmit a false initial image of themselves and their objectives.
2. They cultivate exclusivness: only they know the truth' only through their method one can develop, only their leader is special, etc.
3. They scare you:if people won't start learning Kabbalah, this that and the other will happen, the world will only solve all its problems through Kabbalah, or else!
4. They embrace you quickly and love you very much, while suggesting you should give up relationships with people who are not as "spiritual" as yourself (hence anyone outside BB).
5. They control information: reading other books that are not Kabbalah books will confuse you, you should not talk about what goes on in the group reunions with people outside the group, etc.
6. The friends that love you so much will inform their leaders if you speak your mind against something within the organization. This behaviour is seen as positive.
7. Your time is theirs. Wake up before dawn to study, you must work, you must attend all BB activities, you should contribute to spreading Kabbalah.

That pretty much sums up what a cult is, and you will find plenty of all of this at BB.

Then perhaps I am confused as to how this fits in with the American wing. Most of these things never happened to me. I don't even know what their alleged objectives are (from point 1). Point 2 I agree with you on. Point 3 is practically opposite of my experience. Point 4 never happened to me. The first half of point 5 I agree with you on. I never had the opportunity to test point 6. I agree with portions of point 7 (how much time is to be devoted to studying, although attending BB activities and spreading kabbalah... and they never pushed the studying beyond a suggestion).

Perhaps the American wing is overlooked because, as someone posted once, BB Israel doesn't care about anyone/anything non-Israel-based. The issue I grappled with before is that nothing ever felt or seemed dangerous. Anything I didn't like I didn't feel compelled to deal with. You don't have to worry, I quit everything to do with BB a long time ago (when Rick suggested it) and I'm waiting for a safe Kabbalah community to come along. I understand that Hebrew makes it a million times easier and clearer, but I think one can still gain a lot from another language. I also think the typical rules will eventually be broken without it being a cult.

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kabbalah center and Bnei Baruch
Posted by: mishmash ()
Date: May 02, 2007 09:33PM

Hi Jain and everyone else.

I am grateful for all the information on this forum about Bnei Baruch. I am too wary to ask anyone at BB my questions so I put them here. I have been a BB student for years now and I have also studied with the Kabbalah Centre (as have many of the BB students), and recently I started to experience the same type of feelings that I had before leaving the KC. My conclusions about the KC were right – not real Kabbalah – and in my opinion, vastly inferior to BB. A course in real Kabbalah teaches you to become a Kabbalist. This is a critical distinction. In BB’s terms this means their teachings, when followed properly, take you to spirituality, i.e. you cross the barrier, or as BB call it, the 'Machsom'. Other Kabbalistic schools call this ‘The Doorway’ – when you make the transition from Sefirot Malchut to Sefirot Yesod. When I found Bnei Baruch, their teachings promised to do this, which singled them out dramatically from all the other online Kabbalah courses who often teach ‘about’ Kabbalah academically; its history, its sages and some basic tenets of the Kabbalistic system. Other courses I investigated (both online and offline) were only for Jewish students which leaves me out and I have no complaint with that. The BB approach seemed open, free for students of all faiths and nationalities and that is why I started to study with them.

I would like to say from the outset that some of my conclusions might be based on my own misunderstandings, but I have become increasingly uneasy about certain things.

I feel like Skippy in that there is a huge difference between what goes on in BB Israel compared to the rest of the world. Well, understandably, since distance makes a huge difference, and the students there are Hebrew speakers living the BB life and have direct contact with the teacher, Michael Laitman, but I think there is something else going on that is, for me, suspect and makes me believe that as a student who studies with other students, in virtual groups on the internet, I might not be getting the ‘real deal’ and only a ‘pacifier’ version. My points and concerns are as follows:

[b:7cace1cf2d]1. Proper way to study Kabbalah – in the presence of the teacher or with a virtual group?[/b:7cace1cf2d]

Can authentic Kabbalah really be studied in large online groups? Research tells me this is very unusual. The teacher, or Kabbalist, usually knows the students, and meets with them regularly in the pursuit of Holiness. I have always admired BB’s efforts to get the teachings to us for free, at great cost to them both in time and money, but I don’t know if real progress can be made learning this way. BB don’t make any money from us, so material gain cannot be their purpose.

[b:7cace1cf2d]2. Reverence of Teacher/Control of Information[/b:7cace1cf2d]

The Wikipedia entry on Michael Laitman has been deleted. I was delighted when I first found the entry of our BB teacher there and read it with interest. When I went back to look at it (a few weeks ago) it had been deleted, with ‘administrator only’ access, due to vandalism. I believe people and organisations should protect themselves legally, and this might not really be an important point, but there are many other contemporary spiritual teachers with pages on Wikipedia who have many, many, critics and they haven’t taken themselves out of Wikipedia. Also the BB Wikipedia entry has been deleted. The Kabbalah Centre entry with many negative comments has been left there.

[b:7cace1cf2d]3) Altering of texts. [/b:7cace1cf2d]

Not being a Hebrew speaker I have only studied the English translations of R. Baruch Ashlag’s book ‘Shamati’. I was told by someone at BB that these, and the Hebrew Shamati, have been edited. Why? What on earth could be in those original texts that could harm us? I go over things like this in my head, giving BB the benefit of the doubt, saying that I am lucky to have this material and the teacher knows what information to release, when and how, but I shall probably never know because I don’t speak Hebrew and even if I did, I would never get the original text.

[b:7cace1cf2d]4) Can I really become a Kabbalist outside Israel?[/b:7cace1cf2d]

In an interview that Michael Laitman did with an Israeli newspaper a few years back which I got off the BB site (now deleted) he said that all Kabbalists were Zionists. That leaves me out – I cannot live in Israel and I am not Jewish. Oops! I understand that there is the spiritual Zion which we all seek and the physical Zion which is the Land of Israel. This interview was definitely about the Land of Israel – ie. of this world. I need clarification on this point.

[b:7cace1cf2d]5) End times and fear tactics[/b:7cace1cf2d]

I do agree with Zain. This is in their literature and even though it is not shouted from the rooftops, the implications are that we are out of tune with nature and this is what is causing all the problems. BB states that ‘Kabbalah is the only method that can save the planet/mankind (and that we don’t have much time). This is a huge statement to make.

[b:7cace1cf2d]6) Control of information[/b:7cace1cf2d]

The teaching on this one is that you will only know which Kabbalah books are correct once you have reached a spiritual level high enough to have the discernment to make decisions on Kabbalistic texts. Students are encouraged to keep their eye on the goal and not get distracted by outside influences. This makes sense to me. If I want to train for the Olympics, I won’t reach the goal by hanging out with friends who drink and smoke all day. However, I have seen a BB student tell a visitor to ‘go’ when a critical question was raised after a lecture.

7) Exclusivity[/b:7cace1cf2d]

I agree with Jain. BB Israel position themselves as a special generation with the mission to change the world through disseminating Kabbalah. I cannot adopt this warrior stance. No-one is asking me to, but it does breed ‘specialness’ which I think is unspiritual.

So I have a few areas where I think I am on the wrong side of a probable smokescreen. What I don’t know is what their ‘real’ objectives are as Jain mentioned. What is their real purpose that they are lying about? This I don’t get and I would be grateful for an explanation. Michael Laitman says his mission is to follow the command of his teacher and spread Kabbalah to everyone. Hearing the truth is always a relief. Thanks.

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kabbalah center and Bnei Baruch
Posted by: jaim ()
Date: May 03, 2007 12:43PM

I could tell you that all the information I will write to you is verifiable, though it isn't that easy, since you would have to be able to understand Hebrew, for example. Nonetheless, here are a few ideas.

1. You write: "A course in real Kabbalah teaches you to become a Kabbalist. ". What Kabbala actually states in many many texts is: anyone attempting to become a Kabbalist cannot become one. That cannot be an objective. So if someone offers to teach you how to become a Kabbalist, and has knowledge of what I just wrote (as Laitman surely does), this person is lying to you.really.

2. You write "this means their teachings, when followed properly, take you to spirituality, i.e. you cross the barrier, or as BB call it, the 'Machsom'. Other Kabbalistic schools call this ‘The Doorway’ – when you make the transition from Sefirot Malchut to Sefirot Yesod. "
I'm sorry to break it to you so bluntly, but that is a bunch of crap, really. There is nothing written in Kabbalah books that in any way resembles such an idea. The "Machsom" concept is one of the bigger inventions of BB, it does not exist. We have attacked them with that one for years, since this is written literally nowhere. What you wrote about the Sefiroth, it's laughable. It shows anyone with serious Kabbalah knowledge that you have been tricked into something I do not even know what to call. Please do not take this personally, I am sad to think how much time and dedication went into studying these things. Hopefully you can find bright spots in what you were taught and move on.

3. No, BB is not out there for the money. Yet it does obligate the followers of its inner circles, that by the way exist outside Israel as well, to give at least 10% of their salaries/gains to BB. This is a rule for those who want to be in the inner circle. Also, BB relys mainly on money received from their followers for which there is no accountability. So, although the objective is not to gain individual wealth, the financial aspect is still far from being transparent. As it should definetely be.

4. You wrote "he (Laitman) said that all Kabbalists were Zionists". This is ridiculous in many senses. First, Zionism is a relatively modern concept, and since most Kabbalah books are dated hundreds of years back, how could one even make that statement?
2nd, Zionist is a concept rejected overwhelmingly by Orthodox Jews, and since, up to now, Kabbalists have come only from them, how could they possibly be Zionists. That is a lie used to lure Zionists, and talking about money, get funds from pro Israeli Jews.

5. You ask: "What is their real purpose that they are lying about?"
That is a tough one. Let me try my best:

With his teacher, Laitman learned that kabbalah is ment only for Orthodox, or at least Jewish-law abiding, married men. Laitman wanted very much to spread Kabbalah to everyone, but his teacher prohibited this very strongly and very clearly throughout the years.
Eventually the teacher passed away, and Laitman went ahead and started doing everything his teacher told him not to do.

Small problem: 1st,he was saying the opposite: "my teacher wanted to spread Kabbalah worldwide. I am faithful to my teacher, he is my mentor."
2nd, spreading Kabbalah would mean spreading the fact, among others, that kabbalah is ment for Married Jewish men.

SO, since the writtings of Kabbalah are completly related to Judaism, Jewish law, way of life, studies etc., that did not bode well with spreading it around, not even to secular (non-religious) Jews. The only option left?

Making whatever changes necessary to "adapt" Kabbalah to it being spread.

Now imagine doctors modifying the laws of medicine so that more people can learn it. Does that make any sense? Then everybody could be a doctor... That is plain silly.

Well the inner circle, which is actually formed by people that strictly follow Jewish law most of the time (which is absurd in its own special way), know that. They know that eventually they have to come up to each follower and tell him: look, the truth is, you have to be an orthodox Jew. We didn't tell it to you, because you were not prepared. But the fact is, unless you become an Orthodox Jew there is no way you are getting anything out of Kabbalah.

So is BB's purpose to spread Kabbalah? Absolutely.
Are they then spreading Kabbalah? Heck, no! If they would do that, almost no one would hook up to it! It's a very restricting, very demanding way of life.

Therefore, they spread a who-knows-what mambo-jambo mess of ideas taken from every religion I know, mixing it with lame scientific concepts, Kababalah nomeaclature and excellent PR tactics.

Since they have to lure the person while lying and keep lying to him until they are convinced he will accept the rigors of "real Kabbalah"' they ended up developing cult tactics, and like any other thing that is done through lying, it all got out of hands, so that there are all sorts of people with different goals running the show.

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kabbalah center and Bnei Baruch
Posted by: skippypb ()
Date: May 04, 2007 03:14AM

Thank you again jaim, it seems to make a lot more sense now... the issue is clearing up a bit. Especially the part at the end about a lot of different people with different goals running the show. I had always wondered why the various BB forum members were so radically different from each other if all were working toward the same goal. I still don't get how someone who isn't a Jewish law-abiding married man could get nothing from kabbalah. The financial aspect of BB is odd... perhaps they make just enough money off tithing to live comfortably, so that's all that matters.

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kabbalah center and Bnei Baruch
Posted by: jaim ()
Date: May 04, 2007 09:59AM

Please note I did not say someone who is not a Jewish etc. etc. cannot benefit from Kabbalah. Anyone, specially if they understand Hebrew, can learn Kabbalah from the many books on the subject, and what benefit that has on each person I'm guessing is totally individual. Personally, I wouldn't recommend it, being such an abstract subject that most of the times is so easily misunderstood.
I was just attempting to make the point that BB does not teach Kabbalah in the 1st place, knowledgably. So once they introduce one of their followers within the inner orthodox-like community circle, they do make that point.

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Re: kabbalah center and Bnei Baruch
Posted by: fshedrinsky ()
Date: September 17, 2008 12:03AM

I have taught what I thought was Kabbalah in 4 different languages so I have a lot of experience with this.

Hello Jaim,

Looks like we share the same history, with only exception that I taught what I thought was Kabbalah in 2 different languages :)

I met Laitman in 1999 - I still lived in Israel at that time. I came to his Introductory class - then he was still an observant orthodox Jew, unlike now...

I spent a few years in Bnei Baruch until I saw how drastically it deviates from the original teachings of Baal HaSulam. I did a research and found several students of RABASH (Baruch Shalom Ashlag) and contacted them. Unlike presented by Laitman, they do keep in touch, some of them still together and study Kabbalah as they did when Rebe was alive.

I was successful to contact Rav Gotlib - author of the famous book HaSulam that describes in details the dynasty of Ashlag along with all their students. Since I live in New York I almost didn't have a hope to find someone who can teach me Kabbalah according to original methodology of Sulam. I was therefore amazed to find one of Baruch Shalom Ashlag's students that live in NJ and teaches authentic, unaltered Kabbalah. As we went along studying Kabbalistic materials I was shocked to find out how far Bnei Baruch deviated from Sulam's teachings.

It is very hard to find a teacher, so my advise for everyone is to be very careful. If someone asks you to pay maaser (10% of your salary as it is requested in BB) or for courses as it is in KC, or asks you to buy amulets/holy water/etc - you're definitely in the wrong place.

BTW if you leave in the New York Tri-State area, you can check this Rabbi - he gives lessons in English based on authentic Sulam (hope moderator wouldn't mind me posting the link here)


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