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July 2, 2022

Archive for October 18, 2007

More than just Madonna: Kabbalah has millions of online students around the world – an Article in the Canadian Press

The Canadian Press

TORONTO (October 17, 2007): Without the Internet, studying Kabbalah every day would be more of a chore for Susan Morales, who already leads a busy life teaching and checking up on her nursing students.

But by going online, her class with her teacher Rav Michael Laitman, which is webcastlive every day from Israel, is just a click away for the Toronto resident who lectures at Ryerson University.

“The miracle of that is just fantastic,” said Morales, 58, who has been doing Kabbalah every day – a requirement for all students – for the past six years.

Laitman is the founder and president of the Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education and Research Institute in Israel, which has branches all over the world including Toronto.

Kabbalah, which is Hebrew for reception, is an ancient “method of spiritual growth and development offering an inspiring path of self-discovery and spiritual elevation,” according to the centre.

It aims to answer life’s deepest question: What is life about?

In an interview during a visit to Toronto, Laitman said the Internet plays a major role in getting the Kabbalah message out.

“When I started building the academy in 1991, the Internet was basically non-existent,” he said in Hebrew as he spoke through an interpreter.

Laitman went through some difficult years using “snail mail.”

The web improved communication, and, “as a result now today we have approximately two million students worldwide – about 200,000 in Canada – using the Internet from 47 countries in 26 languages,” he said.

Thousands more practise it through The Kabbalah Centre, another Israel-based organization that uses the web and has branches worldwide.

Through Bnei Baruch, said Morales, classes can be done any time because it has one of the largest archives of downloadable lessons.

“If I wanted to sit in front of my computer and listen and study 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, I could do it and not view (the same) lesson again.”

Rob Taylor, 56, a project management consultant in the power industry, says he’s up at 3 a.m. to study Kabbalah.

Generally he either studies texts or takes classes online with Laitman. Then throughout the day he’s always working on what he learned.

“You start evaluating yourself,” said Taylor, an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a former undercover cop who lives in Toronto.

“Why do I see it this way? Why is it affecting me the way it does?”

In 1984, when he first learned about Kabbalah, there wasn’t a lot of translated material, he said. Until the late 20th century, it was closed to all but a few select and serious students.

“There were commentaries but nothing you could really get your teeth into, to really understand it,” he said.

Then in the late 1990s, things began to change, he said.

“I started coming across material mostly put together by Laitman,” author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Kabbalah.”

Now, more than 5,000 books are available on Amazon.com, most written after 2000, according to the Idiot’s Guide. As well, more than 200,000 lessons are available online.

Besides books, such as the Idiot’s Guide, making it more accessible to people, interest really ignited after pop singer and actress Madonna became heavily involved.

“When she went public about it, more people were asking about what this is,” said Jacob Kessler, 25, who helped established the Kabbalah Club at the University of Toronto.

“More people started coming out to study meetings or … taking a class here and there at The Kabbalah Centre,” said Kessler, who was introduced to Kabbalah by his parents when he was a young child.

Kessler, who is working on a bachelor’s degree in Judaic studies with a focus on mystical Judaism and Kabbalah, says lots of students are interested in Kabbalah – sometimes classes are full.

But Madonna is only part of the reason why Kabbalah is being studied by so many people these days, said Laitman.

“Humanity is in a global crisis: Divorce rates are soaring, drug abuse, depression. Globalization causes us all to be interconnected and at the same time we’re all hateful to each other,” he said.

“When you lose hope … you start searching. Instinctively people are discovering that the answer to it probably exists in Kabbalah,” he said.

“That’s why kabbalists for the first time in 5,000 years of Kabbalah’s existence are now exposing it to the whole world,” he said. As a result, “we see that Kabbalah is a method for correcting and for restoring balance.”

People of all walks of life are finding it helpful, said Morales. She has met devout Christians, Orthodox Jews, observant Muslims and agnostics studying it.

At the core of Kabbalah, she said, “is the correction of oneself.”

How does one become more like the bestowing creator, or God, said Morales. That’s how spirituality is defined in Kabbalah.

In Kabbalah, correct intentions will lead you closer to God, or the creator, who is a giving force, a bestowing force, said Laitman. “The whole of nature is a giving nature, a loving nature.”

Each organ in our body functions to benefit the body, he said.

If one, however, begins “to pull towards itself to consume the rest of the body” it becomes cancerous, he said.

“This is why Kabbalah states that if humanity rises above its egoism it will not be cancerous towards the whole of nature.”

Today’s interconnectedness “should compel us to rise above our personal egos and achieve the right harmony and connection among us in giving to each other.”

“When Kabbalah opens up the picture of the world to us it kind of forces us to become good,” he said.

Taylor says he gradually turned to Kabbalah during his stints in the Marines and with the police out of frustration.

“You spend a lot of time in those environments because you want to fix things,” he said. “Then you reach a point of understanding that you can’t.”

Finally, “you come to realize that the whole structure begins with individual correction,” he said.

“We have to fix ourselves internally before we can even think about going out there and correcting something else.”

That, he said, “has probably been the biggest change” in his life since he began … studying Kabbalah.

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