Grave Rolling Alert

Baruch Hashem, it’s been too long since we’ve had a good Madonna/Kabbalah item to ridicule. Maariv reports that 4 out of 5 leading Kabbalists have their knickers in a bunch about Esther’s imminent album featuring a track called “Isaac,” about 16th century mystic Isaac Luria:

Jewish law forbids the use of the name of the holy rabbi for profit,” Rabbi Rafael Cohen, head of the seminary named after Luria, told Israel’s Maariv newspaper Sunday. “Her act is just simply unacceptable and I can only sympathize for her because of the punishment that she is going to receive from Heaven. The Sage Isaac is holy and pure, and immodest people cannot sing about him.”
Other ultra-Orthodox rabbis sought a more Earth-based penalty, calling for Madonna to be excommunicated from her mystical faith.
“Such a woman brings great sin on Kabbalah,” said Rabbi Israel Deri. “I hope that we will have the strength to prevent her from bringing sin upon the holiness of [Rabbi Luria].”
Madonna’s publicist, Liz Rosenberg, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Oh give Liz a break, she’s probably out building a Kabbalah sukkah or something.

31 thoughts on “Grave Rolling Alert

  1. since when is “kaballah” a faith – it’s part of the jewish religion, and to segment it into its own religion is a fraud by the “kabbalah center”, berg is going to have a lot to answer for in the afterlife.

  2. I agree. These wannabe Kabballists are getting as bad as missionaries in ripping off our heritage and then defaming it.
    She did have some nice things to say about Israel here as of late (which is good) but still, if these people want to study Kabballah so badly, they need to convert to Judaism and then become Chassids.
    These fraudulent rabbis like ‘Rabbi Berg’ are doing no justice to the Zohar, they are just trying to make a buck.

  3. I’m not Jewish (some of my ancestors in spain were, though) , but I’m deeply interested in Jewish culture -and its “counterculture” too 😉 includding the religious expressions of the Jewish people. Of course I’m very interested in Kabbalah, but I’m very careful to avoid the “madonna” cult and usually read stuff and listen to their audiofiles from Chabad.org, Kabbalahonline.org and inner.org The more I know about Judaism the more I want to be a better Human Being, and although I do not believe “that guy” was the Messiah, and try to get rid of all the Xtian memes as I can, I do not consider convertion -unless I meet a nice Jewish woman- because I perceive Judaism has to be lived within a family and a community. But none the less I remain deeply interested in Kabbalah and Judaism. My big problem is that when I google for a particular term I often have to be careful not to go into the Berg cult sites or those annoying J4Js and so-called “messianic Xtians” Well…
    BTW, as well as there was a “Liberation Theology” movement and a “Christians for Socialism” back in the 60s to 80s, is there any religious socialist movement? One of my big concerns with the Chabad and other sites I read is that somehow I have the impression they are a bit on the Right, and when I read about Leftwing Zionists, they seem to be mostly secular and non-religious…

  4. n, good questions, although others may disagree, and as much as i would love particularly those of jewish ancestry to convert to judaism, i think it is tough to do so outside a jewish community, but if you ever feel driven enough i am sure you will find a way; and the chabadniks (i consider myself affiliated but not a member) are usually to the right, but you can find frum (orthodox) jews who are on the left without being crazies, ill leave it to others to identify them.

  5. I think this latest installment in the Madonna/Esther-meets-Ka bbalah saga is totally hilarious. The fact that rabbis are even raising their voices seems pointless — since when has Madonna ever respected anything sacred? She’s obviously bent on getting every religion in the world to hate her (starting with Catholicism in the ’80s). She’s an entertainer! Rail against the vapid and dishonest Kabbalah Center if you want, but you only make yourself look like a goofy joykill by blasting the Material Girl.
    I do not consider convertion …because I perceive Judaism has to be lived within a family and a community
    There are a lot of people who convert without benefit of a Jewish family (obviously, or else they’d be Jewish automatically!), although living in or near some kind of Jewish community is pretty necessary. My family is Jewish but very secular, so I’m basically on my own as far as religion goes. It’s hard, but there are pockets of single-person-friendly Jewish activity. Just sayin’.
    With the political thing… It’s true that, unfortunately, religious Judaism right now is heavily tilted toward the right. Most liberal Jews and/or Jewish groups are minimally observant or flatly secular/atheist. There do seem to be people, like those on (and behind) this site, Danya Ruttenberg, etc., who are younger, more observant, and trying to be more liberal/progressive. Also, I think the Jewish Renewal movement is fairly liberal, and it is focused on outwardly revitalizing traditional religion, so that’s something. (Their big organization is called Aleph.) That’s all I got… I’m looking for more observant, liberal (albeit maybe not *socialist*) Jewish stuff myself.

  6. Yeah, well I am right-wing when it comes to issues involving Israel, but a moderate on social issues in galus. Chabad is a great place to start (I am a frum ba’al teshuva thanks to them) and they will not try to pressure any political stance on you. If you bring politics up, they have no problem discussing it with you.
    If you choose not to bring it up, they won’t either and will just stick to teaching you mitzvos.

  7. n — I know of two frum organizations which focus on progressive Zionism specifically: Netivot Shalom and Meimad. Both can be found online. (I can’t personally vouch for them, I just know they’re around.) As to Orthodox social action groups with a more American/international focus, I’m sure there must be at least one, but I don’t have any specific leads. Good luck to you in any case!

  8. I find it interesting that the Israeli rabbis are calling for Madonna to be excommunicated, when she has never claimed to be actually Jewish, and therefore wouldn’t be beholden to Jewish law. However, they appear to be saying nothing about the Rabbi (I believe from the Kaballah Center) who adds his ‘spoken word’ to the song. He may not personally be profiting (I don’t know) but he certainly lent his support for Madonna to profit.

  9. n – religious jews do tend these days, as someone here on this blog pointed out, to the right. i guess this is largely due to the fact that it was socialist USSR that destroyed jewish culture in Russia, and that socialism was historically pushed as a counterweight to religion. and recently, the fatc that it is the left who tend to to attack israel, while the right defend it, has helped push religious jews rightwards. nevertheless though, the jewish leftist tendency is always seen amongst the religous scene. it can be seen in benei akiva, which started as a self styled religous socialist youth group, food co ops, other big co-ops in israel, and a large participation in volunteer groups, which by nature of their organisation style are anti-authoritarian. i feeel that religious jews often practise their lifestyles in a socialist / anarchist framework without really realising it, or even professing ot be right wing. but they’re not to be seen marching down the street waving red banners.

  10. I’m tempted to say “I wish she would,” except that I have considerable respect for Sufism–it being the most open-minded and peaceful form of Islam today–and wouldn’t want to see Madonna give it the bad name that she’s given our own mystical tradition. I’d rather she took up Scientology: it’s already disreputable, even without Tom Cruise’s input.

  11. The right’s right about abusing “the name of the holy rabbi for profit.” So, yeah. Berg’s really done it now…
    On the other hand (if there is an other hand) i don’t know where the various monies are going.
    Are Bergists non-profit? Do they turn most all into actual charity?
    From what i’ve heard i doubt it….
    Even from a Christian standpoint this would be akin to Simony, i believe. Don’t know about Islam.
    When it comes to study, and especially Kabbalah, my view is get and support a teacher.
    Some teachers are more individual, others more organisational, but any funds beyond support shoud be for charity.
    Lastly, i wouldn’t even use the name of a holy rabbi of Luria’s standing in a song, no matter what my intention.
    To me the notion smacks of idolatry.
    n – Alef is probably the most outwardly liberal sincere organisation of study.
    there are others that appear outwardly conservative. kropotkin’s point is a good one.
    Even though such communities do not promote lefist doctrine as we would have it, their organisational style is not authoritarian.
    Find a community or a teacher before you get married 🙂
    – mason

  12. “I do not consider convertion -unless I meet a nice Jewish woman- because I…” (signed, n)
    n, this is the type of mindset that gives the true convert a bad name. A ger who converts for such a reason is no different than a gynacologist who is in it for the nudity. For this reason, such a potential conversion should be rejected and stamped: NOT KOSHER.

  13. Back to Madonna…what is the law that she’s broken. I’ve read news stories quoting Rabbis saying she broke a law that states Luria’s name isn’t to be used for profit. But Luria is a 16th Century mystic…and the Law was written *significantly* prior to the 16th Century. And one of the commandments specifically states *no laws shall be added*. So what gives?

  14. what gives… is that madonna is vulgar, the embodiment of profanity. The Ariyah was a holy man and Judiasm through its laws, customs, and practices (whenever adopted) seeks to elevate the material into the holy. something that woman can never and will never grasp because all that is holy to the material girl is the dollar, her body, and maybe that of her body… her kids.

  15. OK. I can understand a distaste for what she has done.
    But the Rabbis have been quoted as saying she broke a law. That makes me search for a commandment she has broken.
    And the quotes aren’t saying she broke the law by being vulgar. They are saying she broke the law by making a profit from Luria’s name.
    Suggesting she wouldn’t have been breaking a law by entitling the song Moses or Aaron or Abraham.
    And all the Laws I am aware of are from the Torah. And I am willing to bet that Luria isn’t mentioned by name in the Torah.
    So what makes Luria more holy than Moses and Aaron and Abraham that Rabbis have crafted a new law to protect his name, in direct violation of the law that says no new laws shall be written?
    That’s my question.

  16. I can readily accept that the media has been misquoting the Israeli Rabbis…and the only concern is that Madonna is making a profit off Kaballah and Judaism in general.
    If this is true, let me know. But if there is something specific about Isaac Luria which makes him more holy than other Jewish historical figures, and makes his name sacred and untouchable for commercial purposes…I am curious where this holiness comes from.

  17. J ben A, give the guy a break. His comments indicate an understanding of Judaism and its value of family and community. An interest in and commitment to Judaism, while not sustained without family or community, may be sufficient to warrant conversion in the context of a marriage, and the benefits of family and community it provides.

  18. I agree w/John’s comments. It’s surprising that the Kabbalists bother to take issue with Madonna, and have nothing to say about Berg.

  19. J ben A, what I said was “I do not consider convertion -unless I meet a nice Jewish woman- because I perceive Judaism has to be lived within a family and a community” but you mantioned just the first bit… Yes, a bit “tongue-in-cheek” that about finding a nice Jewish woman (I’m just getting divorced thankyouverymuch and the last thing I have in mind is getting involved with someone at least for a while) but I also said that IMHO Judaism is lived in a family and community. Sorry if you don’t understand that I meant the likely new wife to be “my family”, and hopefully her family would consider me one of them too. OTOH, although it’s not what I meant, what’s wrong if someone “joins the tribe” to marry a Jewish woman? His children will be Jewish anyway. Shouldn’t they have a Jewish father too?

  20. xisntox — I suspect the reason why the kabbalists quoted in the article criticized Madonna and not Berg directly is that the Kabbalah Center is notorious for “libel chill” — suing people who criticize them publicly. Example: in 1993, Rabbi Immanuel Schochet, a respected Chabad rabbi in Toronto, gave a lecture in South Africa criticizing the Kabbalah Center for, among other documented activities, charging exorbitant prices (over 500% mark-up) for copies of the Zohar and other works, making claims of enhanced health and wealth if one buys these works and threatening people with curses if they don’t donate to the Center. Berg responded by suing Rabbi Schochet for $4.5 million dollars. Now, hasidic rabbis are not generally known for their wealth; even a reduced ruling in the Center’s favor would have ruined him. Fortunately, Rabbi Schochet had the legal and moral support of several individuals in Toronto’s Jewish community, and the Center eventually dropped the suit. But R’ Schochet’s experience has scared off most other people and organizations from explicitly naming Berg, his wife and/or sons, or his organization in their criticisms.

  21. First, n; Regarding conversion, it is absolutely not necessary to convert to Judaism to go G-ds mitzvos, just look up the 7 noahide laws and look into being a Ben Noach.
    Secondly, as a Lubavitcher myself I can say with cofidence that though many Chabadniks tend towards the right (as The Rebbe obm did) many do not, and the Chabad community in general has expanded and diversified so much in recent yuears I would be hard pressed to find an opinion *not* expressed in Chabad circles. Chabad.org however, I believe, is run bu Merkos L’Inyoney Chinuch and they tend to reflect the late Rebbe’s views.
    Next, to John. The law about not using a holy man’s name for profit is one that applies to all holy men, including Moshe, including the Arizal. You are not supposed to “use the crown of Torah for your own benefit” Now there are different ways around that i.e if you’re spreading Torah or you’re a teacher of children….but, it seems obvious Madonna is neither. Furthermore, though I tend to be more outspoken about Madonna because she is more out there and openly nuts, Berg Y”SHU is many times more horrific and disgusting a person. the sheer amount of machlokes (argumetn, dissention) and apikursus (heresy) that man has spewed is enough to get him his share of time boiling in semen ( the punishment, according to the talmud [Gittin] doled out to Jesus of Nazareth Y”SHU) Madonna may be stupid, but berg is an apikores, and that’s much worse.

  22. So here we have two Orthodox guys trying to stop someone from joining the Jewish people, though at least one was nice about it. My question is, at a time when committed Jews, Orthodox and non, are rightly bemoaning the decline in Jewish birthrates and the increase in intermarriage and assimilation–why on G-d’s green earth are you not bowing your knees and thanking HaShem with all your heart that some people *want to join us*? Are you afraid they won’t keep their commitment? That they’ll become medieval-style “informers” on the Jewish community? Rubbish. In my experience, gerim are among the most committed, observant and communally active Jews of all. So less pushing away and more welcoming, okay hevrei? Something to think about tomorrow in shul. Gmar tov all.

  23. Well…if there is such a loophole…I suspect Madonna would argue she is spreading the wisdom of Kaballah. (As would the Kaballah Center). There would be ample room for others to disagree of course, with only one ultimate judge.
    I could probably come up with a list of hundreds of popular songs containing references to biblical figures. There was even an LA Jewish Rap group in the 1980s called Blood of Abraham. But if the response is “they’re not vulgar, Madonna is” then it’s clear to me the issue isn’t the use of Luria’s name for profit, the issue is Madonna.
    She has also written books for children. I’m not defending her, I’m just pointing that out.

  24. Dyb, Conversion is a very touchy issue in Judaism…you have a generation who just recently lost their entire families at gentile hands while they themselves were willing to die for their faith. Putting aside the law of three no’s and a go for the moment, it is easy to understand how a Jew who has risked and lost so much would be skeptical of a convert who has fallen in love with a woman and then as an aside, decides that Judaism is worth a try. Anyway as one poster indicates it may not be very “nice” to poskin this way but hay the law is the law, and when have Jews ever won a popularity contest . Something to ponder tonight as well.

  25. To Reb Nachum: I’ve been considering getting into Chabad, but probably won’t if many of its adherents use the Y”shu expression as often as you do. I’m not defending Berg or Madonna (hell, who is?), but they’re faddish icons who only gain from negative publicity. Whereas you’re giving Judaism a bad name by so vilely dissing these people. I really have to wonder if that’s not a big reason why a lot of Jews stay secular… there’s a lot of self-righteous, judgmental negativity going on in the religious world. (And yes, I know there are good people, I’m just talking to Reb Nachum.)

  26. flur… as a Jew, Yiddishkeit is obviously your inheritance (as with any of the other secular Jews you mention). Groucho’s “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member” may apply here. Like any organization, group, or religious sect, the specific rules, mores and practices vary and we Jews obviously don’t all march in lockstep, especially at Lubov. Re: Madonna, it’s not her inheritance but she chose to start from the top (kaballah) which means she can only go down from there, and if lucky she may land-up in gan learning alef-bais (which, if serious is where she should have gone to begin with). That is what makes her “status” vis Judaism so suspect and ludicris. But it is your inheritance and whether you squander it in secular humanism or rise to the madrega of joining a Chasidic sect is your perogative. Remember that what’s his name (J) also got turned off by so-called hypocrites at the Holy Temple … only he wasn’t as suscinct in expressing it as Groucho. Brother Nachum has made good points and I wish all a Good Shabbos!

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