Thousands of years ago, Kabbalah was passed down first through oral tradition, then written down by a select succession of Rabbis, then published and disseminated to the public through books and Kabbalah Centers of Learning.
The Kabbalah is an interpretation of the Bible, the Zohar, that contains the deepest secrets of Creation. The teachings hold that God is unknowable, but has revealed 10 stages called Sefirot or Tree of Life by which we can make a connection between God and our physical universe. It is through this connection that we are given the pathway for redemption and become Divine Light.
To bring the teachings of Kabbalah from a primarily secret, elite group of scholars to a worldwide movement took hundreds of years. We can point to the key movers in this evolution. Very early, Rav Abba and his son Rav Elagar spent 13 years in a cave and through Divine Inspiration gave us the wisdom of Moses and Elijah.
In the 16th Century Rav Luria brought a deeper understanding of Zohar. He proclaimed that our transformation depends on the healing of self- destructive tendencies and egoism. He further believed that our souls are disconnected from God and we must heal the parts and return them to God.
Building on Rav Luria’s teachings, Rav Yehuda Asklag sought to bring the religion teachings of Kabbalah to a wider audience. In 1885 he established a Kabbalah Center in his native Warsaw Poland. In 1921 he moved to Israel and devoted his life to teaching Kabbalah. In 1922 he established a yeshiva and continued his teaching. He believed that each one of us must take action to repair ourselves and the larger world. He also held that individuals will not be judged by race, religion or nationality. Each person must reach for affinity with God.
Rav Brandwein followed Rav Asklag’s teaching in Israel. He had a small following and limited resources. He published a key work entitled The Ladder in which he gives an individual the pathway from Earth to a heavenly realm.
Moving to the United States Rav Philip Berg, born in Brooklyn, became a passionate follower of Brandwein. He traveled to Israel and studied under his mentor. He and his second wife Karen started publishing a wide range of books on Kabbalah. He returned to the United States and founded several this Spirituality Centres around the world. In 1970 he established the National Institute for Research of Kabbalah. The name was later changed to Kabbalah Centre. These Centres were formed much like a Kibbutz. Students shared housing and meals together and received a stipend to further their studies. Today there are 40 Kabbalah Centres throughout the world.