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Hanging from a Red Thread: Karaite Perspectives

Updated on May 31, 2010

It is a perplexing world this Magical Land of Kabbalah, with its myriad of divinely created beings that flitter in and out of men’s lives as if we have all journeyed into Neverland, only to find that those that wish to control these sprites and fairies is not the infamous Captain Hook but these self-emulating masters of the Kabbalah.  In their language of double-speak they will say things such as, “All the names we call Him do not refer to His Self, but only to His Lights, expanding from Him to the lower ones. Even the holy name, Ein Sof (Infinity), presented in the Kabbalah books, is also regarded as Light that expands from His Essence,” which besides being totally baffling to anyone assessing their beliefs, in its most sinister of innuendos it is implying that there are these ‘lower ones’ all capable of superhuman feats, and that their books are themselves divinely inspired and magical as they contain a spark from God.  There is an obvious obsession with implying that in some way their books, written by their hands, human hands and subject to human vices are beyond question, filled with magic and secrets that only they have attained and therefore only they have any perception of God. After all, they write, “However, it is a great Mitzva to examine and research in His illuminations, which expand from Him, which are all the holy names and appellations brought in the books. It is an utter must for any person from Israel to study and understand the secrets of Torah and all the ways of His bestowal upon the lower ones, which are the gist of the wisdom of truth and the future reward of the souls at the end of correction.”  Simply put they are suggesting that only those that are followers of their secrets, their esoteric wisdom that they have gleaned have any reward in this world, either now or in the future.  Did I not say in my last article that the goal of any cult is to make their followers believe that only they have the answers, that everything else is a lie, and by condemning all other beliefs and systems, they tether their adherents to their own doctrines through various means of mind manipulation so that they can see no other hope but to hang on to that tether as much as they can for fear of losing everything.  Remember, true religion tells you that no matter how many times you fail, there is always the opportunity to pick yourself up, do the right thing and redeem yourself.   

The Worthless Shepherds

It is not only myself as a Karaite that has seen this threat of the Kabbalah and its obvious attempts at manipulating the minds of the susceptible.  Even the Rabbanites from time to time have seen the threat of this movement within their own followesrs.  One such group known as Dardaim, were adherents of the Dor Deah movement in rabbinical Judaism.. It was founded in Yemen during the nineteenth century  by Rabbi Qafih, and had its own network of synagogues and schools. Its stated objectives were as follows:

  1. to combat the influence of the Zohar and subsequent developments in modern Kabbalah, which were then pervasive in Yemenite Jewish life, and which the Dor Daim believed to be irrational and idolatrous;
  2. to restore (what they believed to be) a rational approach to Judaism rooted in authentic sources;
  3. to safeguard the older (Baladi) tradition of Yemenite Jewish observance, which they believed to be based on this approach.

But if looking at Yemenite teachings is too foreign for most Ashkenazi, then let me provide a reference closer to home such as  the works of Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh of Modena  who was an Italian rabbi  and  intellectual figure of the 16th and 17th centuries.  In his writings he was a very harsh critic of Kabbalah , suggesting if Jews were to accept the Kabbalah, then the Christian trinity would indeed become compatible with Judaism, as the Trinity closely resembles the Kabbalistic doctrine of sefirot. He was a major critic of the practice where Jews were addressing individual sefirot by name in their prayers, the practice of commanding spiritual beings taught in the Kabbalah. 

I can continue with a seemingly endless list of Rabbis that condemn the practice of Kabbalah and yet we have this modern phenomena growing exponentially with movie stars and celebrities flocking to it in droves.  It should not be too surprising because this occurrence is actually well documented in Zechariah 11:15-17.  For these are the days of the worthless shepherds that corrupt our teaching with the design of leading us astray.  They have come not to abandon us but through their negligence, purposeful falsifications and corruption of the Torah, they will destroy us.

Exposing the Truth

The Kabbalah was designed to lead the follower astray.  By disguising its intent in pretty words and poetic ambience it conceals it’s true intent.  For example, “It is written in the words of our sages, in The Zohar, and the Tikkunim that all the Upper Worlds and all the Holy Sefirot of the five worlds AK and ABYA have been prepared ahead of time in quantity and quality to complement the children of Israel. This is so because the soul of one from Israel is a part of God Above and “The end of an act is in the preliminary thought.”  When examined this paragraph is having its followers acknowledge five worlds of different spiritual beings and that the followers of Kabbalah will be raised into these five worlds as their souls are on a level with God.  They are promised that this will be their end because this is how they choose to believe in their own self; the manifestation of god-like attributes because they choose to believe themselves so. 

So let me comment on these god-like beings that teach the Kaballah. Philip S. Berg is the charismatic founder and leader of one such Jewis-Kabbalah cult functioning under the name of "Research Centre for Kabbalah." Along with his power, his wealth has also grown dramatically with branches in New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, just to name a few cities. In an article regarding his research centre the following was written: Berg claims to be an orthodox rabbi and proclaims his "Kabbalah Centre" to be a Jewish orthodox institution, which by definition of one studies under orthodox tutors then by old traditions once can call themselves a rabbi but Berg also claims to have a doctorate (all his books go under the name "Dr. Philip S. Berg but some of his books say this doctorate is in "comparative religion," while others claim it to be in "jurisprudence in biblical law." When challenged about these discrepancies by a reporter during an interview, Berg admitted that t -he has no academic degree at all and that his supposed "doctorate" is "part of his smichah (ordination)"  Smichah Doctorates? 

Although Berg advertises himself as "the greatest Kabbalist in the world and the world's foremost authority on the Kabbalah" it would appear that outside of his congregation very few religious academic authorities have heard about him. The word charlatan is what is commonly uttered from their lips.  I will reprint an article here from the Canadian Jewish News dated March 18, 1993, pp. 2, 6-7 and 9. It discusses Rabbi Dr. Berg and his Kabbalah Centre giving it all the attention it deserves.:

  • In the autumn of 1990, a Marilyn McLeod was dying of cancer. She was visited by a "Rabbi" Yardeni of the Kabbalah Centre who persuaded her to purchase a complete hard cover set of the Zohar, as well as a few other books about Jewish mysticism, for hundreds of dollars. Marilyn was also told to change a mezuzah and her Hebrew name. For $250, they changed her mezuzah, gave her about a dozen audio tapes from the centre, and changed her name altogether. Though Marilyn couldn't read any Hebrew, she was told to simply scan the Zohar for its healing properties. Shortly thereafter (January 1991) she dies.
  • Other cases are cited of people unable to read Hebrew (let alone Aramaic - the language of most of the Zohar), and who could ill afford the high prices charged, who were persuaded to purchase the Zohar and other works, who were told that mere scanning of the books would help them in their quest for spiritual fulfillment.
  • Young people drawn into the centre were persuaded to help with maintenance of the building and other jobs.
  • When thoroughly questioned, Berg "readily concedes that 'most' of the students as well as the teachers at the centre would likely not be able to read or interpret a page from the Hebrew Zohar." But Berg paraphrases Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai" that :you can learn from someone who doesn't know" to explain why his students and teachers did not have to be able to read or interpret.
  • Both in the interview as well as in their promotions, Berg calls his centre "Yeshiva Kol Yehuda," alleging affiliation and association with (as the continuation or successor to) the Yeshivah Kol Yehuda in Jerusalem, originally founded in 1922 by the late Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag and later headed by the late Rabbi Yehudah Tzvi Brandwien. Berg calls himself as "Rabbi Brandwein's chief student."  There is no affiliation.

The Red String Conspiracy

But as if that wasn’t enough to condemn these schools of Kabbalistic thought for being nothing more than money generating, naïve proliferating, cultic rip-offs, let’s look at what has become one of their more common means of religious thievery, one especially practice by Rabbi Berg but not limited to his organisation alone:

·         There is a laughable but unfortunately corrupt practice of selling "kabbalistic" red strings that have been wound around Rachel's Tomb and then cut into bracelet size strings and sold to the unsuspecting public to ward off the evil eye.  The Kabblalist will not precisely say that he or she was commanded to wear this string but provide you with a dissertation on the positive and negative energies of which one negative energy is jealousy or envy and that these emanate through the eyes, hence the reference to ‘the Evil Eye.’  They claim that the Evil Eye has been and always will be part of the history of mankind and will quote sources such as Socrates (pagan), Plato (pagan), and Aristotle (another  Hellene pagan).   The kabbalist will then tell you how it was accorded fear and respect by kings, queens, and conquerors throughout the ages (more Saxon, Goth and Gaulic pagans). They’ll point out how ancient Greek seafarers painted eyes on the prows of their ships as protection against this evil (A pantheon of Pagans). The Romans they claim called it oculus malus (Latin Pagans). To the Scots it was droch shuil (Celtic Pagans).  And then they sum it up by saying that as Kabbalists they refer to it as ayin horeh.  Need I say it, but I will (Kabbalic Pagans).

·         They tell me that it has become quite the latest Hollywood fashion worn by the stars and therefore copycatted extensively by their equally gullible fans.  These strings actually sell for $26 apiece from Rabbi Berg’s operation.   As I mentioned laughable until such time someone accuses those of us that practice true Judaism of being thieves and gypsies because of these dubious practices by fringe Jews, selling magical trinkets at exorbitant prices while making victims of innocent worshippers that had no way of knowing better.  And that’s when the persecutions, accusations and pogroms begin all over again.

·         Although I condemn Kabbalah in its entirety, in its defence I will say that  there is no source in all its writing that makes a claim that wearing a red thread around one's left wrist will ward off the "evil eye." Of course the implication that there are people that have ‘special powers’ that can cast an evil eye would suggest that there is a source of power other than God in this universe and that is contrary to the basic tenet of Judaism and is contemptible.

·         I will mention though that there is a statement in the Talmud about the practice of tying a bundle of herbs or gems and wearing them in order to ward off the "evil eye" but this makes no reference to colour, Rachel’s tomb or any such nonsense. This helps justify the practice of Rabbanites wearing mezuzahs, chai jewellery, stars of David and the likes.

·         But coincidentally there is one reference to a red string to ward off the evil eye in the Tosefta of the  Talmud (Shabbat, ch. 7-8) and it clearly states that tying a red string around one’s wrist is prohibited.  More than that it is characterized as "Darchei Emori," a superstitious practice, close to idol-worship.  So how is it that these Kabbalistic masters can perpetrate this fraud against their gullible followers knowing full well it is in violation of their Talmudic beliefs?  The answer is simple, it’s not about the worship of God, it’s about the Almighty Dollar.

Now as a well respected scientist working within the world vaccination programme, from a purely academic perspective I take offense to any implication that in some way sorcery, magical spells, etc. can take the place of medicine.  And that is exactly what these spurious Kabbalists do when they write their advertisement for their ‘red string’ sales in the sense of being a medical technology. As described in this advertisement which follows:

Applying the Red String Technology
Worn around the left wrist, the Red String works in the same way as the vaccines of modern medicine. When we receive a vaccination against a disease, a weakened strain of the illness is integrated into the vaccine. Spiritual immunizations are based on a similar principle. Kabbalah teaches that colors have specific frequencies and energies. Red, for example, is the color of danger. By binding a Red String to ourselves in a very specific manner, we shield ourselves against the dangerous negativity that might be directed our way—a spiritual vaccine against the destructive forces of the Evil Eye.   Negative forces enter the body through the left side. By wearing the Red String on the left wrist, negative energies are intercepted at the precise point of entry. The string is tied in a carefully prescribed sequence of seven knots, each of which symbolizes a separate spiritual dimension that infuses our reality. It’s important that someone who loves us—someone we deeply trust—ties the string around our wrist. As they do, we should ask for the power to radiate kindness, compassion, appreciation, and absence of the Evil Eye to everyone around us.

The use of terminologies such as vaccines, medicine, illness and immunization are all intended to construct a sense of protection against anything we consider evil, and this would include viruses, infections and sickness through implied correlation of the two trains of thought.  Unfortunately there are people that will come to believe that they can preserve their health not through the miracles of modern medicine but from this absurd ‘Red String Technology’.  To even infer that there is a technology behind this sorcerous practice is a deliberate attempt to deceive the wearer into thinking that something scientific supports their false claims.  If people should die as a result of the delusions and misconceptions created by these Kabbalistic deceivers then the truth is that it is no longer an unfortunate incident but murder.

Before It's Too Late

I fear that  the  majority of the Judeo-Christian world will not come to the same opinion that I have of the Kabbalah, seeing it clearly as a plague upon us that heralds our demise.  It has become too ingrained into the present practices of Rabbanites for it to disappear easily.  People like Madonna have elevated it to a world-wide phenomenon.  As I mentioned in a previous article, even some of my distant relatives have taken to practicing Kabbalah and that is worrisome.  It is an insult to our ancestors, besmirches the name of Kahana and Goldenthal but then those practicing it aren’t even aware of our long history, having become assimilated into the modern world of the ‘western’ Jew.    But as a Karaite I do know that whenever one seeks to add to the words that God has given us then it is wrong.  When men claim to understand God’s secrets and have mastered his codes then they are liars.  And as history has always proven, when those same self-adulating men  proclaim that all we have to do is follow them and they will show us the way to God, then they have forgotten the one lesson that was made apparent in the Torah by God, Himself and that is when God wants us to follow a certain path then he will send us his prophets and as they had done time after time, they will not encourage us to follow a new path but they will tell us very succinctly, either return to the one true path instead of following these strange gods of human idolatry or suffer the consequences.   Time for those that have gone astray to read Zechariah as I have pointed out and see these wicked men for who truly are and condemn them for their sins before it is too late!


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