So I’m here in my native town Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,
producing a Canadian film. About two
weeks ago Madonna was in town collecting money for SFK and her Raising Malawi
charity. SFK stands for Spirituality For
Kids, a Kabbalah Center
effort and Raising Malawi is a Madonna, Michael Berg (son of the Kabbalah Center founder) project.
Her stay here was very profitable; it seems that she was
able to get a $10,000,000 pledge from a couple of business men as well as a
commitment from Rio de Janeiro’s mayor to apply
the educational and spiritual methods of SFK to Rio de Janeiro public schools.
While I believe that every child in this planet is entitled
to help, I wonder why these same business men don’t usually invest in taking
the thousands of children off the streets of their own towns as well as help
the other thousands that live in favelas (shanty towns) that surround their
homes. The answer is simple:
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that she’s using her
popularity to supposedly do something good but the fact that she could waltz
into Rio and collect this money while so many children right here could benefit
from any type of help puzzles me.
I spent some time at the Kabbalah
Center in Los Angeles about ten or more years ago. The first couple of months I couldn’t stop
talking about having finally found a home for my spiritual quest. I’m Jewish but have always had problems with
organized religion so the Kabbalah
Center seemed to offer me
an alternative through the study of the world in a mystical fashion.
The first lessons were about how the world was created and
existed through the power of different types of energies. Bravo, I thought. Yes, everything is energy. It makes sense and science collaborates with that. I went to the center many times a week to
study, attended talks, holidays, wore a red string and signed up to volunteer to
work at soup kitchens when the center went out to the poor areas of town.
One day I got a call from the center’s office asking if I
would go visit a homebound woman. I said
of course. I thought it was probably an
old woman who didn’t have friends and family and just needed some
To my surprise when I arrived at the address given, the woman
was my age and was dying from a botched breast implant. The silicone got into the woman’s blood stream
and as a result her cells were losing their ability to stretch, so her mouth
could barely move, her lungs were shutting down and she looked like a living
mummy. The woman was shocked when she
asked me to start her Kabbalah lesson and I told her I had been a student for
only two months and therefore had very little to teach her. I too was shocked as I was not prepared to
see a woman my age with sores all over her body lying on a bed with an oxygen tank
blowing air into her sores. After some
awkward moments we decided that although I had nothing to teach her I could
certainly be her friend and come visit her every week.
Four months after my first lesson at the Kabbalah center I
started to have the feeling that they were just making stuff up. What had been brilliant at the beginning was
now quickly becoming “you got to be kidding me”. The icing for me was as the center became
more popular so did the presence of celebrities and how they were treated in a
different way from all of us common folks.
At six months from my first lesson I asked to have a private
meeting with one of the rabbis who was also my teacher. Our conversation started with the question of
why I had been sent to visit a woman who was very angry and sick without any
warning. It quickly became clear to me
that the woman had been calling the center and to get rid of her they sent me
there. The rabbi commented that my new
friend was very angry and therefore would have to make up for her anger in some
spiritual way and basically the center had no time for her. I told him there was a very good chance that
he too would be very angry if he was dying the way she was.
My next question was about the different treatment
celebrities received at the center. I
mentioned that I had come to the Kabbalah center because I thought it was a
place that honestly was seeking out a different way for people to be in the
world. His answer was that indeed I was
correct, quickly followed by “don’t you know how celebrities are? If they are not catered to they won’t come
back and we need them to publicize and promote the center.
Even before my meeting, it had become clear that most of the
rabbis and teachers at the center were not real scholars of Kabbalah and their
interest was more about becoming rock stars of spirituality than really
promoting a more significant way to exist.
I guess my need to meet with my teacher was also more about completion
than actually hoping to be mistaken about my feelings.
So I don’t know why the mayor of Rio de Janeiro is pledging
to follow the guide lines of SFK except for the fact that it was brought up by
Madonna and I wish the businessmen who pledged the $10,000,000 to help the
children in Malawi will now give the same amount to help the children of Brazil
as many are born and die in the streets and in the case of Rio de Janeiro,
right under Christ’s outstretched arms.