Defining Kabbalah is not an easy task. It has been around for so long and means different things to different people. It has its origins in ancient Jewish mystical traditions, and so to some people, Kabbalah is a mystical form or at least an esoteric tradition of Judaism. Others view it as a way of approaching the holiest of Jewish scriptures, the Torah, due to the fact that Kabbalah is based on an ancient Torah commentary called the Zohar.
Kabbalah Centre as a discipline distinct from other forms of Jewish mysticism emerged in High Middle Ages. It has been preserved through the present by the orthodox and Hasidic movement. Written in an obscure form of Aramaic, the Zohar was first published in Spain in the 13th century by a Jewish writer named Moises de Leon, who ascribed the work to Simeon bar Yochai, a second century mystic. Following its publication, the book became popular throughout Europe and its authority was recognized by many Jewish congregations. In the orthodox tradition, the veracity of bar Yochai’s authorship and the validity of Kabbalah are central tenets. Although reform and conservative movements have traditionally viewed Kabbalah as deserving of academic study only, aspects of Kabbalah have slowly made their way into mainstream liberal Jewish practice.
Kabbalah Centre is an international non-profit organization headquartered in Los Angeles, California. The organization takes the view that the Zohar and Kabbalah can help people of all faiths find spiritual peace and guidance, and believes Kabbalah can be a supplement to other religions. Founded by Phillip Berg and his wife Karen in 1965, Kabbalah Centre now offers courses online and at locations all over the world. Specialized religious knowledge or familiarity with ancient languages are not necessary to study with the Kabbalah Centre, which initiates students by means of a more intuitive method of study.