Kabbalah for Women
An Interview with Karen Berg
By Donna Strong
Karen Berg found her true calling at an early age —revealing a system of spiritual knowledge which was known as Kabbalah. In 1968, Karen and her husband, Rav, opened the doors on the study of Kabbalah to everyone after 4,000 years. Until then, Kabbalah was only available to scholarly Jewish men over forty. Since that time, these two spiritual pioneers have partnered to create a network of fifty Kabbalah Centres around the globe.
From her passionate and rebellious youth, Karen has brought enormous courage and commitment to her calling. Her first book, “God Wears Lipstick”, is a celebration of a primary importance of the feminine in spirituality. Now known as the First Lady of Kabbalah, she offers a harvest of her own wisdom in this work. The book lucidly presents tools to engage effectively and compassionately with the challenges in human life.
Awareness: Karen, congratulations! Your book brings a torch light of inspiration to explore the daily application of Kabbalah with elegant simplicity and clarity. How would you describe this system of sacred wisdom?
Karen: We believe that Kabbalah is a spiritual teaching, a philosophy, for all people. Basically, the word Kabbalah means ‘to receive.’ It is a teaching of how one receives God’s Light or the abundance of what is around us, in a way that is constantly generated through our acts of sharing.
One of the core tenets of Kabbalah is that Light, as energy, has to be shared in order for it to have momentum or exist in perpetuity. One of the basic laws of Kabbalah is that the Creator does want us to receive, does want us to benefit.
Kabbalah is the way we learn how to conquer difficulties in our universe and to avoid chaos in life, to be able to move and not become a victim. With Kabbalah, we learn to become the perpetrator of constructive action.
Awareness: One of the things I was fascinated by is the Kabbalistic focus on spiritual Light...
Karen: It is our feeling that every individual put into the world is hewn from a spark which we call the soul. Within the confines of the soul is the creative Light, a substance each one of us needs to generate in order to fulfill our potential! You and I are, from a Kabbalistic perspective, vessels for the Light. Every being has an amount of energy that can be filled to its maximum, by doing the things in life that create or generate energy.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t even recognize that it is there and don’t try to fill it at all. It is usually by the pains in our life that we grow, not when things are going great. In order to become what we can become, with everything that is worthwhile, there has to be an effort, which is a price, applying one-self through concentration and work. Energy has to be expended to increase awareness, and to increase the Light flow in one’s life.
Awareness: You make a reference to pleasure, and how pleasure is a reason for our existence. Tell us more about this.
Karen: One of the things we are so fortunate about is that science has been able to keep up with spirituality and can show us what we talk about on the spiritual level actually translates into the physical world. For instance, when you laugh, smile or are in a happy demeanor, your T-cells increase. When you are sorrowful and depressed, your T-cells decrease and your immune system goes down.
That is why it is so important for people who get cancer to have a support system, to have friendly people around who provide for them. Without that support system they become depressed, and depression causes a lack of T-cells. It is a fact.
It is the same in kinesiology — you know, muscle testing. When you think a positive thought, your muscles are stronger — literally stronger. When you think a negative thought, your muscles are weaker. This proves that what we do on an internal level relates directly to the body. We can actually strengthen ourselves doing what gives real pleasure — reading a good book or enjoying a good film by oneself.
But the greatest pleasures are those we share with others — in other words, when we see a bunch of kids who never knew what it was like to enjoy Christmas presents. To participate in something like this is to know a really satisfying pleasure. This is a great example of areas where you generate more energy by being part of the lives of other human beings. Relationships among people are so important. They bring us to a higher elevation.
Awareness: I see, it is our opportunity to share our Light and enjoy the pleasure of our God-given purpose through sharing. Tell us how Kabbalah moved from being so esoteric into a public sphere?
Karen: I am very fortunate, I created the role to open this door. In the early days my husband, Rav Berg, said to me, “This has never been taught to the mainstream...” And I said “So what?”
Awareness: Laughing in acknowledgment...
Karen: He said, “What do you mean, so what? Do your realize what is going to happen?” I am in my sixties today, but then I was a real rebelrouser and was always the kind of person that if there were a road needing to be taken, regardless of where it took me, if I thought it was right, I went. I said, “Okay, there are going to be people who are against us. Perhaps we are going to have problems.
Like any other type of teachings, people are met with resistance and controversy. We are not used to change and certainly not radical change.” So slowly and surely we went from one place to another, gathering people together, until we said, “We have an organization behind us!” That’s the truth of how it started.
“God Wears Lipstick” is a set of tools I have used in my counseling sessions with people. It is my understanding of what a woman can be. That is how I got to be to where I am, and I am very happy to be here.
Awareness: Why is this time in the world so special?
Karen: In the Hebrew language there is a prayer for the morning, the Hebrew word for it is shachret. This word usually means darkness. Why does one pray a morning prayer and call it darkness? The answer, of course, is that the deepest part of the night is before dawn.
The earth is so full of greed and garbage we have put into her without caring, and now she is pushing that back to us. She is just giving back what we put into her. It is nothing created by the Creator. That is why these things are happening today.
I also have to say, we now have so many people involved in things like alternative medicine and spirituality, all different perspectives that haven’t seen the Light before. Even if it is not fully accepted, it is looked favorably upon today. We are coming into the time of more awakening, and by the same token, we have more of the polarity of the darkness.
Unfortunately some people only come to more awareness through pain. Others come to it through an intuitiveness; they just feel there is something more to life than three squares and television at night.
We believe that we are in the sixth millennium going into the seventh. The seventh or last “sefi-rot” in Kabbalistic knowledge, is the world of “malchut” kingdom which is the world of the female.
Awareness: Oh really...
Karen: Yes, it is the world of the female. She is the nourisher, she gives birth to the child. It is the female’s role to take the energy, balance it into a vessel, and bring it back. The end result of this energy, the embryo, is male and female. But it is the female that gestates the spiritual life form. She is the main cause for the energy and the spirituality in her home. She is the nourisher, the vessel in which the energy is able to manifest.
Awareness: Your work to bring Kabbalah from a system of spiritual information, kept in secret to a public sphere, certainly engaged a lot of positive will and passion. You seem to be very well-suited to the role of taking action and being a wayshower for others in this regard. What would you say to women about using these qualities?
Karen: It is much easier when women have a passion for something, like writing or creativity in any way, for something in their lives they think they can do. If they can understand that no matter how earthbound they may be, having to work and care for their family, they should still apply themselves toward whatever innate ability they have to productively move forward.
We all need to find some activity to realize the abilities we have that are normally suppressed. All of us have innate abilities — to sing, or write or paint — or we may just be good with people.
Fine, find a little time to do something that provides fulfillment outside of your daily life, because through that, you become a different person. God has always been a perpetrator and a creator. So no matter where we are, we have the ability to be like God, to make something new with our lives as women.
Awareness: As you were speaking, I was thinking about how whatever is in someone’s heart that sparks their passion, is God-given. Why we argue with that is really puzzling.
Karen: Right! Most often we do, saying things like, ‘I would love to do that, but I don’t have time...’ Yet at the end of a day, we may say, ‘What did I do with the time?’ If you want to change who you are, you have to do something about it. Give yourself the opportunity now to use your innate ability and learn how to use it because tomorrow is not always going to be there.
Awareness: Tell us about the role of the feminine in regard to spirituality.
Karen: The female is the nourisher of the world. While anyone can light candles, we have a tradition of the female lighting candles to bring Light into the home. It is usually the female that lights the candles to draw down the spiritual energy of Light. She is the one responsible for allowing that house to be filled with Light, therefore, it is the key role in our spirituality for the female to be the vessel to generate that energy. She is responsible if it is there, or if it is lacking.
Awareness: In some respects, even in our modern culture, we are still playing out the idea that the female is a passive element, and if the female is too passive, the spiritual Light can be diminished.
Karen: I think people confuse passiveness with kindness and gentleness. Being of a nurturing nature is different from passivity and being open to abuse. It is right for everyone to want to be respected. Would God allow the Light to be treated in this fashion? If we truly see ourselves as vessels of the Light we cannot accept any treatment that is not respectful.
Everybody knows what is good and kind and sharing, and what is negative and uncaring. When we act against the Light, it withdraws. The negativity causes a veil between us and the Light. In a relationship, if someone doesn’t allow us to be who we are and talks down to us, then we are suppressing the life force — the God Light within us. So the individual has to say, ‘I love you dearly, but if you act in this manner, then there is no rapport between us. This relationship can’t stay this way’.
Awareness: In your book you indicate that sexual relations is a way of bringing Light into the world by creating and circulating energy. I really resonated with this — we literally ground spiritual Light through circulating energy and sharing in a kind and loving, gentle way. So much of modern life doesn’t remember this sacredness.
Karen: This is so true in our intimate relations. It is also true in life. Indeed, I read about a farm in which they tried an experiment — just a simple experiment. They took natural soil, planted vegetables and fruits, played music and treated the plants very well. They showed them appreciation by saying things like, ‘How great these vegetables are growing’ while watering them. They were wonderfully surprised, because the crop grew much better!
The truth is everything has an energy. If you direct your energy to the earth, into something that is growing, it will grow far better than if you leave it alone. Everything in life has that ability because there is life force. We can heal the earth; first, by stopping the negativity we are creating, and secondly, by doing more natural farming and honoring the laws of life.
Awareness: You have said that women are subject to two forces at the same time and that these lend a complexity to their lives — to be both vessels/receivers and sharers of the Light. Please talk about this to help women better understand their role.
Karen: Yes, women have a dual energy, which is twice as much to handle. If women sometimes feel more complicated than men, this is the reason — we have more going on. It is our nature to struggle with how much we can do because it is in our nature as females to give as well as to receive. And it is this dilemma that is actually the female’s advantage: the female is born with tremendous spiritual power, whereas a man has to earn his.
Awareness: What is the role of “God Wears Lipstick” in supporting women to use this tremendous spiritual power appropriately in the world?
Karen: Women have an inborn understanding of sharing, the way mothers naturally want to share with and care for their children, and maintain a home. And women have a great potential to see beyond the limits of their senses, to be in tune with what is happening. As long as a woman uses this power to share the Light and not get stuck in receiving for herself alone, she is doing what she should in the world.
“God Wears Lipstick” gives her the tools she needs for learning how to use her gifts and relationships in the best way possible for removing chaos, and coming in-to a state of unity within herself, between herself and others, and between herself and the Creator.
Awareness: You have been a visionary and pioneer, blazing trails from which we are now benefitting by having access to the universal wisdom of Kabbalah. Are there any words you want to leave us with?
Karen: It is a hard job for small souls like us to change the world. But if we open a Light in a dark room, we illuminate the entire room. Therefore our job is to change the world, one Light at a time...
For information on upcoming events, see www.Kabbalah.com Also see book review on page 51.
Donna Strong finds writing a wonderful way to be filled with light. She can be
reached at www.donnastrong.com
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