Mystical Tradition Draws Stars for Rosh Hashanah Observances

More than 2,500 adherents of Kabbalah centers around the world joined in celebration of Rosh Hashanah this year in what is believed to be the largest public gathering of followers of the mystical Jewish tradition in the United States.

Billed as the “Rosh Hashanah of the Millennium,” the observances at the Anaheim Hilton hotel in California ushered in the Hebrew year 5760. According to kabbalistic teaching, 5760 will bring an age of blessings and good fortune to believers and an end to chaos and death on earth.

The Kabbalah Centre of Los Angeles organized the event, which drew adherents from Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Canada, France, Israel, Japan, Mexico and from all parts of the United States, according to Billy Phillips, director of communications for the local center.

Among the worshipers were talk show hostess Roseanne, a veteran center supporter and activist, and comedienne Sandra Bernhard. Madonna, a familiar face at many Kabbalah Centre events, is expected to attend Yom Kippur services, said Phillips.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the services came on Sunday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, when Rabbi Philip Berg, founder of the center, blew the shofar.

“For the next three hours, everyone stood in utter silence in intense spiritual concentration to remove chaos, pain and suffering from the world. You could have heard a pin drop,” Phillips reported.

Following the end of Rosh Hashanah, many participants danced and shared experiences until two in the morning, said Phillips.

According to a news release, the parent Kabbalah Centre was founded in Jerusalem in 1922, and “there are 39 centres around the world, with 3.4 million members, 50 percent of whom are non-Jewish.”

Kabbalah studies date back to the 12th century and combine elements of astrology and numerology, with speculations about the creation of the universe, God and the soul.

Teachings at the Los Angeles center have been denounced by some mainstream rabbis as a superficial pop version of the demanding study, while some disenchanted former members have complained of high pressure tactics to give more money.

Nevertheless, the center attracts a growing number of people seeking the spiritual fulfillment they apparently cannot find in conventional synagogues and churches.

Particularly drawn are Hollywood stars, Jewish and non-Jewish. In addition to Roseanne, Madonna and Bernhard, reported disciples include Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Courtney Love, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern.

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