Faith or Franchise?

Just a few weeks back, our own beloved MIA was invaded by the hottest celebrities of the moment during the infamous MTV Video Music Awards. As ritzy trendsetters lounged at the glamorous Mandarin Oriental, their list of requests was topped with an extremity that even the five star hotel wasn’t prepared for: Kabbalah water.

Welcome to the wonderment of red string bracelets, over-priced tap water, meditation DVDs, and an array of accessories embroidered with the 72 different names of God. Then again, this is Tinsel Town’s watered-down version of the Jewish mystical practice known as Kabbalah. It’s an organization whose company website has promised “banishment of all darkness from our world,” including disease, depression, and discontent, through a $99 starter-kit, a $26 bracelet, hundreds of dollars worth of instructional courses, and countless bottles of Kabbalah water, priced at $6 a piece. Well, no one said that spiritual enlightenment didn’t have a price.

Ironically, Kabbalah, a complex aspect of Jewish tradition, was once reserved for elite male rabbis, masters of both the Hebrew language and Torah. Seeing that Kabbalah was never intended for the general public, it’s no surprise that the Jewish community holds a strong discontent towards the newly sprouting Kabbalah Centers, which are endorsed by trendsetters such as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and of course, Madonna (who recently changed her name to Esther in support of her spiritual uncovering). On the other hand, the Kabbalah franchise has been so successful spreading this latest “self-help fad” at major consumer venues like Target, that there’s a possiblity Jewish leaders are asking themselves, “Why didn’t we think of that?”

Now even though Hollywood’s latest fad may not be entirely legitimate, there’s no shame in at least considering Kabbalah to find personal fulfillment. The lessons are beneficiary, such as overcoming the delusion of material reality, discovering genuine energy, and freeing oneself from fear, misery, and doubt. Most importantly, the underlying message is simplistic and ageless: “Act nice and get over yourself! You’ll feel better!”

Kabbalah centers promote their organization to be “not a religion,” but “a source of universal wisdom.” Experts, however, argue otherwise, declaring the merchandised worship to be “shallow,” “worthless,” and “cult-like.” Nevertheless, even if one doesn’t discover all the secrets of the universe by repeating the 72 names of God, if by chance the need for spirituality is satisfied, then where’s the harm? Simply be sure to be consumer savvy, and buy your symbolic red bracelet at the local fabric store.

Nickki Zailcka can be contacted at