The Blog

The Man Behind the Myth: Kabbalist Rav Berg

As someone who loved the Rav deeply and benefitted tremendously from his wisdom, teachings and love seeing many of the erroneous reports about his life have moved me to tell the truth of the man that I had the honour of knowing.

On Monday 16th September the Rav Berg departed this world.

In 2004 he suffered a huge stroke from which he struggled to recover and in recent years his health had taken a turn for the worse. This was the first year he was unable to join his family and the international Kabbalah community as we celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur together.

It was with heavy hearts and testimony of their selfless nature that his family battled on to perform services for a congregation of over 4,000 students many of whom had travelled from far flung destinations across the oceans to come together as one.

Whilst we all felt a deep sadness that the Rav was not physically with us he was in everyone's hearts and made his presence known in many beautiful, mystical ways.

Since his passing there have been the inevitable reports about the passing of the 'Rabbi to the stars' - cut and paste jobs from old file copy botched together and repeated almost verbatim by various media.

As someone who loved the Rav deeply and benefitted tremendously from his wisdom, teachings and love seeing many of the erroneous reports about his life have moved me to tell the truth of the man that I had the honour of knowing.

The Rav was born Shrager Feivel Gruberger to an Orthodox Jewish family. He was ordained as an orthodox Rabbi in both the United States and in Israel. His journey as a Kabbalist commenced when he met his teacher Rav Brandwein who in turn was the student of Rav Ashlag the original founder of the Kabbalah centre in Israel.

His life story could have been so different. He was an Orthodox Rabbi and an intelligent man of scripture who loved the in-depth study of the Torah, the Talmud and Mishnah. He could so easily have become yet another religious cleric. Someone who only mixed within his own community, who studied for hours on end and had private revelations of the mystical true meaning behind holy scriptures but did very little else with it.

But then he met Karen. The saying goes that behind every great man is an even greater woman and The Rav and Karen are testament to this. Frankly the fact that they even got together was a miracle. On a superficial level you couldn't put two more different people together - an orthodox Rabbi in his all black ensemble replete with big fur trimmed hat and a mini-skirted, bohemian, free spirited divorcee. But as I am learning some unions both defy logic and are quite simply destiny.

He was over 40 when he met Karen and was very much set in his ways both as an individual and as a Rabbi largely as a result of his practice of Orthodox Judaism. Yet halfway through his life he managed to completely transform himself from a man of religiosity to a select few, to a man of spirituality and a teacher for all people - irrespective of their colour, race, religion or status.

As a direct result of the Rav meeting and loving Karen that the couple decided to spread the wisdom of Kabbalah to all that wished to study and as a result countless people over the globe from all walks of life have gone on to experience tremendous personal growth and as a result have positively impacted upon their communities.

For me it is the transformation from dogmatic religious hardliner to a spiritual leader to the masses that I think is the one of the most inspiring things about the Rav. He fought against his own doubts and limiting beliefs, transformed himself and stuck his head above the parapet and in the firing line for the sake of the greater good.

Imagine a world where religious people from all different faiths decided to see beyond their differences and indeed embrace those differences? Where instead of living or preaching religious laws and separatism they looked to the deeper meaning and the spiritual truth behind all religions - namely that we are all one and that our purpose is divinely inspired to be the best we can, to access our own divinity and make the biggest positive contribution we can to the world? If this happened to even a dozen prolific religious leaders across the world can you imagine the impact on the world at large?

It is said in the Talmud that if you save one person's life then you have saved the whole world. By being the catalyst of transformation for so many students the Rav saved so many of us from ourselves, and the world from having more negativity. If you imagine the positive domino effect that every transformed person has on the world you can then only imagine the great work that he carried out for humanity in his lifetime.

There are many spiritual greats out there who have and will continue to do the same for others. I have a great deal of respect for all of them. But to me and thousands of other students worldwide the Rav was our spiritual father. He gifted us the wisdom of the truth, the support system and tools for transformation as well as his unconditional love.

And I know that for all of us who loved him so deeply the only way to truly honour him is to wipe away our tears and continue to fight the good fight to be the best we can possibly be in order to help heal our world.

It is the transformation of his students, their positive impact upon the world and the resulting miracles that ought to be in any obituary - for this is his true legacy.

True spirituality takes people away from petty factionalism and allows unity of purpose to emerge

Rav Berg August 2013

Ambi Sitham

Kabbalah student since 2008. Light worker in progress.