God Wears Lipstick: Interview with Kabbalist Karen Berg
Upon first glance, Karen Berg doesn’t seem to be one into the mystical ideals of Kabbalah. She appears to be a down-to-earth, logical and street smart woman with a lot of spunk. Maybe that’s because Karen, known as ‘First Lady of Kabbalah’, doesn’t view Kabbalah teachings as mystical at all.
“It’s not mystical in terms. I don’t address it that way,” shares Karen. “I believe it is best described as a philosophy of life’s teachings that help people become more conscious. The Kabbalah can be used as a way of creating a less reactive life and a more proactive life for every individual. It doesn’t need to be seen as mystical at all.”
My introduction to Kabbalah came by way of a friend who also introduced me to the Tarot and I-Ching to help me gain new tools for understanding my life. I found it difficult to grasp the mystical depth he perceived in Kabbalah, so he introduced me to a popular graphic novel, Promethea by Alan Moore, which offered me insight into the multi-faceted Sephirot- the branches on the Tree of Life.
When I picked up Karen Berg’s first book God Wears Lipstick — Kabbalah for Women , I expected an in-depth explanation into these principles. Instead I found a very practical guide to understanding my feminine role within life and intimate relationships. It read more like a self-help book, with a focus on giving, loving and being a vessel (female) for the light (male). It was not a dry textbook look at the Sephirot descriptions, but instead, a compassionate and loving look at the feminine role in life through the eyes of Kabbalah.
God Wears Lipstick offers insights and tools such as, Never Be a Victim: The Interdependence Tool: “An interdependent relationship requires two people who are spiritually mature enough to stand on their own two feet. The first question you should ask yourself is, “Do I have that level of maturity myself?”
Dealing with Loss: The Endings Tool: explains, “Separation from a loved one, as painful as it might be, is often the jolt you need to free your spirit and rekindle your awareness of your need to grow.”
I was quite surprised at Karen’s practical way of offering the concepts of Kabbalah within a format that I could easily understand and use in my daily relations -from my family, partnership and friendships, to my work relationships. Most importantly, I found God Wears Lipstick to be an invaluable tool for cultivating a deeper understanding of my relationship with myself.
I had the opportunity to see Karen at the Miami Kabbalah Centre, located at 2725 NE 163rd Street, North Miami Beach. The Miami Kabbalah Centre is one 50 Centres within the global network that Karen and her husband, Rav Philip Berg, helped to build since 1968. The room was full and lively with men, women and children of every age, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. Karen happily answered questions about feminine and masculine roles, immortality, same-sex relationships, karma, soul mates and reincarnation, to name a few. I had the privilege of speaking privately with Karen to ask her a few questions about her book, her family, and her Kabbalistic view.
Kabbalah was not available to women, children and the general public for the first 4000 years of Kabbalah history. Why have you decided to make it available now, at this certain point in time?
“I believe all things in life have their time. There is time to be born, a time to die, and very distinct cycles of life. Timing is everything. I believe that this is simply the time for Kabbalah to be made available. All things that are happening in the world now are making it so. You can say we’re going into the Age of Aquarius, we’re upon a new millennium, or however you would like to phrase it, but now is the time for these ideas and teachings to come to the forefront for practical use and to help others, women especially, to understand their lives and the roles they play.”
When did you start making these teachings available to women?
“35 years and 50 Kabbalah Centres ago. And now it is beginning to show up in the mainstream culture in so many ways. Housewives and celebrities alike are finding that Kabbalah can help them become more conscious. Madonna sends her daughter to our ‘Spirituality for Kids’ program and has been very vocal about her involvement with our centers. After years of making it available, it is finally revealing itself as a very helpful tool to the mainstream public.”
Was there an upheaval in the Kabbalah community when you first began to spread the teachings beyond the current boundaries?
“Oh yes! The establishments felt very threatened, yet that was to be expected. We were different. We wanted to take these very treasured and secret teachings into the public, when they had previously only been available to scholarly men over the age of 40. There was quite an upheaval, because we were taking something cherished by the community and making it accessible to each and every being on Earth. There was a similar struggle within the Indian community when Yogi Bhajan first brought Kundalini yoga to the west, but now you can learn about and practice Kundalini yoga all over the world. These teachings should not be kept secret. They are for everyone. Within a truly spiritual space, there is no box to say who you are. Women, Man, Child; it does not matter. God’s energy is in everybody.”
You say in your book that women — as the nurturers and manifestors of life — are born more spiritual than men. Is this the reason you created a book on Kabbalah especially for women?
“The feminine is the receptive element in creation. She is the vessel. Without the vessel, there cannot be Light — Light does not exist in a void. It is the female who brings the Light into the home, who manifests all the energy and puts it in its place, helping others grow. Women are the nourishers of the world, and as such, the messengers. Now is the time when women must have the tools to help all of us manifest more Light in the world. The role of woman has been suppressed world-wide, yet women are the very messengers this world needs. My book was written to help women recognize their very important role.”
What can one expect when visiting one of the Kabbalah Centres?
“They can expect classes for consciousness. We teach classes and offer online classes for those who do not live near a Kabbalah Centre or can’t find the time to make it into the Centre. There are rules and tools that can be found in Kabbalah that one might use to step away from their daily lives to become more conscious and understand the cosmic consciousness of cause and effect. Our classes are geared toward that.”
What do you hope women will gain from reading your book?
“I hope it makes them feel like getting out more, being in the public more, and becoming more active and involved in their own lives and in the world. I would like my book to cause more unity within the world, and bring more people together — regardless of their methods to understanding their own spiritual nature. I would like for them to realize that if you want something from someone else, then the path to that realization is to BE THAT WHICH YOU DESIRE. We are all responsible.”
In nearly 40 years, The Kabbalah Centres have provided instruction to almost four million students, including men and women of all religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, all around the world. How have your own children been involved?
“All of my children are a tremendous blessing. My sons Micheal and Yehuda have both written extensively on the Kabbalah and are very active within the teachings. Their involvement with the Centres are a wonderful blessing and vital to our work. My daughter ended up marrying someone disinterested in Kabbalah many years ago. She stayed with him for nine years, but then it ended and she came back and married a kabbalist. [chuckles] Many times children will turn away from the teachings of the parents to do their own thing, but in my case, I’ve been quite blessed with a family that has embraced my message and have decided to become messengers themselves.”
What are your upcoming plans?
“Right now I’m in Miami, and then I’m off to speak at the Kabbalah Centres in San Diego, Houston and Las Vegas. I will probably write another book soon. My goal is to be a messenger in bringing Kabbalah to the forefront. There is a truth in it for everyone, no matter what their background. This knowledge isn’t coming from me; I’m only a messenger.”
With 50 Kabbalah Centres and her new book for women, God Wears Lipstick, I think it’s safe to say that Karen Berg is definitely a messenger of the highest caliber!
Copyright© 2006 by Being Magazine. All rights reserved. For citation information or permission to reprint contact Tena Moore.