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MTV isn't your typical religious conduit, but ever since Madonna's personal rabbi appeared on the music channel to tell the world about the Material Girl's adoption of ancient Jewish mysticism, hordes of folks have turned to the Kabbalah. Its advocates claim that the Kabbalah is an ancient Judaic body of knowledge that contains the secrets to the origins of the universe and the meaning of existence. Back in the early '80s, of course, Madonna told Dick Clark on American Bandstand that her dream was to rule the world. So it only makes sense that she'd want to get her hands on this thing.

But before we let yet another celebrity turn what may be a legitimate spiritual pursuit into fodder for Entertainment Tonight, let's consider Rabbi Shaul Youdkevitch, who was way ahead of Madonna on the Kabbalah issue. Back in 1980, when he was a biology student at Tel Aviv University, he was curious about lesser-known aspects of his religion, so he attended a Kabbalah class and was forever changed. "I realized that this is the most advanced teaching I had ever found," says Youdkevitch. "It was so far ahead of physics, chemistry, and psychology. It was a very powerful experience, and I made it part of my life."

He's also making it a part of other people's lives. The international Kabbalah Learning Centre has locations in Boca Raton and Aventura, and, in Boca, Youdkevitch teaches many of the same lessons that were taught when the first center opened in Jerusalem in 1922. Written documents trace the Kabbalah as far back as 3800 years, but, like a good folktale, it's been handed down by word of mouth. "Rabbi Berg was my teacher, who was a student of a student and so on, going all the way back to Moses and Abraham," Youdkevitch claims.

As old as they are, the tenets of the Kabbalah are indeed relevant to contemporary existence, according to Youdkevitch and other instructors at the center. They claim, for example, that some of the teachings of the Kabbalah and recent scientific theories concerning the creation of the universe share many similarities.

Case in point: Michio Kaku, author of HYPERSPACE -- A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps and the Tenth Dimension, theorizes that, at the time of the big bang, a ten-dimensional universe split into two parts. Part one consisted of three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, and part two comprised the six remaining dimensions, which were hidden in stringlike entities called "superstrings." Budding and professional scientists (the only folks who understand what all this means) will recognize this as the Superstring Theory.

Well, get this: Rabbi Isaac Luria, a 16th-century Kabbalist, claimed that God and the human soul are expressed by ten primordial numbers known collectively as the sephirot, or the "Ten Luminous Emanations," which constitute reality. So it sounds like Rabbi Luria beat Kaku to the punch, doesn't it?

For the answer to that question and more, orientation lectures and film presentations are conducted at the center in Boca, and dozens of Kabbalah books and audio- and videocassettes are available there. Through classes and materials, students learn how the religion relates not only to physics but also to reincarnation, relationships, UFOs, medicine, meditation, and many other subjects. Most classes meet weekly for ten weeks, and prices range from $130 to $170 for each series of courses. The next beginner's course will commence on Tuesday, January 26.

"Kabbalah is a very complete system," says Youdkevitch. "It has something to say about everything." And, he notes, you don't have to be Jewish to learn the system. "Kabbalah," he says, "is for everyone."

Especially a pop star seeking world domination.

-- Chuck Mason

The Kabbalah Learning Centre is located at 8411 W. Palmetto Park Rd. in Boca Raton. For a complete schedule of classes offered at the center, call 561-488-8826.

 
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