Kabbala for the Masses, or Money for Magic?

Philip Berg, who died last week, retooled kabbala as a superstitious self-help movement - but his commercial success and celebrity following hardly enhanced the reputation of Jewish mysticism.

Some two hundred years ago, just as Jewish emancipation was moving into high gear, Judaic scholars developed a new concept called “mainstream Judaism.” (Classical Hebrew has no way to express such a notion.) The “mainstream” was created in order to exclude anything that modern westernizing Jews might find embarrassing in Judaism. This meant, first and foremost, the entire mystical...