Apparently, Judaism has found a new representative: Madonna. "I am an ambassador for Judaism," Madonna proclaimed this week while visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres. In particular, Madonna sees herself as an ambassador for Kabbalah, a mystical school of Jewish thought.
Never mind that Madonna isn't Jewish. Never mind that Jewish thought itself prohibits the study of Kabbalah unless one becomes expert in all other areas of Jewish law, practices all 613 of the Jewish commandments (Madonna has broken at least eight of the Ten Commandments) and is at least 40 years of age. Never mind that Madonna's brand of Kabbalah is a concoction of fallacious philosophy and creepy voodoo.
No, Madonna is well-qualified to be spokeswoman for Judaism. "You don't know how popular 'The Book Of Splendor' is among Hollywood actors," Madonna told Peres, ignoring the silent retching of thousands of Jews worldwide. "Everyone I meet talks to me only about that. I am an ambassador for Judaism." Fellow Hollywoodite and faux Kabbalah devotee Ashton Kutcher told Israeli newspapers that Kabbalah made him a better actor -- one shudders to think how much worse "The Butterfly Effect," "The Guardian," "A Lot Like Love," "Cheaper By The Dozen" and "My Boss's Daughter" would have been without Kabbalah to guide Kutcher's masterful performances.
Kabbalah is the new Scientology in Hollywood. The faux Kabbalah conference that attracted Madonna and Kutcher to Israel also brought moral beacon Rosie O'Donnell. Other celebrities who have flirted with faux Kabbalah include saintlike figures Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Sandra Bernhard and Demi Moore.
Hollywood's fascination with Kabbalah springs from a lust for spiritual reward without spiritual work. The glitterati love any religion that allows them to sleep at night without restricting whom they sleep with. And the Kabbalah Centre caters directly to such glitterati.
The Kabbalah Centre, run by husband-and-wife team Philip and Karen Berg, suggests that those who invest the right amount of cash can earn prosperity, protection and absolution from God. The Bergs started the Kabbalah Centre in 1971, when they realized that religious snake oil sells even better than regular snake oil. Between 2001 and 2005, Madonna alone had reportedly handed over $18 million to underwrite the Centre's activities. The Centre sells red string bracelets at $26 a pop, scented candles for $15, water in a perfume bottle for $10 and copies of the Zohar for $415.
The Bergs rake it in because Hollywoodites have guilty consciences. They feel guilty about their prosperity, since many are closet Marxists. They feel uneasy about their spiritual prospects. But they certainly don't feel guilty enough to change their behavior. They prefer instead to use their money to buy a cloak of fake piety. Then they don it, bragging about their spiritual depth.
That's why Madonna, the Pied Piper of Raunch, ponies up millions to wear a red thread bracelet she could buy for 50 cents at the nearest CVS. That's why Scientologist Tom Cruise spends bundles to cleanse himself of "thetans." That's why Hollywoodites embrace cultish environmentalism, pledging to drink their own purified wastewater (Cate Blanchett this week) or use one square of toilet paper per restroom visit (Sheryl Crow).
The glitterati are quite willing to take on obligations, as long as those obligations aren't moral. The Kabbalah Centre doesn't force Madonna to stop encouraging promiscuity or cease simulated sex acts on stage. She gets the benefits of egoistic religious observance -- she gets to feel "deep" -- without actually having to be deep. As Andrew Breitbart, who co-authored "Hollywood, Interrupted" with Mark Ebner, told me, "The only piety Madonna has adhered to throughout her entire career has been at the altar of the Church of Narcissus."
Madonna is no ambassador for Judaism -- she's an ambassador for Hollywood arrogance, egocentrism and hypocrisy.