In late April of this year, the Colombian Kabbalah Centre community entered a booth in the Bogotá International Book Fair, a globally recognized event in its 25th year of existence. There are two Centres in Colombia – one in Medellin and one in Bogotá – this is their 3rd straight year at the fair, and they collaborated to install the biggest, most aesthetically pleasing and well-situated booth yet. During the ten days of the fair, thousands of people made their way through the booth and were introduced to Kabbalah for the first time. Rav Berg made his first ever visit to Colombia during the fair, where he was eager to see the results of the Kabbalah Centre’s hard work over the years.
This year the Colombian Kabbalah Centre community was determined to get the most out of their participation in the book fair. Yehuda Berg’s book, “The 72 Names of God” in Spanish, was launched and highlighted during the fair, with eight other Kabbalah Centre titles in Spanish also available. People from all walks of life browsed books and engaged in conversation with volunteers manning the stand.
Towards the end of the fair, Senior Kabbalah Centre teacher Batsheva Zimerman gave a lecture in an auditorium on the fairgrounds that over 800 people attended. This talk was an introduction to Kabbalah, and touched on the significance of the 72 Names of God. After the lecture hundreds of people crowded the Kabbalah Centre booth, patiently waiting their turn to buy books and ask questions about Kabbalah. By the end of the fair 1,700 Kabbalah Centre titles had been sold, many to people who had heard of Kabbalah, but had very little idea of what it is in actuality.
A student shares her personal encounter at the Bogotá book fair:
During my visit to Bogotá I was able to feel the warmth of the people, their kindness and gentleness, especially at the book fair where I had the pleasure to share and collaborate at the stand of the Kabbalah Center. It was a wonderful experience—one I am so grateful to have had—to interact with the clients, as well as with the volunteers.
For me personally, the book fair was a great success and I would love to go back and repeat that experience. It was a pleasure to feel the warm openheartedness of the people of Bogotá. – Jaqueline Goncalves
The wisdom of Kabbalah has gained much momentum in Latin America in recent years; Centres are growing to the point of bursting, while the demand for Kabbalah Centre books in Spanish is outpacing supply. The fact that the Bogotá Book Fair organizers offered the Centre a large booth in an important area shows just how popular and visible Kabbalah is in Latin America. Yehuda Berg arranged for his father, the Rav, to go to South America and see the growth for himself.
The Rav traveled to Colombia for the first time ever, landing in Bogotá during the book fair. He mentioned to Batsheva that he was very happy to be there, and was looking forward to seeing change. At the Bogotá Centre, the Rav was pleased to meet and interact with students, many of whom had come from other countries. Students remarked that his words were exactly what they needed to hear to stay strong on their spiritual paths.
One student shares his thoughts, feelings and experience of the Rav’s presence in Bogotá:
I was telling Batsheva the day before the Rav arrived in Bogotá just how easy it is to read stories of the tzadikim (righteous souls)– to read about the miracles they did and how they used to travel from town to town spreading Kabbalah and helping people… But today we have a tzadik among us!
We may not realize it because we live it everyday, and sometimes we lose perception and appreciation of his greatness, for his work, what he has done and how he has opened Kabbalah to the world with only one purpose, to remove chaos and suffering from humanity.
I say the Rav is the tzadik of our generation, the difference now is that the teachers, as well as the students like us, used to travel by horse and now we do it by plane. To have the merit and joy to share a Shabbat with the Rav can’t be explained with words…
In Bogotá it was a dream, the previous preparations, the day he arrived, then Shabbat, the happiness of the people, the students and teachers during the connections, it was wonderful.” – Josef Dauber
A special Shabbat was set up and made open to the public that weekend, and it turned out to be a momentous occasion. Bogotá’s Jewish community had caught wind of the Rav’s visit and delegations from three synagogues, including three rabbis, came and participated. An Ashkenazi Rabbi spoke with the Rav, telling him he was good for the world. The Rav replied that the rabbi was a good man. The Shabbat radiated such a positive, unified energy that even a couple of the chefs working at the venue where the event was held asked about Kabbalah afterwards, and are now taking introductory courses.
The next day the Rav attended a dinner with 50 of Bogotá’s leading influential figures, where he was asked why he opened Kabbalah up to the masses. The Rav told a parable that related to the answer, and held the crowd enrapt as he answered in a profound and loving way. As one of the dinner guests reflected later, “This is exactly what I was looking for.”
At 84, Rav Berg continues to travel around the world, helping people on nearly every continent connect to the wisdom of Kabbalah. After his stop in Bogotá, the Rav went on to Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, connecting with each Kabbalah Centre community and encouraging them to continue doing great things.