Teen Kaballah group brings ancient spiritual tradition to the web

St. Louis Kaballah Centre’s bookstore in Clayton

Megan Wallis Freshman, Parkway West High School

It’s hard being a teen, hoping to fit in, pushing hard for good grades, looking for parents’ approval and, most importantly, trying to figure out one’s purpose in life.

Unfortunately, some teens seek answers and acceptance in unhealthy ways, such as drinking or smoking. But not all teens find their place through bad habits. Many have turned to a more spiritual and mystical way of thinking: Kabbalah.

Kabbalah, teachings based on Judaism through which one may find fulfillment and acceptance, has made a name for itself in St. Louis and around the country. And teens are paying attention.

“We teach Kabbalah in a very practical way so anyone can apply it into their daily life challenges,” says Ariel Viener, a Kabbalah teacher in Los Angeles.

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And when he says “anyone,” he means it. Kabbalah reaches out to any teenager, Jewish or not, and invites him or her to join the movement.

“You don’t have to be Jewish,” Viener says. “In fact, Kabbalah is not a religion, but a spiritual technology for the soul.”

The teachings of Kabbalah are embedded in the Torah that Moses received at Sinai, making it based upon the traditional teachings of Judaism. However, Kabbalah allows choice.

“There is no ‘you have to’ or ‘you must do,’ ” Viener says. “One of our main teachings is, ‘Don’t believe anything we teach you, but try it for yourself and see if it works.’ ”

In order for teens to find their way either on their own or with the guidance of others, they learn the teachings through classes taught by professionals, as well as through books and online courses.

“There are classes you are able to watch via webcam,” says Brittany Gregory, a follower of Kabbalah and a senior at Parkway Central High School who does not practice Judaism. “You’re able to watch from the comfort of your own home or with others at the Kabbalah Centre.”

The Kabbalah Centre, an international organization, has a bookstore and learning center in the heart of Clayton. Whether through classes or books available for purchase, the center provides the resources kids of any age need to start learning. Sometimes, though, parents are a teen’s greatest inspiration, demonstrating the benefits and teachings of Kabbalah right in their own home.  

“I decided to pursue Kabbalah because my parents studied it, and they really drew me to it,” says Adam Stienau, a freshman at Kirkwood High School who follows Kabbalah but does not practice Judaism. “The way it changed them really made me want to study it.”

But why has Kabbalah become increasingly popular among teens? 

This 4,000-year-old tradition has seen a growth as something else grew, too: materialism. People are observing, as well as experiencing, that money cannot buy true happiness.

“The growth [of Kabbalah] is because materialism didn’t make people happy at the end of the day,” Viener says. “Kabbalah offers a path for long-term fulfillment.” 

And fulfillment seems to be exactly what some teens have discovered as a result of their studies.

“I used to be very egotistical and always wanting and wanting and never really giving back,” Adam says. “Then I went to Kabbalah and realized how bad that was for me. I don’t put myself on such a high pedestal [anymore], and I feel so much better.”

Some teenagers are finding that Kabbalah is a healthy practice that provides a meaningful way of living, no matter how old they are. In fact, Rabbi Max Weiman, director of St. Louis-based Kabbalah Made Easy Inc., thinks you are never too old – or too young – to start down that path.

“It’s fabulous for teens to be involved in anything meaningful,” says Weiman, author of the book “48 Things, 49 Days.” “If they are interested in it on their own, they are old enough.”

But with age come choices —  the choice of deciding how one wants to live. If the new iPhone only brought temporary happiness or the stress about fitting in becomes too much, Kabbalah could be the little push that just might make all the difference. 

“I would definitely recommend studying Kabbalah,” Brittany said. “It gives you a different way to look at things, so it is very helpful with dealing with certain obstacles a teen might be going through.”