web analytics
October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Jewish Meditation

Meditation is all the rage in cyberspace it seems and what’s more “it is keeping capitalism alive.”
meditation-6

In my youth the Beatles, notably George Harrison, introduced us to Transcendental Meditation and a variety of other Eastern religious practices. Yoga had been popular long before, of course, so had Rabindranath Tagore, whom my father read. If the practices were completely devoid of any outside religio-cultural association, there was no problem in trying them out, any more than fitness training might create a conflict of interest with Judaism, which of course it did not.

I gave yoga a shot for a while, but soon lost interest. Later on I read the books that the late and much lamented Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan wrote on meditation in Judaism. I would close my eyes, imagine a selected letter of the Hebrew alphabet and focus on that letter for as long as I could. That then gave way to concentrating on what looked like black and white clouds that I would “see” as I closed my eyes. At the very least, it relaxed me more often than not. Sometimes it transported me into a different world in which I felt myself to have gone beyond my own body and into the “spiritual”. This became a daily habit, before I started my morning prayers and at various other times during a day as the opportunity arose.

When the Talmud (Brachot 32b) said that “the early pious ones use to wait an hour in preparation before they started to pray,” this was precisely what they must have been doing, meditating to get in the mood. I studied medieval mystics like Abraham Abulafia and saw that they were practicing various forms of mystical meditation; I realized that meditation had for a long time been part of our own Jewish tradition. Many of the greatest rabbis and Chasidic masters used these meditations in their different ways. It was a tool, to prepare for prayer, to make prayer itself more personal and meaningful, and to enhance the spiritual side of their religious lives.

You may well wonder, if this is so, why there has been a conspiracy of silence in much of the Orthodox world for so long. I believe it is, in part, a reaction against the excesses and abuses of Kabbalah in the past, men like Shabbetai Zvi and Jacob Frank. In addition in post-Enlightenment Europe at any rate, the rise of rationalism tended to mock mysticism. Nowadays there is a return towards this other aspect of Jewish religious experience precisely because we know too well the limitations of science (as well, of course, as its benefits).

On many occasions during my teaching life, I have given courses on meditation in Judaism and on practices popular in the Kabbalah, not as ends in themselves but as means to fuller Jewish spiritual life. So for me all of this is nothing new. It is an essential part of my Judaism and has been for most of my life.

Now The Economist has discovered it (November 16th). Meditation is all the rage in cyberspace it seems and what’s more “it is keeping capitalism alive.” The article makes some interesting assertions. “Buddhism stresses the importance of ‘mindfulness’.” Indeed, but so does Judaism, and without the need to reject materialism either. This is the reason for blessings in our ritual, to think and consider before one acts. “Taking time out from the hurly burley of daily activities.” Isn’t that what Shabbat, festivals, and indeed daily prayer are designed to do? Judaism has always tried to combine being part of the ordinary material world while yet preserving the alternative spiritual counterbalance. Not going overboard in either direction–Maimonides’s Golden Rule.

Now all of a sudden this “mindfulness” stripped of its original ascetic dimension is the fashion, and everyone is trying it. Something that has always been part of our tradition is now suddenly taken up by Google, eBay, Twitter, and Facebook. They all advocate meditation in general, as well as offering courses within the company. And hey, presto, it becomes kosher!

About the Author: Jeremy Rosen is an Orthodox rabbi, author, and lecturer, and the congregational rabbi of the Persian Jewish Center of New York. He is best known for advocating an approach to Jewish life that is open to the benefits of modernity and tolerant of individual variations while remaining committed to halacha (Jewish law). His articles and weekly column appear in publications in several countries, including the Jewish Telegraph and the London Jewish News, and he often comments on religious issues on the BBC.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Jewish Meditation”

  1. Mindfulness meditation can be extremely helpful and beneficial in many areas of life. I have been teaching it since 1978 and have seen hundreds of lives changed for the better. It is helpful to have instruction when beginning mindfulness meditations. I recommend these to my psychotherapy clients all the time, Meditation 1 and Meditation 2 by Jon Shore. You can go and download them at: http://www.meditation-download.com.

    To see real change you must practice this every day.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Which glass has the poison?
State Dept. Complains New Homes in Jerusalem ‘Poison’ US Peace Plan
Latest Indepth Stories

There is not even a hint of recognition that Hamas deliberately fires rockets at civilian targets in Israel while storing arms and rocket launchers among its own civilians in Gaza.

No one with any sanity would dream of rationalizing or justifying the depredations perpetrated on the Arab world by ISIS.

With $2 billion on hand the Islamic State is an extremely well-funded terrorist group that may pose a major international crisis for the U.S. and the world. Learn about their rise to power and the toll they’ve taken thus far.

In the recent Gaza war and its aftermath, we saw a totally illogical reaction from the world.

A., a teacher: “I do not know a single Gazan who is pro-Hamas at the moment, except for those on its payroll.”

Is the global community clear in its response to these extremist groups?

Like our fabled character, Don Quixote, President Obama has constantly spawned his own reality.

Boroujerdi was informed that “the pressures and tortures will increase until he has been destroyed.”

Fatah: Hamas stole relief aid for Gaza and distributed it amongst its followers in mosques.

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Washington remains ignorant of the need to dismantle alliances with various Muslim countries.

Defeating IS requires bombing its strongholds and recognizing the violent nature of Islam.

Abbas again used the UN to attack Israel, distort history, and undermine prospects for peace.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot even agree to move their clocks back on the same day.

More Articles from Jeremy Rosen
putin napoleon

Obama’s incompetence, the way his naive worldview and credulity have made a fool of him, are equally frightening

Rashid Khalidi

The Ramaz School was wrong to refuse to allow Rashid Khalidi, the Palestinian apologist, to speak to its senior students.

Imagine you take your family somewhere where there is no such thing as a day off.

Pascal’s famous wager was that it makes sense to bet on God.

The Talmud (Eiruvin 96a) mentions that Michal, the daughter of King Saul, wore Tefilin and no one objected.

We’ve known that you can define neither Jews nor Judaism in a way that will satisfy all its various elements.

The religious world needs to fight back constructively.

There is a dichotomy between personal, private prayer and public communal prayer.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/jewish-meditation/2013/12/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: