Three Types of Jewish Meditation

        May 2014    
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Jewish Meditation

By Matthew Lemberger

Jewish meditation isn't everyone's cup of tea or is it?

It is different than Indian meditation. The Eastern idea of Oneness is attaining the experiential state of Oneness called Samadhi or the Awakening This is the goal of higher consciousness.

Judaism also has this goal in its daily prayers. Judaism states that all is God. The awareness of man's higher consciousness is also God.

Worshipping God with true sincerity and keeping God's name in the world, is Judaism's mission. Meditation can be used for this purpose. The higher the state of consciousness, the deeper the awareness. Meditation is focus and concentration.

Concentrating one's attention on God and the countless manifestations of God are perhaps the highest level of comprehension, knowledge and wisdom that are available to us.

Jewish Meditation is thousands of years old. Meditation was traditionally taught to a few students on a one to one basis. It was part of the Sod (secret tradition). The Gemorrah mentions that Rabbi Akiba and three other famous Rabbis were meditating, trying to enter the Portal of the realm of God, to disastorous results. Only Rabbi Akiba cane out as he went in. Over the following centuries, meditation toook a backseat to ritual practice.

There are several books that discuss Jewish mediataion of the past. The great modern scholar, and practioner of Jewish meditation in the 1960's Aryeh Kaplan, recounts in his in his excellent books, Meditation and Kabbalah, Meditation and the Bible, and Jewish Meditation, A Practical Guide, discusses various forms of Jewish meditaion throughout the ages. There are also studies by Gershon Scholem, in his work, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, and his student Moses Ital.

The following are three meditations that I use. They may not be new in the world, but they work for me. I would like to share with you. The first contains of reading the prayer book aloud. The second concerns the Shemah. the central prayer of the Jewish religion. The third concens the Sefirot of the Tree of Life of Kabbalah from the Zohar.

Reading the Prayer Book Aloud

This meditation which I highly recommend, is to read the words of the prayer book aloud in a language so that you hear and understand every word. The best time to use this technique is during the morning prayers. This technique will increase your concentration of the prayers, give you a deeper understanding of the meaning of the words that you may have been saying by rote, and will greatly elevate your state of mind while praying. It will reveal the lyrical, practical and mystical meaning of the prayers.

It takes a little more time to read the prayers aloud, so if you're in a hurry to go somewhere, as many people are in congregational prayer, I don't recommend it. It is best done alone. You can read them aloud with a partner. You can take turns reading sections.

Choose a quiet, comfortable place to do this. Read the prayers with devotion. Read them carefully, understanding each idea.

As you approach the Psalms of David, which are the Hallelujahs, your energy will probably be more intense than when you began. The Hallelujahs are pure poetry, originally accompanied by David's lyre. They are filled with grandeur, the highest of Praises to God. They open a portal to transcendence. Examine if praying by reading aloud has been of assistance to you.

Meditation on the Shema

Before you begin your morning prayers, It is good practice to become quiet before you pray. Close your eyes and think of God, however you conceive of God,since it is God you are praying to. This short excercise, will prepare you to receive the meaning of your daily prayers. Getting quiet, can also be used to quiet your heart and mind throughout the day.

During your morning prayers, when you arrive in the section where the Shema begins, take a few seconds to prepare yourself for this significant prayer. It is the prayer that is suggested you say you say before taking leave of this world. Let's examine the prayer.

In The Complete Art Scroll Siddur (Prayer book) the Shema is translated into English from the Hebrew as: "Hear Oh Israel, God is Our Lord, God is One" The emphasis is that there it there is only one God, not many gods, and that God is One.

In this Hebrew prayer, God is mentioned three times . The word Hashem is used for God's name since Jewish law does not allow the pronunciation of the four Hebrew letters that make up God's name. They are the letterd God used to create the universes.

In English Christian Bibles, Jehovah is used for the four letters. In the past, Jewish meditation focused on these four letters, moving them around in the mind, without pronouncing them to gain higher levels of consciousness.

The second translation the Shema is slightly Different. It is from the Chabad Siddur (Kehot Publications) Chabad is a Hassdic sect that has a more mystical tradition.

"Hear Oh IsraeL, God is Our Lord, God is One" ( Kehot publications)

The emphasis is on the Unity of God: God is One.

When you say this prayer, slow down for second or two. Feel and experience these words. Allow the Oneness to enter your mind. Feel the unity of All and Everything.

When you hold the last syllable of the last word in the prayer, Echod (Oneness), let it take you to the place of the transcendental unity of God's Oneness.

When you are saying this prayer, be in a state of Awareness. Make the effort to not read it by rote. This prayer is very powerful and with practice, may open up the wordless door to the unity of God.

Sefiroth Meditation

The third meditation, and perhaps the most controversial, concerns the Sefirot mentioned in the Zohar, originally attributed to the great Kabbalist and mystic, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai who lived at the time of the Roman Occupation of Israel, two thousand years ago. It was published in the 1490's A. D. (BCE) by another Kabbalist, Moses De Leon of Spain. Perhaps he wrote it down because of the coming Expulsion from the Jews of Spain in 1492 and was afraid the secret traditions would be lost.

It is amazing how one person's courage and efforts can have such a significant effect on the course of destiny of the Jewish people and the people of the world.

To do this meditation requires some familiarity with Kabbalah and the Sefirots. I'm sure this information can be obtained on line . If you can't find it on line, (This is not a sales pitch. It is also included in my book Kabbalistic Palmistry -- Lulu .Com)

Kabbalah states that when God created the world, He created The Sefiroth or vessels God to contain the energy, seen and unseen. God continues to create and maintain His world.

Sefiroth meditation, also requires a few moments of quiet, before beginning. The Tree of Life, is the blue print of how God created the world and continues its functioning

The meditation I am about to relate is for students well versed in Kabbalah.

The meditation begins with Keter that is the source of light in the Universe. Don't try to see Keter, but alllow yourself to feel or experience it. (I'm limited here by using words).

Next move to Chochmah, Bina and Das (Which are also the initials or acronym for Chabad) . These three Sefirots, Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding, are not visible in this world.

They do not have Physicality. Wisdom is God's Plan. Knowledge the experience of knowing God's plan and understanding is internalizing the knowledge.

The three next Sefirot are Chesed which symbolizes Kindness, Compassion, Mercy, and the love of God. They are a symbolized by the right arm, which is Chesed.

The left arm is Gevurah which has several attributes: strength, the law, severity, the power of God.

The next Sefiroth or vessel, Tiffereth is in the center of the chest, between Chesed and Gevurah . Tiffereth is a balance between of Gevurah and Chesed, between Kindness and Severity. Its meaning is beauty.

Netzah is symbolized by the right leg. Netzah represents Eternity or Victory, endurance or fortitude. It is the lasting endurance of God, and is the right leg

Hod which symbolizes Splendor, is represented by the left leg, and is The Majesty of God. It is also represses the quality of humility.

Yesod is the male organ, between the right and left legs. Yesod represents the Foundation of all the active forces of God. Yesod is the combination of Netzah and Hod. Where Tiffereth exists between two Sefiroth, Chesed and Gevurah, Yesod is the balance between Netzah and Hod

Malchut is the final Sefiroth and exists at the bottom of the Tree of Life: It has several meanings by Kingship, described in the Zohar as the Keneset Israel, the mystical archetype of Israel's community. It is the female componet. It is also referred to as as the Shekinah, the divine feminine principal, the Holy Spirit of God. Everything comes in and goes out of Malchut. Malchut is the last of the Sefirot. It is the Sefirah of regeneration. It transforms and returns of the energy of creation to Keter. From Malchut the Sefirot begin again. Malchut is the female aspect where all is transformed and birth begins.

You can also stand for this meditation. Visualize the energy moving from Keter to Malchut, and from Malchut back to Keter through your body. If you are versed in Kabbalah you will understand the meanind of the Sefiroth as the move through the parts of your body. Knowing the meaning of the sefiroth increases the experience of this meditation.

This meditation comes with a warning sign. Jewish tradition tells us that we need to be careful when we practice meditation. There is always the chance that you can become too involved in seeking higher consciousness and tip the balance scales of equilibrium of daily living. Sefiroth meditation falls into this category. This meditation is only for students of Kabbalah.

.I have read several pseudo Kabbalah books that compare the Sefiroth to the Indian system of Chakra meditation. I think both must be followed under the guidance of a true teacher. Investigating or practicing higher forces of energy must be approached very carefully.


from the May 2014 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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