Jewish Meditation

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“Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide” by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

Aryeh Kaplan, Orthodox rabbi and author of  “Meditation and the Bible” (Weiser, 1978) and “Meditation and Kabbalah” (Weiser, 1981),  shows that meditation is consistent with traditional Jewish thought and practice. He then presents a guide to a variety of meditative techniques: mantra meditation (with suggested phrases and Bible verses to use as mantras); contemplation; visualization; experiencing nothingness (which he does not recommend for beginners); conversing with G-d; and prayer.

His instructions are clear and explicit, and his advice is informed and sound, advocating that a simple 20-minute-a-day program can indeed help make the practitioner a better person and a better Jew, and develop a closer relationship to G-d and things spiritual. Recommended for general collections. Marcia G. Fuchs, Guilford Free Lib., Ct. – Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc.

[This is] the first book to read on the subject. It is a gentle, clear introduction and provides exercises and practices that can be used right away by any Jew who wants a deeper prayer experience.” — Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Jew in the Lotus and Stalking Elijah

New and old davveners can learn from this sainted teacher how to deepen their holy processes. . . . One can, with the help of God and the aid of this manual, tap into the Cosmic.” — Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi

A guide to Jewish prayer and meditation that is both grounded in the tradition and genuinely mind-expanding. For anyone seeking to connect with the spiritual side of Judaism, this book is essential.” — William Novak

At a time when Jews are rediscovering their hunger for spirituality, Kaplan’s clear and comprehensive book could well be one of the most important Jewish books or our time.” — Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

The classic text for Jews who want to experience the meditative methods of their own spiritual tradition.” — Daniel Goleman, author of The Meditative Mind

Review by Rabbi Yonassan Gershom

As far as I know, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (may he rest in peace) was the first Orthodox rabbi to write about Jewish meditation for the general public. He did so because his own teachers recognized that American Jews in the 60s and 70s were growing up without knowledge of these traditions, and were therefore abandoning Judaism for other religions in order to be “more spiritual.” Hence this and other books by Kaplan on Jewish meditation.

Kaplan’s books are still considered to be among the most authentic on the market, and are kosher even among the Orthodox and Hasidic branches of Judaism. His first book, “Meditation and the Bible,” came out in 1978, and explored the various meditation techniques that were hinted at in the Bible and expanded in other Jewish texts. This was followed by “Meditation and Kabbalah” (1982), which explained the techniques in greater detail and provided first-ever English translations of many basic Hebrew texts. Both of these books, however, were quite academic and not intended to be how-to guides. Hence the third book here, “A Practical Guide” to Jewish meditation, published in 1985.

I mention the first two books because, if you read only this one, it may strike you as just another “new age” hodge-podge of ideas. Far from it. Kaplan took his cues from the most Orthodox of the Orthodox, i.e., the traditionalist Jews who had not lost the pre-Holocaust knowledge of these techniques. In his first two books, he clearly lays out the theory, drawing upon centuries-old Hebrew texts and first-hand descriptions by Jewish “saints” of various eras. In “Jewish Meditation,” he distills all this down into directions for actual daily practice. If these resemble “new age” ideas in some places, it is only because the New Agers have recently re-discovered terchniques that the Jews have used for literally thousands of years.

It is this little-known mystical tradition that Kaplan sought to make accessible to the average English-speaking reader. He was aware that many Jews had experienced success with Eastern meditation, but were not comfortable with some of the idolatrous practices that went along with it (such as chanting the names of  Hindu gods, which is forbidden in Judaism.)  He was also aware that the general public thinks of Jews as “Old Testament Hebrews” ala Cecil B. DeMille, who supposedly worship an “angry god” and have no inner spirituality.  Kaplan’s work corrects both of these problems. Whether you are Jewish or not,  if you meditate or are thinking about doing it, you will find this book to be of  great help in understanding the Jewish Path.

“Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide” by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan is available for iPhone,  iPod Touch,  iPad with free Amazon app  (download app – here)

Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 268 KB
Publisher: Schocken (January 12, 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English
Price: $9.28 (Buy now)

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