I almost feel like my life can be measured BMIT and AMIT… Before My Israel Trip and After… The changes have been dramatic… in the way I understand and pursue Judaism… in my desire to study and learn… in so many ways.
Until I started to really and truly delve deeper this last year, I had never read any Aryeh Kaplan, nor did I know there was such a thing as “Jewish Meditation.”
To me, meditation meant chanting and “ohm” ing… Buddhist stuff… or the guided meditations I remember first doing at a summer program when I was a teen.
I always really enjoyed it and found it to relax and rejuvenate me, and I absolutely believe in the positives that meditation provides. So why aren’t we doing it more?
Life… rushing around… being too busy? Perhaps, but an afternoon nap has proven health benefits and has been shown to actually make us MORE productive… And meditation relieves anxiety and stress and provides a huge boost to our mental and physical health.
And what about prayer? For me, it has similar effects. The morning ritual of Modeh Ani, wrapping and praying is my way of connecting to Hashem, starting my day on the right foot, and bringing my head and heart together.
Well… Jewish meditation is a combo of all of the above.
In fact, Kaplan thinks meditation is uniquely Jewish… and not something borrowed from other cultures. He reminds us that it was an “authentic and integral part of mainstream Judaism until the eighteenth century.”
Rabbi Nissan Dovid Dubov says:
“Belief must be intellectualized, internalized, and integrated into one’s actions, and that is the purpose of Jewish meditation.”
“Many people associate meditation with eastern religion but few associate it with a regular synagogue service. The truth is, however, that meditation is an essential ingredient of our religion and the base of all observance. There are 613 Mitzvot in the Torah. Six of them are obligatory every single second of the day, and upon deeper reflection we see they are the bedrock of observance.”
“This daily service cannot be rushed or done without preparation, and it must be realized that the order and words are precise and meaningful. It also requires a solid comprehension of its meaning, both literally and conceptually. But beyond that, it requires personalization. We should reflect on what they mean to us individually, how it will help us change for the better, and how it has an impact on daily life. Meditation gives us the tools not only to understand the words of the prayers, but to carry these words and their meaning into our daily lives when we engage in the day-to-day activities that can sometimes seem far from obvious G‑dliness.
“Meditation requires practice and study. For the beginner, a good place to start would be to decide that before one prays one should sit quietly for a few moments and “know before whom you stand.”
1) Believe That There Is A G-d, Know He Loves You… Trust.
2) Do Not Believe In Any Other G-d
3) Know That G-d Is One, Undivided… Echad.
4) Love G-d
5) Fear G-d (Be in AWE Of G-d)
6) Do Not Go After The Desires Of Your Eyes And Heart
Whatever takes away your stress and anxiety… provides you with focus and calm… and gives you a better way to live and pursue your day is good, and meditation must be an individual pursuit and endeavor. Don’t think of it as a tack on to Judaism… but something uniquely Jewish… and powerful… and important…
Make it a part of your daily ritual.
Hey, you can always chant OY instead of OHM!
Happy, Healthy New Year… the other one.