“Meditation, Judaism, and Self-Mastery”
Let’s reclaim our spiritual heritage!
- Welcome and Housekeeping
A. Main topic: the teachings of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Z”L
- Meditation was once part of mainstream Jewish life – most especially prayer.
- Self-mastery is a universal spiritual practice, and is one of the most important goals of meditation.
- By studying R Kaplan’s teachings, we will become part of his mission to reclaim our spiritual heritage.
B. Sources for this class:
- Kaplan texts:
a) “Meditation and the Bible”
b) “Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide”
c) Other Kaplan texts
- Other scholars on meditation, raising consciousness, and self-mastery.
- Class will be an ongoing story.
- General curriculum.
- The topic of each session will evolve.
- Each session will have unique information, so people can attend when available.
** News: as of next week’s class, you will be able to register once for every session!
- Presentation of information. Follow the outline.
- Meditation: posture / focal point / return to focal point.
- Shmooze: follow up / questions and comments.
- This is not a class on how to meditate, or Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah. Our purpose is to become familiar with our spiritual, and the Biblical sources for them. Students who wish to advance in their practice will need to find a qualified teacher.
- My goal is to present the expert viewpoints as I understand them
- Research summary vs specific sources.
- Alternative viewpoints welcome.
- Each session will be recorded, and posted on my public YouTube channel. See the email and the FB group for the link (info on the group is below.)
- The recording will stop when we meditate.
- You can join with or without video.
- All will be muted during the presentation.
- Feel free to use the Chat feature.
- You can mute yourself during the Shmooze.
- Use the “Unmute” option or Shift / Command / A to unmute yourself.
G. Additional resource:
Facebook group: Jewish Mediation Class Resource Room
This group serves as a Resource Room and Study Hall for people who attend my class on “Meditation, Judaism, and Self-Mastery.” It includes:
Link to our recording of sessions
Access to class materials
Discussions on topics addressed in class
Questions for further discussion in class
A. My 10 key questions about “Jewish spirituality:”
- Why is there so much repetition in Jewish prayers? (Sooo boring 🙂
- What exactly is kavanah?
- How do you avoid “exploring after your heart and after your eyes” (ref the Shema?)
- Why do so many Jews have no idea how to relate to God?
- Why do so many Jews seem to be “going through the motions (mindlessly)” in their religious observance?
- What good is speed davening?
- Why are so many Jews involved in “spiritual / Eastern” disciplines?
- How did the prophets get their powers?
- Why aren’t there any more prophets?
- Can the miracles of the Bible really be understood with a conventional mindset (is the proof in the consciousness?)
B. The missing link is: meditation.
- “In the most general sense, meditation consists of thinking in a controlled manner. It is deciding exactly how one wishes to direct the mind for a period of time, and then doing it.” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.
- “Meditation is the foundation of all true martial arts. To still, and thus control the mind, is of the utmost importance.” Shifu Raymond Ahles.
- “(World Class performers) know that the better they become at controlling their thoughts, the better their results will be, and it all begins with metacognition.” Steve Siebold, Mental Toughness Coach.
- There are many types of meditation. Did Moshe Rabbenu and Dovid HaMelech sit on a cushion?
- Why haven’t I ever heard of Jewish meditation?
Kaplan – Guide – pp vii – viii
A. Published material never translated from the Hebrew.
B. Material hard to understand.
C. Exists only in ancient, unpublished manuscripts.
D. Available only in libraries and museums.
E. Hard to obtain copies, ie Moscow.
F. Obsolete scripts.
G. Kabbalah not meant for masses.
- Modern attempts at renewal:
A. Publication of “Meditation and the Bible.”
B. The Rebbe issued directive to explore Jewish meditation.
- Overview: How did we get to this point?
Kaplan – Guide pp 40-49
A. Pre-Jewish Enlightment: Meditation widespread.
- Meditative practices were widespread among Jews throughout history.
- Mysticism and intellectualism had equal status
The Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskalah, was an ideological and social movement that developed in Eastern Europe in the early nineteenth century and was active until the rise of the Jewish national movement in the early 1880s. Its partisans were known as maskilim. In certain senses, Haskalah was an extension of the eighteenth-century European Enlightenment, but it was centrally concerned with Jews’ political status and their relationship to European culture. Essentially, Haskalah sought to exploit the new possibilities of economic, social, and cultural integration that appeared to become available to Jews in the late eighteenth century with the removal of legal discrimination
B. The Enlightment:
- Intellectual level raised at expense of other values.
- All references to meditation in mainstream Jewish literature vanished.
- The only references remained in Biblical and post-Biblical sources.
C. Biblical and post-Biblical sources:
- Meditation central to prophetic experience.
- First prophesy experienced while in meditative state.
- Meditation practiced by large portion of Israelite people, in meditation schools.
- Non-prophets also meditators.
- Meditation schools very demanding.
- Idolatry seemed easier.
- Lust for idolatry.
- Homeland provided control.
- Diaspora – protect the masses.
- Ezekiel could no longer be understood.