“Meditation, Judaism, and Self-Mastery”
Let’s reclaim our spiritual heritage!
We will continue our study of the Jewish idea of “enlightenment,” with a focus on the soul, using the teachings of Biblical scholar Ethan Dor Shav.
We will also discuss ways to deal with problems when meditating, including deep breathing.
The Traditions: Enlightenment
Rabbi Kaplan – “Meditation and the Bible”
Review, p 18:
Ethan Dor Shav: “Soul on Fire: A Theory of Biblical Man”
Ethan Dor-Shav was an Associate Fellow at the Shalem Center. His last essay in Azure was “Ecclesiastes, Fleeting and Timeless” (Azure 18, Autumn 2004). The author dedicates the essay to the memory of his grandfather, Rabbi Elisha Kohn.
Ethan Dor-Shav studied philosophy of science at Tel-Aviv University and was an associate fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He writes about biblical philosophy.
In what follows, I intend to show that the original Hebrew terminology was both distinct and consistent, and that the very absence of visible souls in the Hebrew Bible points to a more commanding alternative conception of man’s inner being. I also intend to show that while the Bible does not up- hold the soul-body dichotomy—which most critics have considered prerequisite to a belief in the persistence of the soul after death—it does demonstrate the presence of a four-element structure of both matter and spirit that supports a belief in life eternal. This structure has been either overlooked or confused with Aristotle’s schema to the point that the spiritual implications of the biblical usage have gone undiscovered.
Thus, scholars searching the Hebrew Bible for signs of an interest in the afterlife have been looking through the wrong intellectual lenses, and have therefore missed the Hebrew Bible’s profound teaching concerning man’s constitution and destiny. To gain access to this metaphysical worldview of the ancient Israelite Sages we must stop looking for a landscape of Heaven under the light of our preconceived expectations. In ancient Israelite philosophy, the netherworld is to be understood, not imagined; the divine soul is to be realized, not seen.
The first step in parsing the Hebrew Bible’s idea of man is to clarify the text’s view of the cosmos. Any notion of souls “in Heaven” al ready invokes this link. In antiquity, the picture of the cosmos defined the framework of reality. It stretched from the realm of the gods to that of the demons, and its governing order commanded all natural law in the phenomenological world. For the Hebrew Bible, the cosmic picture is defined by a four-element hierarchical construct. Surprising to those familiar with the model solely from Greek thought, a version of the ancient theory of the four elements—Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire—debuted in the ancient Israelite kingdom before Aristotle or, probably, Empedocles. Most easily, the four primal elements can be discerned in successive verses in the open ing chapter of Ecclesiastes (this reference will soon help illuminate earlier biblical sources):
Here, then, are the biblical spheres of the cosmos: Fire, as heaven, is on top; then a circling wind; below it the green earth; and underneath the primal waters of the abyss, called tehom.
This explains the body-plant analogy employed throughout the Hebrew Bible-
ploy this parallel usage. Particularly, the same word, zera, denotes both the seed of plants and the seed of man. Likewise, the word for fruit, pri, also describes children—“fruit of the loin”—and at least a half-dozen other terms employ this parallel usage. Indeed, plant imagery is frequently employed to describe human physical existence, and continuity. Isaiah: “There shall come forth a shoot from the trunk of Yishai.” Elsewhere in Isaiah: “Your bones shall flower like grass.” Ezekiel: “I made you thrive like a plant in the field.” Psalms: “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree.”47 More than merely poetic metaphors, these analogies point toward the core of the biblical worldview.
The body, therefore, is far more than a clay vessel. Man, in some sense, is first of all a plant. Itself growing, then wilting with age and eventually re- turning to the earth (only to fertilize new growth), the material body marks our being as an organism. On this level of existence, each and every one of us is a seed of Earth, like the flowers and the trees. And the elemental Earth principle, as a sphere of generation and degeneration, explains the puzzling link within the first verse of Ecclesiastes with which we opened: “A genera- tion goes, and a generation comes,” because “the Earth stands forever.” Our growing body, created of Earth, is our share in this basic, organic cycle of reality.
Benefit of Meditation: seeing objective reality
Steve Siebold, “177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class”
Champions Avoid Delusion, p 224 – quoting Confucius
Best practices for meditation
Bhante Gunaratana, “Mindlfulness in Plain English,”
Dealing with Distractions, pp 109 – 130
Deep breathing, p 110