Resource Room

For Steve Kobrin's Jewish Meditation Class

“Meditation, Judaism, and Self-Mastery”
Let’s reclaim our spiritual heritage!


The Hekhalot Text
“Meditation and Kabbalah” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, p 41
Mantra Meditation

D. Second Commonwealth: lack of teachers; temptation of idolatry.

The Second Temple period in Jewish history lasted between 516 BCE and 70 CE,[1] when the Second Temple of Jerusalem existed. The sects of Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and early Christianity were formed during this period. The Second Temple period ended with the First Jewish–Roman War and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
After the death of the last Nevi’im (Jewish prophets) of antiquity and still under Persian rule, the leadership of the Jewish people was in the hands of five successive generations of zugot (“pairs of”) leaders. They flourished first under the Persians (c. 539 – c. 332 BCE), then under the Greeks (c. 332–167 BCE), then under an independent Hasmonean Kingdom (140–37 BCE), and then under the Romans (63 BCE – 132 CE).
During this period, Second Temple Judaism can be seen as shaped by three major crises and their results, as various groups of Jews reacted to them differently. First came the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah in 587/6 BCE, when the Judeans lost their independence, monarchy, holy city and First Temple and were partly exiled to Babylon. They consequently faced a theological crisis involving the nature, power, and goodness of God and were also threatened culturally, ethnically, and ceremonially as they were thrown into proximity with other peoples and religious groups. The absence of recognized prophets later in the period left them without their version of divine guidance at a time when they felt most in need of support and direction.[2] The second crisis was the growing influence of Hellenism in Judaism, which culminated in the Maccabean Revolt of 167 BCE. The third crisis was the Roman occupation of the region, beginning with Pompey and his sack of Jerusalem in 63 BCE.[2]This included the appointment of Herod the Great as King of the Jews by the Roman Senate, and the establishment of the Herodian Kingdom of Judea comprising parts of what today are Israel, Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

  1. Jewish leadership: Discipline of the Chariot now a secret.

    Merkabah/Merkavah (Hebrew: מרכבה) mysticism (or Chariot mysticism) is a school of early Jewish mysticism, c. 100 BCE – 1000 CE, centered on visions such as those found in the Book of Ezekiel chapter 1, or in the heikhalot (“palaces”) literature, concerning stories of ascents to the heavenly palaces and the Throne of God. The main corpus of the Merkabah literature was composed in the period 200–700 CE, although later references to the Chariot tradition can also be found in the literature of the Chassidei Ashkenaz in the Middle Ages.[1] A major text in this tradition is the Maaseh Merkavah (Works of the Chariot).[2]
    The Talmudic interdictions concerning merkabah speculation are numerous and widely held. Discussions concerning the merkabah were limited to only the most worthy sages, and admonitory legends are preserved about the dangers of overzealous speculation concerning the merkabah.
    For example, the secret doctrines might not be discussed in public: “Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee, neither search the things that are above thy strength. But what is commanded thee, think thereupon with reverence; for it is not needful for thee to see with thine eyes the things that are in secret.”[9] It must be studied only by exemplary scholars: “Ma’aseh Bereshit must not be explained before two, nor Ma’aseh Merkabah before one, unless he be wise and understands it by himself.”[10] Further commentary notes that the chapter-headings of Ma’aseh Merkabah may be taught, as was done by Rabbi Ḥiyya. According to Yer. Hagigah ii. 1, the teacher read the headings of the chapters, after which, subject to the approval of the teacher, the pupil read to the end of the chapter,[11]although Rabbi Zera said that even the chapter-headings might be communicated only to a person who was head of a school and was cautious in temperament.[12]

    According to Rabbi Ammi, the secret doctrine might be entrusted only to one who possessed the five qualities enumerated in Isaiah 3:3 (being experienced in any of five different professions requiring good judgement), and a certain age is, of course, necessary. When R. Johanan wished to initiate R. Eliezer in the Ma’aseh Merkabah, the latter answered, “I am not yet old enough.” A boy who recognized the meaning of חשמל (Ezekiel 1:4) was consumed by fire (Hagigah13b), and the perils connected with the unauthorized discussion of these subjects are often described (Hagigah ii. 1; Shab. 80b).[12]
  2. Replace it with a unifying structure: the Amidah.

E. Amidah:

  1. Meditation requires repetition.
  2. Mantra meditation.
  3. Common form of meditation for entire nation.

F. Meditation common from Talmudic times through Middle Ages.

The Talmud:
The process of “Gemara” proceeded in what were then the two major centers of Jewish scholarship, Galilee and Babylonia. Correspondingly, two bodies of analysis developed, and two works of Talmud were created. The older compilation is called the Jerusalem Talmud or the Talmud Yerushalmi. It was compiled in the 4th century in Galilee. The Babylonian Talmud was compiled about the year 500, although it continued to be edited later. The word “Talmud”, when used without qualification, usually refers to the Babylonian Talmud.

The Middle Ages:
Middle Ages, the period in European history from the collapse of Roman civilization in the 5th century CE to the period of the Renaissance (variously interpreted as beginning in the 13th, 14th, or 15th century, depending on the region of Europe and other factors).

  1. Talmudic references to meditation.
  2. Sefer Yetzirah.

    “Sefer Yetzirah” – R Aryeh Kaplan
    pp xii – xiii
    a) Earliest source – Avraham Avinu.
    b) Saadia Gaon – assembled later.
    c) Attribution to Avraham.
    d) Creating people?
    e) Conversion?
    f) Companion?
    g) Use of Hebrew alphabet.
    h) Astrology through meditation.

    Rabbi Saadia Gaon
    (4642-4702; 882-942)
    Rabbi Saadia ben Joseph, one of the last and most famous Gaonim, a great Talmudic scholar, Jewish philosopher and inspiring leader, was born in a small village near Fayyum, in Egypt (the site of the ancient city Pithom which together with Raamses was built by Jewish slaves under the Pharaohs). His family traced its origin from Judah, the son of Jacob.
    His father, Rabbi Joseph, was a learned man and he was Saadia’s first teacher. Saadia had excellent qualities and was a brilliant student. Before he reached the age of twenty years, he already wrote his first work, the Agron, the first Hebrew dictionary and grammar. It was a great help to Hebrew poets and writers of sacred poems. The famous poet and commentator on the Torah, Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra, who lived about two hundred years later, praised this work highly, and considered its author as the earliest authority on the Hebrew language.
    Rabbi Saadia became even more famous when he began his writings against the Karaites. The Karaites,were a sect of Jews which came into being many years before Saadia. Which denied the authority of the Talmud, believing only in the T’NaCh, had become very strong and influential in Saadia’s time, especially in Egypt.
  3. Heykhaloth Rabbatai.

    The Hekhalot literature (sometimes transliterated Heichalot) from the Hebrew word for “Palaces”, relating to visions of ascents into heavenly palaces. The genre overlaps with Merkabah or “Chariot” literature, concerning Ezekiel’s chariot, so the two are sometimes referred to together as “Books of the Palaces and the Chariot” (ספרות ההיכלות והמרכבה). The Hekhalot literature is a genre of Jewish esoteric and revelatory texts produced some time between late antiquity – some believe from Talmudic times or earlier – to the Early Middle Ages.

    Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan – Meditation and the Bible – pp 38-39
    a) Key to prophetic system
    b) Chariot?
    c) Relationship to Cherub
    d) Riding = traveling
    e) Meditative techniques

G. Meditation and Jewish philosophers in the Middle Ages.

  1. Meditation and Jewish mystics and Kabbalists in the Middle Ages.

    Moses ben Maimon,[note 1] commonly known as Maimonides (/maɪˈmɒnɪdiːz/ my-MON-i-deez)[note 2] and also referred to by the acronym Rambam (Hebrew: רמב״ם),[note 3] was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician, serving as the personal physician of Saladin.[8][9][10][11][12] Born in Córdoba, Almoravid Empire (present-day Spain) on Passover eve, 1138 (or 1135),[13][14][15][16][17] he worked as a rabbi, physician and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He died in Egypt on 12 December 1204, whence his body was taken to the lower Galilee and buried in Tiberias.[18][19]

Levi ben Gershon (1288 – 1344), better known by his Graecized name as Gersonides, or by his Latinized name Magister Leo Hebraeus,[1] or in Hebrew by the abbreviation of first letters as RaLBaG,[2] was a medieval French Jewish philosopher, Talmudist, mathematician, physician and astronomer/astrologer. He was born at Bagnols in Languedoc, France. According to Abraham Zacuto and others, he was the son of Gerson ben Solomon Catalan.

  1. Abraham Abulafia and breaking the codes.

    Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (Hebrew: אברהם בן שמואל אבולעפיה) was the founder of the school of “Prophetic Kabbalah”. He was born in Zaragoza, Spain in 1240 and is assumed to have died sometime after 1291, following a stay on the small and windswept island of Comino, the smallest of the three inhabited islands that make up the Maltese archipelago.[1]
  2. Publication of the Zohar.

    The Zohar first appeared in al-Andalus (now Spain)[5] in the 13th century, and was published by a Jewish writer named Moses de León (c. 1240–1305). De León ascribed the work to Shimon bar Yochai (“the Rashbi”), a tanna active after the Siege of Jerusalem (70 CE) and the destruction of the Second Temple during the protracted period known as the Jewish–Roman wars.[6] According to Jewish legend,[7][8] Shimon hid in a cave for thirteen years studying the Torah and was inspired by the Prophet Elijah to write the Zohar. This accords with the traditional claim by adherents that Kabbalah is the concealed part of the Oral Torah.
  3. A new era for Kabbalah.
  4. Safed and The Ari.

    Isaac (ben Solomon) Luria Ashkenazi (1534[1] – July 25, 1572) (Hebrew: יִצְחָק בן שלמה לוּרְיָא אשכנזי Yitzhak Ben Sh’lomo Lurya Ashkenazi), commonly known in Jewish religious circles as “Ha’ARI”2, “Ha’ARI Hakadosh” [the holy ARI] or “ARIZaL”[3] [the ARI, Of Blessed Memory (Zikhrono Livrakha)], was a leading rabbi and Jewish mystic in the community of Safed in the Galilee region of Ottoman Syria, now Israel. He is considered the father of contemporary Kabbalah,[4] his teachings being referred to as Lurianic Kabbalah. While his direct literary contribution to the Kabbalistic school of Safed was extremely minute (he wrote only a few poems), his spiritual fame led to their veneration and the acceptance of his authority. The works of his disciples compiled his oral teachings into writing. Every custom of the Ari was scrutinized, and many were accepted, even against previous practice.[3]
    Luria died at Safed on July 25, 1572, and is buried at the Old Jewish Cemetery, Safed.[3]
  5. Kabbalah as an intellectual exercise. p 47