Resource Room

For Steve Kobrin's Jewish Meditation Class

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


Practical Training

Two modes of thinking
Rabbi Kaplan – “Jewish Meditation,”p. 8

Directing your mind
Commander Mark Divine, “The Way of the Seal”

Part 1: The Sentinel, p 77
Part 2: DIRECT Your Mind, pp 78 – 79

Background Instruction

  1. How to pray.
    Rabbi Kaplan – “Jewish Meditation” pp 104 -106

Bowing. p 104

What does it mean to say, “You are Blessed, God?”

Bringing down God’s essence:
Rabbi Kaplan, “Sefer Yetzirah, p. 70

Also “sitting,” p 42.

How exactly do we bow?

From Rabbi Daniel Rabin:
In the Bible, Daniel expressed his devotion to God when he “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:11). Liturgical scholar Uri Ehrlich notes that Daniel’s bows would have been full prostrations, with almost his entire body thrust on the ground, as was standard in ancient Israel.

By the rabbinic period, the standard bow became simply bending one’s knees and upper body. The Talmud states, “In reciting the Tefillah one should bow down at the appropriate places until all the vertebrae in the spinal column are loosened” (BT Berakhot 28b).
Many of the common bowing moments in prayer concern statements of blessing. Most notably the Barkhu prayer, which begins the morning and evening services, requires a bow, as do the first and last two blessings of the Amidah.
The full prostration on the ground, described in the Book of Daniel, has not been totally lost to Jewish practice. In Ashkenazic communities today, during Aleinu in the Mussaf service on High Holidays, some people bow all the way to the ground.
What does the Gemara say about bowing?
(Gemara) Question: To what do the 18 blessings correspond?
Answer #1 (R. Hillel): They correspond to the 18 mentions of Hash-m’s name in “Havu la’Shem Benei Elim” (Tehilim 29, which alludes to the first three blessings);
Answer #2 (Rav Yosef): They correspond to the 18 mentions of Hash-m’s name in Keri’as Shema;
Answer #3 (R. Tanchum): They correspond to the 18 vertebrae in the spine.
(R. Tanchum): When praying, one must bow until all the vertebrae in the spine protrude;

What exactly is prostration?
From Mi Yodea:
Prostration was common throughout the Biblical period and remained daily practice for many Jews into the medieval period, especially in Muslim countries. Maimonides in Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Tefila 5:13-14 discusses prostration in the context of the post-Amidah suplications/tachanun. He seems to be writing descriptively (this is what Jews do) rather than prescriptively (this is what one should/must do), and says that some have the practice of ‘kida’ (sitting on ones knees and then folding one’s body over them and stretching one’s arms straight out on the floor) while others do ‘hishtachavaya’ (lying completely flat with both arms & legs extended straight, a ‘superman’ type pose). It remained the practice for tachanun among Yeminte Jews until relatively recently, and continues to be practiced by some individuals here & there. In Ashkenazi communities it is only preformed during a few key moments during the High Holidays.
The only flat-out prohibition on prostration is that it cannot be done on stone floors outside the Temple in Jerusalem. Not very many places where Jews pray really have stone floors, but I suspect this prohibition is behind the common behaviour in Ashkenazi communities when prostrating during the High Holidays to put a towel or tallis bag beneath one’s head.

What do meditation teachers say about bowing?

From: Ilchi Lee is an impassioned visionary, educator, and New York Times bestselling author; he has dedicated his life to helping people reach their full potential by better managing their energy and the power of the brain.
He has developed many successful mind-body training methods, including Body & Brain Yoga and Brain Education. His principles and methods have inspired millions of people around the world to live healthier and happier lives.
Because it is difficult to focus on traditional meditation, I recommend bowing, rather than sitting meditation, to my students. Bowing is indeed a form a meditation that centers and calms the mind, but it is far easier for busy minds to follow attentively. Psychologists have noted for a long time that unfocused minds can focus a bit better if the body is engaged in repetitive movement.

Why should the vertebrae of the spine be loose when meditating / praying?
From: PARAMAHANSA YOGANANDA in his Autobiography of a Yogi gives an in-depth explanation of the scientific basis of Kriya Yoga, one of the most powerful and advanced meditation techniques ever available.

Meditation involves the withdrawal, through the spine, of life current from the sensory nerve branches, and the concentration of that accumulation of life force within the spherical spiritual eye. A straight spine and erectness of the neck and head are important in effective meditation. If one adopts an improper posture—his body bent, or his chin tilted up or down—his crooked vertebrae pinch the spinal nerves. This pressure obstructs the reversed flow of mind and life force from the sensory channels to the brain; there is then no reinforcement of the power of the inner telescopic eye to perceive Omnipresence.

Standing still.

Rabbi Kaplan – “Jewish Meditation” pp 104 – 105

Does standing help you be receptive?

From Daniel Yoel Cohen

Daniel Yoel Cohen is a therapist and teacher living in Jerusalem. He teaches with Or HaLev: Center for Jewish Spirituality and Meditation and runs experiential pilgrimage trips to Israel focusing on life of the spirit. 
Kabbalistic and Hasidic teachings teach that there is a constant influx of energy from the Divine into the world, yet we rarely perceive this in our daily lives. Could it be that the sense of lack and longing that so many of us experience is a function of our constantly running around, of not being still long enough to open to what Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook called the “flowing river of the supernal soul of life.”
The Amidah prayer is the place for this receiving, for the meeting of our human yearnings and God’s life-giving waters. The Amidah is the centerpiece of Jewish prayer, traditionally recited silently, three times a day, while standing still.
The stance of this prayer is rooted in the Bible, which records that the patriarch Abraham “got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood.” (Genesis 19:27) Standing contrasts with moving, and the word amad (“stood”) can also be translated as being still. This reading teaches us that the first dimension of prayer is to become still.

Was Abraham still when he stood before God?
Re: fate of sodom. See Genesis 18.22 (p 160.)
Re: fate of Lot. See Genesis 19.27 (p 177)

(Also see modern Hebew: Amud = pillar)

Eyes closed. p 105
Voice directed inward. p 105
Pace. p 105 – 106
Visualization. p 106

  1. Relating to God

B. Relating to God

Common terms for meditation found in Jewish texts:

RK Techniques, p 15
MD Mind Gym, p 79
MD wolf, pp 139 – 140