Resource Room

For Steve Kobrin's Jewish Meditation Class

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


Three Weeks Schedule
Sunday Jul 11: 8pm EST
Sunday July 18: No class- Tisha B’Av

Wednesday July 21: 8pm EST

We will continue our study of Musar meditation, and learn how it helps us rearrange our lives, as part of becoming enlightened.

We will also discuss how to understand distractions, to improve your meditative practice, Part VI: Aversion.

Jewish meditation techniques we have covered so far:

Amidah: achieving consciousness of God through prayer.

Hitbodedut: becoming mindful through internal and external isolation.

Ruach Hakodesh (Enlightenment:) transcending the physical, through work on yourself.


Unification: experiencing Oneness with God by reciting the Shema.

Blessing power: meditations to bring you closer to God through mundane acts.


The Traditions: Enlightenment
Rabbi Kaplan – “Meditation and the Bible”


Rabbi Kaplan – “Meditation and the Bible,” p 18
In the Bible, we find that three words are usually used to refer to the soul, these being Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama. According to the Kabbalists, these represent the three most important levels of the soul.

These are the steps leading to Ruach Hakodesh outlined in the Talmud: Study; Carefulness; Diligence; Cleanliness; Abstention; Purity; Piety; Humility; Fear of Sin; Holiness (p 20)

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.

…. the Bible … teaches how to distinguish within each one of us the material, the dynamic, the relational, and the ideal, and these distinctions add up to a worldview with far-reaching philosophical consequence. In doing so it allows the ideal “I” to shed not only the physical body and mortal life, but also the constituent of social relativity: In the kingdom of light we transcend all characteristics of gender, status, tongue or nationality. In turn, the other three components of our being attain their own continuity: the body in progeny, the nefesh in universal life energy, and the ruah in the collective. Modern cosmology, therefore, does not debase the Israelite four-tier paradigm any more than dissecting a heart obliterates the idea of love.

Only when we appreciate that the essence of man’s neshama lies precisely in the idea of an eternal “name” can the death of our beloved—or rather his or her posthumous existence—contribute to the completion of God’s name.

How does “our Neshama / name ” connect with “God’s Neshama / Name?”

“The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology I”
Immortality and the Soul: I. Meet the Real You, pp 197 – 200

Are you your body?
Are you your brain?
Are you your memories?
Where do “you” go when you die?
God’s memory.


“The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology I”
Immortality and the Soul: II. Naked Before God, pp 201 – 204

What is immortality like?
The purpose of the brain and nervous system
The mental activity of the disembodied soul
Looking at oneself
Standing naked before God
No rationalization
Burning shame


“The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology I”
Immortality and the Soul: III. What the Dead Think of Us, pp 205 – 207

Do the dead know what is happening in the world of the living?

Ref Talmud and Kabbalah
Post-body awareness
The body as the main source of attention
Utmost respect for human remains
Learning how to focus
Body as a refuge from disorientation
Punishment of the grave

Material obsession vs spiritual immersion
Preparation in this world

Deep dive on “Gehenom”
Ref “The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology I”
Immortality and the Soul, p 203

“A number of our great teachers write that the fire of Gehenom is actually the burning shame one experiences because of his sins.”

“We find that evil leads to shame…”

What sins are evil?
How does the pursuit of Ruach Hakodesh help us avoid them?

Ruach Hakodesh (Enlightenment:) transcending the physical, through work on yourself.

These are the steps leading to Ruach Hakodesh outlined in the Talmud: Study; Carefulness; Diligence; Cleanliness; Abstention; Purity; Piety; Humility; Fear of Sin; Holiness.

Judith S. Antonelli, “In the Image of God”

Traditional Judaism / sources
Torah M’Sinai
Torah living improved status of women
Misogyny is from Jews, not Judaism
Rambam approach: weaning from pagan environment
Traditional sources: Tenakh; Talmud; Midrash; Kabbalah

For context, uses history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, ancient religion, and feminist theory

Judith S. Antonelli, “In the Image of God”
pp 309 – 312
King is god, and god is king
Gei ben Hinom
Initiation rite?
The sound of the tophet
Child sacrifice of the Carthaginians
Secular sources
Lost Midrash
Gei ben Hinom = Gehinom
Eternal life vs eternal damnation
Sacrifice of the firstborn son
The link between incest and idolatry


From The Jewish Encyclopedia:
By: Emil G. Hirsch, Frants Buhl
Name of the valley to the south and south-west of Jerusalem (Josh. xv. 8, xviii. 16; Neh. xi. 30; II Kings xxiii. 10; II Chron. xxxiii. 6; Jer. vii. 31 et seq., xix. 2, xxxii. 35). Its modern name is “Wadi al-Rababah.” The southwestern gate of the city, overlooking the valley, came to be known as “the gate of the valley.” The valley was notorious for the worship of Moloch carried on there (comp. Jer. ii. 23). According to Jer. vii. 31 et seq., xix. 6 et seq., it was to be turned into a place of burial; hence “the accursed valley Ge-hinnom” (“Gehenna” in the N. T.) came to be synonymous with a place of punishment, and thus with hell (comp. Isa. lxvi. 24; Enoch, xxvi. et seq.; and the rabbinical Hebrew equivalent). See Gehenna; Paradise.

GEHENNA (Hebr. ; Greek, Γέεννα):
By: Kaufmann Kohler, Ludwig Blau
Sin and Merit.
It is frequently said that certain sins will lead man into Gehenna. The name “Gehenna” itself is explained to mean that unchastity will lead to Gehenna (; ‘Er. 19a); so also will adultery, idolatry, pride, mockery, hypocrisy, anger, etc. (Soṭah 4b, 41b; Ta’an. 5a; B. B. 10b, 78b; ‘Ab. Zarah 18b; Ned. 22a). Hell awaits one who indulges in unseemly speech (Shab. 33a; Enoch, xxvii.); who always follows the advice of his wife (B. M. 59a); who instructs an unworthy pupil (Ḥul. 133b); who turns away from the Torah (B. B. 79a; comp. Yoma 72b). For further details see ‘Er. 18b, 101a; Sanh. 109b; Ḳid. 81a; Ned. 39b; B. M. 19a.
On the other hand, there are merits that preserve man from going to hell; e.g., philanthropy, fasting, visiting the sick, reading the Shema’ and Hallel, and eating the three meals on the Sabbath (Giṭ. 7a; B. B. 10a; B. M. 85a; Ned. 40a; Ber. 15b;Pes. 118a; Shab. 118a). Israelites in general are less endangered (Ber. 10a) than heretics, or, according to B. B. 10a, than the heathen. Scholars (Ḥag. 27a; comp.Men. 99b and Yoma 87a), the poor, and the pious (Yeb. 102b) are especially protected. Three classes of men do not see the face of hell: those that live in penury, those suffering with intestinal catarrh, and those that are pressed by their creditors (‘Er. 41b). It would seem that the expressions “doomed to hell” and “to be saved from hell” must be interpreted hyperbolically. A bad woman is compared to Gehenna in Yeb. 63b. On the names of Gehenna see ‘Er. 19a; B. B. 79a; Sanh. 111b; et al.

The further from God, the hotter the flame?===
Rabbi Kaplan – “Inner Space,” pp 151 – 153
High-level meditation
Closeness to God
Open memory
(Burning wrongs – which wrongs?)
Cleansing shame

“You don’t want to hide; you realize that this fire and shame are cleansing you.”

Do people who have done evil know this?

Vacated space
Negative light
Two interpretations: shame and revelation


The Musar movement and how it promotes work on yourself.

Rabbi Kaplan – “Jewish Meditation,” pp 161 – 165
Musar – self-perfection
Interpersonal relationships
You can’t grow spiritually vicariously
Individual responsibility
Daily habit
Contemplation as meditation
Extraneous thoughts
Becoming a more effective human being
Mantra repetition
Absorbing the message
Speak to the body
Stop gossiping
Lose weight
Pace the changes

Quit smoking


Musar and rearranging your life
Rabbi Kaplan – “Jewish Meditation,” p 162

The first part of the Musar program was to make a daily habit of reading a lesson from a classical Musar work. After reading the lesson, one was to spend a short period of time contemplating it and relating it to one’s own life.
As the individual began to advance, this contemplation became a meditation. One would read from a classical Musar text on how to improve the ethical, moral, and religious quality of one’s life, then meditate on this lesson for twenty to thirty minutes. This is a simple type of meditation, similar to the one described in Chapter 3, where I discussed meditating on how to rearrange your life.

Meditation Techniques: Rearranging your life
Rabbi Kaplan – “Jewish Meditation,” pp 15 – 24

Meditation techniques
Three categories
Meditation categories
Controlled thinking
Rearranging your furniture
Rearranging your life
Multiple sessions
New threshold
Two ways
Extraneous thoughts
Oral conversation
Biblical verse
Entire verse
Visual contemplation
Externally directed
Any subject
Other faculties
Action meditation
Direct control of thoughts

Next class:

Best practices for meditation
Bhante Gunaratana, “Mindfulness in Plain English,”
Dealing with Distractions Part II, pp 115 – 130
Understanding distractions Lesson VI – Aversion, p 121

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