Friday, April 4, 2008

Judaism Meditation: Drawing closer to God

According to Rami Shapiro, rabbi of Temple Beth Or in Miami, Florida, and author of Wisdom of the Jewish Sages, mystical interpreters of the Bible have found evidence of meditation dating back to Abraham, the founder of Judaism. The Old Testament prophets apparently entered into altered states of consciousness through fasting and ascetic practices, and mystics in the first few centuries A.D. meditated on a vision of the prophet Ezekiel. But the first formal Jewish meditation, says Shapiro, centered on the Hebrew alphabet, which was considered the divine language through which God created the world. “If you could see into the alphabet,” explains Shapiro, “you could see into the source of creation and thereby become one with the creator Himself.” Like practitioners in all the God-centered religions, Jewish meditators have traditionally used sacred phrases or verses from scripture as mantras to bring them closer to God.

As one great Hasidic master used to say of the phrase r’bono shel olam (“master of the universe”), if you just repeat it continuously, you will achieve union with God. And it is precisely this union that Jewish meditation intends to induce.
Like Christianity, Judaism has been inspired by Eastern influences in recent years to revive its own meditative traditions. Rabbis like Shapiro (who practices Zen meditation) and David Cooper (who trained in Buddhist mindfulness meditation) are creating a Jewish meditative renaissance by forging a new synthesis of ancient techniques from East and West.

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