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What Is Jewish Meditation?

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  • Written By: Debra Barnhart
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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Jewish meditation is practiced in a variety of ways but its goal is always to achieve spirituality and a better understanding of Judaism and its beliefs. The relaxation and health benefits of this meditation are also important. Jewish meditation techniques include chanting verses from the Torah, focusing on the sound of Hebrew words, analytically studying the Torah, and praying in meditation. Like other forms of meditation, Jewish meditation can be practiced alone or in a group.

Judaism has a long tradition of spiritual meditation, and many present day meditation techniques are based on ancient texts. Meditation was a key component of the Kabbalah movement that Jewish tradition says is over 4,000 years old as well as the Hasidic movement that developed in the 18th century. Kabbalah’s focus is mainly on God and the nature of human existence. The Hasidic movement revived the teachings of Kabbalah for the masses, and Hassidic masters taught that religious understanding must be combined with meditation in order for it to be effective.

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Sefer Yetzirah is an ancient text that describes Jewish meditation. It advises meditating on nothingness and on God as well as on opposites like good and evil. Word meditation is also important in the Jewish tradition, which holds that words are not just symbols but have the power to transform the soul through contemplation. The Sefer Yetzirah states that since God created the letters they are vital to spiritual meditation and understanding the nature of the universe. The meditator selects a letter and outlines the letter in his or her mind. Then he or she visualizes the letter in relationship with other letters, finally combining them into words and then into lines of text.

Kabbalah meditation known as Sh’ma focuses on the oneness of the universe. The basis for this meditation is a line from the Torah, which recommends that Jews focus on God’s oneness when they lie down to sleep at night and awaken in the morning. Starting meditation an hour before beginning to pray is also advised by the Torah. The purpose in this is to bring the meditator closer to oneness with God as a preparation for prayer.

Another Kabbalah meditation is used prior to trying to conceive a child. It recognizes the unity of the male and the female becoming one soul. According to this belief, children choose their parents, and spiritual meditation ensures that the parents will attract a spiritual soul.

Meditative positions are important in Jewish meditation as well. Some Jewish mediation experts advise kneeling with hands outstretched or hands uplifted up to gain spiritual energy. Another position, called the prophetic position involves kneeling with the head between the knees. This position is a specific reference to Elijah on Mount Carmel.

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