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Meditation Jewish Style

Meditation Jewish Style

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Published by Dina Ripsman Eylon
This short article gives some suggestions for meditation from a Jewish point of view.
This short article gives some suggestions for meditation from a Jewish point of view.

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Published by: Dina Ripsman Eylon on May 02, 2011
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07/10/2013

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Meditation Jewish Style
byDina Ripsman EylonPublished in the Iranian Jewish Chronicle / Chashm AndaazMarch, 2005 With increased celebrities’ interest in Jewish Kabbalah and other modes of Jewishmysticism, the public has become aware of the significance of Jewish meditation. Jewishmeditation classes are emerging in cities across the United States and Canada. Some offera combination of Yoga and meditation, as the two are closely affiliated.Nan Fink Gefen, the founding publisher of 
Tikkun Magazine
and the co-directorof Chochmat HaLev, a center of Jewish meditation in the San Francisco area, publishesand lectures extensively on Jewish meditation. She writes in
Tikkun Magazine
that duringone of her lectures a young woman approached her, saying that Judaism always seemedspiritually dead to her. Indeed, mainstream Judaism, as known today, is apprehensive of the practice. One reason for this attitude might be related to the potential confusion theirmembers could exhibit in differentiating between some forms of Jewish prayer andmeditation. The late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, the pioneer of modern Jewish meditation,notes that “many people express surprise that the Jewish tradition contains a formalmeditative system that, at least in its outward manifestations, does resemble some of theEastern systems. This resemblance was first noted in the
 Zohar 
, which recognized themerit of the Eastern systems, but warned against their use.” (
 Meditation and Kabbalah
,3.)Why then do people of all religious backgrounds meditate and what are thebenefits of mediation? People who meditate are frequently looking for inner peace andwellness. Meditation seems to be a feasible answer to such a search. Neuroscientistsconcur that meditation shifts waves from the right frontal area of the brain to the leftfrontal area; thus making a person calmer and happier. Elizabeth Monk-Turner, of OldDominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, demonstrates that the college students, whoparticipated in her clinical study of the benefits of meditation, experienced “fewersymptoms of aching muscles or joints as well as less use of drugs and tranquilizers.” (
TheSocial Science Journal
, 40 (2003), 465-470.) Additionally, studies by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, show that meditation canimprove memory and alleviate chronic pain. In a similar way, by increasing serotoninproduction, meditation can decrease stress, depression, anxiety, moodiness, andirritability. All of which are associated with the modern western lifestyle. Meditation isalso said to treat an array of physical aliments, such as hypertension, cardiac arhythmias,migraine headaches, and insomniaIn his book,
The History and Varieties of Jewish Meditation
, Mark Verman, anotable Kabbalah scholar, asserts that “there is no one dominant form of traditionalJewish meditation. Rather, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of disparate techniques,ranging from visualizations of Divine Names to candle gazing and chanting.” (ibid., ix)But despite this multiplicity of practices, Gefen insists that “the breath is central inJewish meditation.” (
 Discovering Jewish Meditation
, 15) This is certainly no news toanyone meditating in the Buddhist and Zen traditions. The main difference though in theJewish tradition is the meaning and variety of mantras.1

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