Last Saturday at the Interfaith Harmony Day, I was one of five panelists who represented different religious traditions. During the first part of the panel presentation, the moderator posed to us various questions about belief and practice. The most intriguing question he asked was: What aspect of a faith tradition other than your own do you especially appreciate?
It took me only a second to come-up with my response. I said, “Growing-up in a Jewish home, I learned much about saying prayers as a way to express thanksgiving to God. My religious education enhanced my understanding of Jewish prayer. Praying is an essential part of my life as a Jew.”
I went on to say: “However, I knew nothing about the practice of meditation. It had no part in my education, even as a studied to become a rabbi. Yet I have grown to appreciate how meditation can deepen my spirituality. I attribute much of this to the influence of Buddhism in American life. I am grateful for gifted Jewish teachers who have learned Eastern practices, fused them with Judaism’s world view, and have enriched my spirit.”
My response last Saturday had to be brief and to the point. But to expand on it for a moment: the truth is that meditation is not really a Buddhist concept that has been imported into Judaism. It’s really been a part of Judaism for millennia. However, given the rationalism that dominated especially Reform Judaism, the practice of meditation was excluded as a legitimate expression of spirituality.
Yet that is changing, especially as many are seeking ways to deepen our connection to the Divine. I am fortunate to have participated in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, in which meditation was one of the primary spiritual practices we explored. Through silence and guided meditation, I was gently led to be present in the moment; to be mindful. As my teacher, Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg, writes, “Mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness of our experience without judgment. It is learning to be with what is and relaxing in that awareness before we set out to strategize, fix, change, and save.”
There are some very helpful resources about Jewish meditation you may wish to
explore. Sheila created a CD that you can find at
There are also many books that have been written about Jewish meditation. Go tohttp://www.jewishlights.com/mm5/merchant.mvc? where you will discover a number of worthwhile resources that Jewish teachers have authored.
If you have any interest in learning more about Jewish meditation, please let me know. I would be more than willing to assist you in your journey.