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15.02.2014
For the Jew who is exploring meditation, the question could be asked: "If it is proper to meditate on a meaningful object, what is wrong with those who meditate on idols? What is the difference between someone who, using Jewish techniques, goes off and sits in a cave meditating for many years (as some famous Jewish teachers have) and someone who, using the Eastern techniques, also sits in a cave and meditates for many years?
The source of the Jewish meditation techniques can be traced to Abraham, and some of the Eastern meditative techniques can also be traced to Abraham. Both meditators go up and down, both see great wonders and deep darkness, both experience great highs and great lows. The difference is; the Eastern meditator will receive ACCORDING to HIS intentions, words and deeds, and the ones that follow the TORAH’S METHODS will recieve ACCORDING to the TORAH’S intentions, words and deeds. If one meditates on a lofty subject, such as visualizing the All as the Universal, Unchanging, single One, but still keeps an idol of any kind to adore, he will most certainly corrupt his spiritual path. Or, if despite one’s lofty insights that his meditation brings, he clings to immoralities thinking that he is above the limiting restrictions that common decency instills, he will fall lower and lower into the deepest pits of hell. Although his techniques might produce visions and wonders that glitter brightly, his highs will be limited by his principles.
These conclusions are not inherent in the MEDITATION TECHNIQUES but are reached solely because they are inherent in the MEDITATOR'S INTENTION.
Our Congregants comprise an eclectic, diverse and welcoming community, united by our common goals, extraordinary vision and unwavering faith. Please be with us in solidarity as our community gathers together for our annual observance of Yom Hashoah, the commemoration of the Holocaust. Contemplative practice in Judaism has taken a variety of forms, and bears a variety of names, but it's been a part of Judaism for a very long time.
We read in Torah that Abraham connected with God in the morning, Isaac in the afternoon, and Jacob in the evening, so we do the same.
Later, during the time of the Tanna'im (the 1st and 2nd centuries of the Common Era), Jewish mystics sought to elevate their souls by meditating on the chariot visions of Ezekiel.
Meanwhile, the sages of our tradition were discussing the proper balance of keva (fixed form) and kavanah (intention or meditative focus) in Jewish prayer. Much later in our history, the movement we now call Hasidism, which began with the Baal Shem Tov in the 18th century, inherited those meditative practices along with the kabbalistic aspiration of seeking devekut with God. In the Mussar (ethical self-improvement) school which developed in 19th-century Europe, contemplative practices were refined and reframed in yet another way. All of this may sound unusual to those of us who are most familiar with the Jewish practice of liturgical prayer, known in Hebrew as tefilah. So summed up “Zen and Zohar On Repairing The World,” a recent weeklong spiritual gathering at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Conn.
The Zen and Zohar retreat was as much a merging of Buddhism and Judaism as it was a pulling apart of the two worlds. Alison Laichter, 31, the founder of the Jewish Meditation Center (JMC), says that many people at the retreat asked her similar questions: How is this different than Buddhism? Though she’d discarded her Jewish identity, Laichter went on Birthright, a free trip to Israel.
The book propelled her to learn more about Jewish contemplative practice and, after seeking other books and teachers in California, Laichter decided maybe she wasn’t fully Buddhist.
Miriam Eisenberger, 31, who was at the Zen and Zohar retreat, attended the first ever JMC sit almost three years ago.
Another retreat participant, Gail Albert, through her own Jewish meditation practice, found hidden beneath those Five Books of Moses a narrative of internal spiritual growth through meditation.
Like meditation, how she got there is a story of diversion and return: She missed a different retreat with Rabbi Cooper, the author of “God Is A Verb,” at the Isabella Freedman Center because of an illness. Previously, Albert received certification to teach Jewish meditation from Chochmat Halev, an independent renewal center for Jewish learning and meditation. The meditation at Isabella Freedman altered her consciousness more than ever, Albert says.


For four days over the past weekend I participated in a Jewish silent meditation retreat, led by Rabbi Jeff Roth (The Awakened Heart Project) and organized by True North Insight. The Asheville Jewish Meditation Group will meet at Beth Israel Synagogue this coming Sunday from 1-3 p.m.
The schedule for the Winter and Spring 2015 is below.  Saturday gatherings are at Congregation Beth Ha Tephila  from 10 to 12 and Sundays are at Beth Israel from 1-3.
Out of the texts of the Torah, the Rabbis created teachings bringing deeper meanings to the wisdom of the Jewish people known as Midrash.
All are welcome to join our weekly musical Shabbat celebration for young children and families, led by Penny White.
Learn to play Mah Jongg with Mahj Mavens Carol Gillen and Judy Kaplan on 4 consecutive Fridays for 2 hours.
Pray ‘n Play is a structured and fun-filled Shabbat program at the Chabad House, enabling children ages 3-13 to attend synagogue in a meaningful way, while allowing their parents to enjoy the prayers without worry. All are welcome to join our weekly musical Havdalah celebration for young children and families led by Penny White. Calling all fiddles, mandolins, banjos, guitars, stand-up basses, other compatible acoustic instruments, and heartfelt vocals to celebrate our OLD-TIME and BLUEGRASS heritage!
Each session will include a brief period of instruction and introduction to a specific type of meditation practice, an opportunity to try that practice, some extended time for silent meditation practice, and some closing conversation for reflections on our practice. Some went so far as to argue that prayer without the right meditative intention doesn't actually count. One Mussar meditative practice features focusing on different middot, character-traits or qualities which we can seek to cultivate in ourselves. We may have the notion that meditation is something Buddhists do on their cushions, whereas Jews engage in  something different altogether! One purpose is to help us connect with God (whatever we understand that term to mean); the other purpose is to take a long deep look inside ourselves, to see who we most truly are, to become aware of our consciousness and our thought processes, and to guide ourselves toward becoming the people we most intend to be. For example, letter-meditations featuring the four-letter Name of God, where one inhales on the ?, exhales on the ?, inhales on the ?, exhales on the second ?. At our Friday morning meditation minyan, we spend half an hour consciously entering into Jewish meditation practices.
Every time we reach a kaddish, and I remind us that the kaddish is a doorway in the service from one part of the service to the next, and invite us to pause for a moment, and take a deep breath, and see what we're feeling in that moment, and then to carry that feeling (whatever it may be) into the next part of our prayers?
The roshi turns to the rabbi and says, “You know, the Japanese always leave without saying goodbye. Co-sponsored by the Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn, it brought together Kabbalah teachers Daniel and Hana Matt and Buddhist practitioners Glassman and Marko. Some, though, were recently returned to their roots after a journey into the belly of the Buddha. Having grown up in a Conservative Jewish community with Holocaust survivor grandparents, she says she did everything “right,” Jewishly. For a time, she embraced her inner “Jubu,” a term popularized in “The Jew in the Lotus,” Rodger Kamenetz’ book about a delegation of Jews meeting with the Dalai Lama. Now, at the Jewish Meditation Center, which is the fulfillment of a dream to have a place to meditate in a Jewish context with friends, she’s professionally Jewish.
Switch the letters around to Heh-Vav-Yod-Heh, which pronounced Havaya and means “Being.” Following the breath in meditation, simply inhale Hava and exhale Yah. This is based on the Torah portion for that specific week and is an interpretation that arose for the person while sitting with the text.
She has never been to the JMC, but the same book that brought Laicther back to Judaism, brought Albert to the Zen and Zohar retreat in early July.
It happens that way because suddenly you have the time and capacity to look around, find your own path and rejoice in it. We provide the juice, blessings, and challah – you provide the smiles and ruach (spirit in Hebrew).


These services, which happen on the first Friday of each month, are often led by students in our Religious School.  There is a story instead of a sermon. Soccer Shots is the national leader in youth soccer development for children ages 2 through 8. We will also share a little bit of text study out of the Jewish mystical, Hasidic, and meditative traditions. Some of their practices were re-imagined and re-interpreted by later mystical and contemplative movements in Jewish tradition. In the days of the Tanna'im, communal prayer frequently took the form of variations on known themes, where a skilled prayer-leader would improvise new words on the existing themes of the prayers.
Many of us who are not able to reach meditative states through speedy recitation of Hebrew prayers choose instead to daven shorter versions of the prayers, bringing greater intention and attention to each word. We don't skip any prayers or any of the elements of prayer which are required in order for a person to be yotzei (to have fulfilled the obligation of davening), but instead of reciting each prayer in full-text form, we chant only one or two lines of each, over and over, allowing the meaning of the words to soak in to our hearts and souls. Speaking of which, there's wonderful series of podcasts at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, by Rabbi Sheila Weinberg and many others, which draw on Jewish contemplative practice(s). Besides Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko, who taught at the Zen and Zohar retreat, there’s Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Norman Fischer and Sylvia Boorstein, to name a few.
Two dozen participants practiced meditation and Jewish mystical text study in the mornings and took part in Zen sits and counsel sessions in the afternoons. Community members, many of whom never connected with Jewish text before finding the JMC, now discover deep meaning in Bible stories, often related to meditative practice. Just like the Israelites, she says, a dedicated meditation practitioner moves from innocence to self aggrandizement to enslavement to freedom to compassion and lovingkindness. But just as Moses never went into the Land of Israel, the Jewish meditator never reaches enlightenment. The irony that I can’t WAIT to be able to do nothing and say nothing when I feel like it is striking me full on at the moment. The first Tuesday of the month will be Apprentice Directors Training (ADT) for those that want to learn the laws of Duplicate Bridge. Open to everyone, those already involved with some kind of meditation practice, those who are curious about what meditation offers and where to start, and anyone in-between. Over time, those improvised words were written down, and by the Middle Ages became fixed in more-or-less the forms we know today. Many contemporary Mussar teachers advocate taking time each day to sit in silence and simply notice how one’s mind wanders. There are also embodied Jewish meditation practices which map the sefirot (the diagram of divine qualities, usually conceptualized as a sort of tree) onto the human body and direct energy and attention from one to the next.
Then we sit in silence for a few moments as the prayer's meaning continues to resonate and reverberate in us before we move on to the next chant. Meanwhile, Laichter discovered meditation and, seeking to learn more, found that all the teachers and books on the subject were Buddhist. I think there's a clue to the meditative quality of Jewish worship in the very word we most frequently use to mean prayer. And another wise crone who always reminded me that the questions are as important as the answers.
Albert had a credit to attend another retreat, and Rabbi Cooper recommended she go to this one.
Living alone, I find myself in silence often during the day, especially outside; such a welcome respite. Sometimes I will speak out loud and be surprised at the sound of my own voice having not spoken aloud for a day.



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