Monday, June 15, 2015

Living the Life of Jewish Meditation: A Comprehensive Guide to Practice and Experience

Living the Life of Jewish Meditation: A Comprehensive Guide to Practice and Experience by Rabbi Yoel Glick is a guide to meditation in a Jewish style, although Glick is not afraid to delve into other traditions to shore up Judaism’s sometimes faltering credentials as a contemplative religion.

The truth is that Judaism is not strictly a meditative or contemplative tradition.  For most of its history, meditation, contemplation, and mystical experience was always the province for the very few; with the possible exception of many forms of Chasidism, which created a mass movement stressing a popular mystical-Kabbalah, Judaism in its mainstream forms is about halakah, community prayer, and the proper adherence to divine instructions.

Despite this, Judaism does have a meditative/contemplative current. But examples are few and far between.  If you read many books on Jewish meditation, you will read the story of the sages who sat and hour before prayers and hour after; of the Holy Ari who spent seven years in a hut along the Nile contemplating his great mystical insights.  Perhaps you will read the account of Shimon Bar Yochai’s time in the cave where he received the insight to compose the Zohar.

These are the building blocks of the Jewish meditation tradition. But Rabbi Glick goes further, using examples from the Vedantic Indian tradition and Buddhism to illustrate the cross-cultural applicability of most forms of meditation.  So, if you are very frum, this book is not for you.

Overall, this is a comprehensive work.  Rabbi Glick provides detailed and specific forms of mediation to implement with simple, clear instructions; in the last half of the book, the takes a macro look at the subject, examining how frequent meditation impacts an individual.

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