Jewish meditation has existed since biblical times. The practice takes many forms, such as sitting silently and emptying the mind; focusing on Hebrew letters, words, or phrases; an awareness and channeling of breath; chanting; and contemplating Torah philosophy. The meditated before or after prayer sometimes or other times they did it independent of prayer.
Jewish meditation tradition has been hidden for centuries, since rabbis worried that it might lead to idolatry in the Diaspora, or that might be of danger to uninitiated people. At the time of emancipation, meditation was strongly disavowed by secularized Jews because it was reminder of ghetto life considered “old-fashioned”. During the Holocaust, most of the Eastern European rabbis who had hanged on to the knowledge of it were killed.
What is Jewish meditation?
Jewish meditation as described is any kind of meditation when done in a Jewish context, in the service of Jewish spiritual activity as it were in the Jewish morphic field. The basic definition and aim of Jewish meditation is “stabilizing the mind” called in Hebrew “yishuv ha da’at”. This means reaching a state of mind which is settled, awake, clear, relaxed, and renewed. Hebrew is understood as the language of the soul, and the root of all human languages, it is the means of communication that exceeds the consciousness of separation between man and God and between everyday awareness and deeper levels of the soul.
There are many Jewish mediation techniques, and is best obtained in any skill with steady effort and practice. A variety of meditative practices exist with Kabbalah. Each generation making its own contribution, whatever the method though, it should help strengthen our sense of connection with the Source of Life, and this connection should be joined together into our daily life. Here is a short list of a variety of techniques that has been used in Judaism throughout the ages:
Music has been used to induce a prophetic state of consciousness. Song has great powers of healing and they open the gates of holiness.
Accurately visualizing a letter (aleph-bet) allows you to get in touch with its particular vibration, just as work of arts remind a certain feeling so does each letter of the aleph-bet call forth certain energy. Accurate visualization of each letter can be a very powerful meditative technique.
Praying from what has been thought by sages of the Talmud and spontaneous prayers that arise in our own heart. Prayers should not become mechanical and devoid sincerity, and saying a prayer in our own words and in our own language letting Him know all our needs and our thoughts and feelings is recommended.
This is also a meditative technique found in Judaism, if one does not know what to say in prayer, then one may just repeat the phrase “Ribbono shel Olam” (master of the universe).
There are other techniques such as I-Thou, Nature, Community, Hashmal, and others in Jewish meditation. Jewish meditations taught are traditional but timeless method for making one’s self new, and in the process arriving at a stabilized mind, basically healthy mind which is believed to be the foundation for a good life and service of man and God.