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162 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentically Jewish how-to introduction to meditation, November 9, 2003
This review is from: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Paperback)
As far as I know, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (may he rest in peace) was the first Orthodox rabbi to write about Jewish meditation for the general public. He did so because his own teachers recognized that American Jews in the 60s and 70s were growing up without knowledge of these traditions, and were therefore abandoning Judaism for other religions in order to be "more spiritual." Hence this and other books by Kaplan on Jewish meditation.
Kaplan's books are still considered to be among the most authentic on the market, and are kosher even among the Orthodox and Hasidic branches of Judaism. His first book, "Meditation and the Bible," came out in 1978, and explored the various meditation techniques that were hinted at in the Bible and expanded in other Jewish texts. This was followed by "Meditation and Kabbalah" (1982), which explained the techniques in greater detail and provided first-ever English translations of many basic Hebrew texts. Both of these books, however, were quite academic and not intended to be how-to guides. Hence the third book here, "A Practical Guide" to Jewish meditation, published in 1985.
I mention the first two books because, if you read only this one, it may strike you as just another "new age" hodge-podge of ideas. Far from it. Kaplan took his cues from the most Orthodox of the Orthodox, i.e., the traditionalist Jews who had not lost the pre-Holocaust knowledge of these techniques. In his first two books, he clearly lays out the theory, drawing upon centuries-old Hebrew texts and first-hand descriptions by Jewish "saints" of various eras. In "Jewish Meditation," he distills all this down into directions for actual daily practice. If these resemble "new age" ideas in some places, it is only because the New Agers have recently re-discovered terchniques that the Jews have used for literally thousands of years.
It is this little-known mystical tradition that Kaplan sought to make accessible to the average English-speaking reader. He was aware that many Jews had experienced success with Eastern meditation, but were not comfortable with some of the idolatrous practices that went along with it (such as chanting the names of Hindu gods, which is forbidden in Judaism.) He was also aware that the general public thinks of Jews as "Old Testament Hebrews" ala Cecil B. DeMille, who supposedly worship an "angry god" and have no inner spirituality. Kaplan's work corrects both of these problems. Whether you are Jewish or not, if you meditate or are thinking about doing it, you will find this book to be of great help in understanding the Jewish Path.
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95 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An indespensible guide..., April 18, 2003
By 
mtk5150 "mtk5150" (Titusville, FL, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Paperback)
I'm not Jewish. I'm actually a Spirit-filled Christian. My branch of the Church tends to emphisize prayer, personal devotion, and intimacy with God. As a devout student of the Bible, I've always looked to the ancient Jewish Prophets and Mystics to learn how to grow closer to God. Years ago I came to the conclusion that deep spiritual meditation was at the center of their spiritual lives, yet I was not terribly familiar with what their meditations might have been like. The fear of being "new-agey" kept me from experimenting on my own and so I spent a great deal of time searching out the Bible for hints of what the people of Bible times did in meditation. I really didn't get much clarity on the matter until I read this book. Kaplan graciously spares his readers from spooky, impractical tecniques and gives intelligent, balanced explanations of the various forms of meditation that more than likely were employed by the greats in Scripture.
This book is an indespensible part of my spiritual library now. I will never be without it. Give someone you love this book; you'll be giving them a gift that will last forever.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book Available on subject, November 6, 2004
This review is from: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Paperback)
The late Aryeh Kaplan was a Rabbi, scholar, and Kabbalist. In addition to his valuable and readable commentaries on Sefer Yetzirah and Sefer Bahir, he wrote three books on meditation. The other two are: "Meditation and Kabbalah" and "Meditation and the Bible." From a practical perspective, "Jewish Meditation" is far and away the best, however, reading the other two provides one with a more inclusive, theoretical background and context within which to practice. This volume is quite valuable and a contribution to both meditation per se and to Jewish spiritual practices. It's rare to find an author who is both scholar and practitioner, so Kaplan's books on meditation and on Kabbalah are particularly valuable and accessible to the reader. Of course, they are not introductory books--of which there are innumerable versions in bookstores. It helps to have a solid background in the basics before tackling Kaplan's texts. But it isn't essential. Kaplan's texts are appropriate to both the serious student and the serious practitioner of meditation and of Kabbalah. They also demonstrate to contemporary people that Judaism is more than just laws and books and that spiritual practices are, indeed, the heart of Judaism as they are with other religions and belief systems. R. Kaplan's tragic death in an automobile accident was a great loss to Jewish understanding as well as, more generically, to Kabbalah, meditation, and modern spirituality.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and helpful, February 18, 2005
By 
This review is from: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Paperback)
In this work, the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan explores the Jewish roots of meditation, as well as a practical on how to meditate according to Jewish tradition.

He points out how meditation is an ancient part of Jewish religious tradition, contrary to popular belief. How the synagogue was meant originally to be a meditative experience, and how much of Jewish prayer liturgy is meant to be a meditative type connection with the Creator.

He marvels at how so many Jews look outside their Judaism for spiritual enlightenment, while it is all available within their own spiritual tradition.

As Kaplan takes us on this journey of exploration he deals with such questions as `What is meditation?', `Why meditate' , the various types of meditation available and how to do them as well as a chapter on.

He makes an important point that in its deepest states mediation can free us of our own egos and subconscious association with G-D as a mirror image of ourselves , and therefore allow us to really experience G-D.

Musar, self-perfection, an important school in Jewish thought.

After reading this excellent work, you will never see Judaism, spirituality or meditation in the same way. It also can serve as a simple and helpful aid to begin your own meditation.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Simple Guide, July 10, 2000
By 
Mark Goodman (Brooklyn, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Paperback)
This book gets right to the tachlis (purpose) and center of meditation in a Jewish way. If you want to try mediation, or have been davening regularly for years and are in search of an enlightening spiritual breakthrough, this is a great book to read.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Builds Bridge, June 1, 2001
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This review is from: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Paperback)
Revised Review: January 10. 2014

"People are often surprised to hear the term-- Jewish Meditation. Otherwise knowledgeable Jews, including many rabbis and scholars, are not aware that such a thing exists....Most books on Meditation emphasize Eastern practices, and in some instances Christian meditation, but Jewish meditation is for all practical purposes ignored. This omission is all the more significant in light of considerable evidence that the Jewish mystical masters had dialogue with the Sufi masters and were aware of the schools in India...."

--- Aryeh Kaplan

This is still, to this day, one of the few books I carry with me whenever I go on a trip. And, I own several copies of it.

I can't overemphasize the importance of this book and the subject it so eloquently explains.

My original review follows below:

***

There is no question about the renewed interest and a more thoughtful examination of religion and its sister, spirituality in our contemporary society. However, since the mid nineteenth century, in a period scholars called, "The Death of God," the supernatural aspect of the three great Middle Eastern (not Western) religions have been extracted from European and American culture; it's most noticeably evident in its absence in popular fiction.

In his book, Rabbi Kaplan gives us insights into how our ancestors used meditation as a tool to grasp religious ethics and also a means by which one might obtain discipline to overcome undesirable social habits such as smoking.

Book Chapters:

* What is Meditation?
* Why Meditate?
* Techniques
* States of Consciousness
* Jewish Meditation
* Contemplation
* Visualization
* Nothingness
* Conversing With God
* The Way of Prayer
* Relating To God
* Unification
* The Ladder
* In All Your Ways
* The Commandments
* Between Man and Woman
* Remolding The Self

Jewish Meditation is the third book I've bought by Mr. Kaplan on the subject on meditation. I highly recommend Mr. Kaplan's Meditation and The Bible for a scholarly look at the subject and it's connection to the prophets and the Pharasaic students who followed much later.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Judaism, December 7, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Paperback)
This book represents an idea that very few people, including Jews and non-Jews, know about. There are reasons for this, notably, that many in Jewish theological circles regard Jewish meditation and mysticism (Kabbalah and Zohar) outside the realms of the Jewish canon.
With regards to Jews, there are a substantial number of whom find their meanings in the teachings of the Eastern religions, unable to find a state of higher consciousness in the religion they were raised in.
This book is one of a number to address the above sentiments, in a gentle, clear, and concise manner. And it shows that there are indeed many levels within Judaism, that have been expounded, for over a thousand years.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars De-mystifying Meditation, November 5, 2001
By 
A. J. Valasek (Clemmons, NC United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Paperback)
This book is simply a treasure trove of information. In today's age of rampant esoterism, this book takes the mystical world, makes it human, and allows it to be experiential. For those of you that have a fear of the unknown, or think all meditative techniques are some form of "Black art" or "New Age Movement" to lure you away from the Creator, you need to read this book. I promise you'll come away saying, "Why that isn't so bad!" I found that some of my intuitive habits are partial, albeit incomplete , meditative techniques. This book completes the circuit, making worship more personal and productive, with its practical applications. Don't let the title fool you, this book is also very appropriate for those Christians that are open to the roots of their faith and the subtle insights of the prophets, as well as those Hebrews searching to fill the void of their ancestral heritage. I recommend this book as the primer to meditation and a more meaningful relationship with God. However, don't think you're going to read this and become the next Elijah overnight. Like everything, this book is just part of the journey.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars News: Judaism has real traditions of meditation!, October 12, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Paperback)
The late great Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan combed the sources to discover the various traditions of meditation that had been passed down in the rabbinic tradition for centuries. Many of them are summarized here and explained in clear, helpful terms. If you're interested in developing a practice, you will probably want to read also MINDING THE TEMPLE OF THE SOUL by Tamar Frankiel and Judy Greenfeld, which integrates meditation with traditional prayer and conscious movement. Also, Rabbi Kaplan's MEDITATION AND KABBALAH and MEDITATION AND THE BIBLE are good supplements to enrich your background for understanding this book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Place to Start on the Jewish Mystical Path, November 5, 2006
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This review is from: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide (Paperback)
Rabbi Kaplan's book is a great and very practical place to start the experience of "walking with God" or devekut while praying or meditating. His book is particularly helpful in understanding that there are multiple techniques available to use in meditation and the spiritual quest. Sometimes we are more familiar with techniques from other cultures, such as Zen chanting, the whirling dervishes of Sufism and the body oriented techniques of Tai Chi.

Rabbi Kaplan points out techniques that have been used by Jews in the past. Not all of the methods are strictly Jewish per se. A particularly invaluable discussion that he begins relates to the portions of the prayer service and how to utilize them in a meditative manner. This definitely helps make prayer a more spiritual experience and reinvigorates the words with the true spiritual intent of their original authors.
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Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide
Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide by Aryeh Kaplan (Paperback - March 14, 1995)
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