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January 23, 2004 - Image 54

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-23

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For The Jewish Soul

Connecting to Judaism through meditation.


Special to the Jewish News

Ann Arbor
ewish meditation brought together the spiritual
components of Ann Arbor resident Judy
Freedman's life. Combining her generic medi-
tation practice with her practice of Judaism
deepened her connection to Judaism and strengthened
her interest in Jewish study.
Freedman started exploring Jewish meditation five
years ago and now is teaching others, offering classes at
Ann Arbor's Temple Beth Emeth and passing on what
she has learned through guided meditation, drop-in ses-
sions and discussion. She joins a growing number
Jewish meditation teachers in this country and abroad.
"By doing a meditation that's from my own tradi-
tion, I was surprised at how significantly it made a dif-
ference because it resonated in a very deep place in my
soul," she said. "It opened up new pathways for me that
I didn't even realize were there."
For example, now she studies Hebrew in earnest and
attends services regularly.
"The most important part of Jewish meditation,.
what makes it Jewish, is that the goal is to become clos-
er to God or the Divine, to develop a personal relation-
ship with God," she said.
Jewish meditation differs from other types of medita-
tion in content and context, Freedman said. Instead of
meditating on Sanskrit words, for example, mantra
meditations focus on phrases that are meaningful and
sacred in Judaism.
Other types of Jewish meditation include visualiza-
tions on the Hebrew letters and, with practice, one can
eventually begin Ayin meditation, she said, in which
one empties his or her mind of all thought.
"Jewish awareness practice is very much like
mindfulness meditation," Freedman said. In
mindfulness meditation, people train their
minds to focus on a chosen object or in a cho-
sen direction.
Freedman, who has studied for two years at
Chochmat HaLev, a center for Jewish meditation in
Berkeley, CA lif., is working towards her teacher's certifi-
cation in Jewish meditation. She travels to Berkeley
twice a year and takes online classes as well as talking
with mentors weekly in the intensive program. She
chairs the healing and spirituality component of the
Temple Beth Emeth's Caring Communities program


Meditation teacher Judy Freedman meditates in class with Rabbi Robert Levy of Temple Beth Emeth in
Ann Arbor.

and also serves as Temple Beth Emeth's librarian.
"I think people are looking more for a relationship
with God and they're finding something maybe
, is missing when they don't have that," she said.
"They have everything else — they've achieved
• their careers and financial goals. I think people
are feeling that there's something more that they
want. I think that's driving a lot of people to look for




Worldwide Trend

It's a trend that reaches far beyond Ann Arbor, accord-
ing to Dr. Avram Davis, spiritual director and founder
of Chochmat HaLev, which has trained about 80 peo-

ple to teach Jewish meditation. He estimates some-
where between 500 and 1,000 people teach in the
United States, Israel and Europe. Teachers come from
Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and nondenomina-
tional backgrounds.
Davis said Jewish meditation is distinguished from
the popular Buddhist, Hindu and Eastern meditation
by the idea of attachment.
"Jewish meditation tends to try to help a person
come to a personal experience with the Divine and that
is done through contemplative work within them," he
said. "[Buddhist and Hindu meditation] stress detach-
ment and the killing of desire. Judaism teaches attach-
ment and the positive aspects of desire ... and a joyful

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