Meditation and Kabbalah by Rabbi Arye Kaplan

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Looking for a lay understanding of what Kabbalah has to do with meditation?

This reviewer actually read Rabbi Arye Kaplan's book "Meditation and Kabbalah" some 13 or 14 years ago. That was long before any celebs were sporting red threads. Originally, this reviewer had read R' Kaplan's book "Jewish Meditation" in search of methods of meditation in a Jewish context. It was a splendid book, and the method which appealed to this reviewer most was the verbal chanting of combinations of Hebrew letters and Divine Names. The book "Meditation and Kabbalah" was an obvious next choice.

If you are looking for specific methods of meditation, you can find some here. In the style of his translation and commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation , Rabbi Kaplan translates texts not as descriptions of a state, but rather as commands of action. Thus, many of the texts of classic kabbalists are translated as instructions towards a meditative state. Some methods are based on visualizations, others on vocalizations, others on complex techniques including body movements coordinated with either.

An excellent history of Kabbalah

The book "Meditation and Kabbalah" makes a great long term reference text to anyone interested in the history of the kabbalistic movements in Judaism. Rabbi Kaplan was an extremely scholarly researcher and had access to some original texts that few others have ever seen. He sets out looking at the kabbalistic schools as sources of meditative methods through time. This method of presentation aids the reader both in understanding the reasons behind different changes in practice through time (namely before and after the destruction of the Temple), and in understanding the flow of traditions through various schools and movements.

The book is extremely well footnoted, in Rabbi Kaplan's scholarly style. There are a few instances where it is disappointingly sparse in the sources for his opinions (for instance some of his opinions of different leaders in the last few hundred years being prominent kabbalists of their time). In general, this book will aid anyone interested in either practical meditative methods or historical methods in the kabbalistic schools.

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