Enlightenment, Jewish Style

| guest blog |

As Yael wrote in The Top 5 Reasons Why I Meditate and as we heard at our first meditation session on Monday night, each of us might meditate for different reasons. One of us might meditate to relax from a stressful day. Another might meditate to quiet a mind full of disturbing and unruly thoughts, to reach a measure of serenity or equanimity.

Some of us meditate to experience enlightenment.

What is enlightenment in the Jewish context?

It’s the experience of God’s presence in the world, the experience that all is One, that there is literally nothing but God. In Hebrew it’s called roo-akh ha-kodesh – a phrase that translates somewhat freely into the holy spirit. According to the great Jewish meditation master the Ariza”l, King David was the greatest master of roo-akh ha-kodesh, and according to Maimonides, it’s the first rung on the ladder to prophecy.

Zen Buddhists call the first opening of enlightenment kensho. They don’t associate kensho with God because they don’t have the Jewish history of God’s revelation on Mount Sinai nor the prophetic experience, but from a Jewish perspective that’s what it is.

If we doubt whether we can experience it, we should be heartened by the words of the prophet Elijah and Maimonides, who assert that essentially all of us, with only very rare exception, have that potential.

Elijah Rabbah 9 : “I call heaven and earth to bear witness that any person, Jew or gentile, man or woman, freeman or slave, if their deeds are worthy, then roo-akh ha-kodesh will descend upon them.”

Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, Part 2, Chapter 32: “For the laws of Nature demand that every one should be a prophet, who has a proper physical constitution, and has been duly prepared as regards education and training.”

Enlightenment arises out of silence. The silence is found in meditation.


Len Moskowitz is a rabbinical student at Yeshiva University and currently translating a 19th century work of Jewish theology and mysticism into English. He has been meditating for twenty years.

The views expressed by guestbloggers do not necessarily reflect the Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn’s positions, interests, strategies or opinions. But that’s what keeps it interesting.

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