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Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan has 3 (in my opinion excellent) books on the history, importance, and benefit of Jewish meditation. Yet meditation does not seem to be an integral component for much (though, certainly not all) of orthodox Judaism. It is not taught in schools, not discussed by most rabbanim from the pulpit, and is generally absent from the lives of many Jews. Why is that?

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Can you please explain exactly what you mean by meditate? –  Hacham Gabriel Feb 23 '12 at 3:39
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bvreslov and mekubalim do –  simchastorah Feb 23 '12 at 3:40
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And also, if you are referring to Kabalistic meditation, there are plenty of Mekubalim that do that today. –  Hacham Gabriel Feb 23 '12 at 3:40
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I think this question should be changed, since its obvious to me that many small groups of Jews do meditate. The question is, why isn't meditation preached about in Shuls and schools more often? Why is it a "personal" thing, when so many other "personal" aspects of people's lives are talked about and taught from the "pulpit". I can't think of any good answers to that question other than cynical ones, so I would be interested in the answer as well. –  avi Feb 23 '12 at 7:12
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@avi good point, I've amended the question because you're points were really what I was driving at. –  none Feb 29 '12 at 2:02
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3 Answers

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How do you define Meditation?

  • Hitbodedut (AFAIR R' Kaplan wrote that it involves isolating oneself and trying to communicate with Hashem) is a Breslover meditation emphasized by R' Nachman of Berslov and is still in common use nowadays by Bresloves

  • Hisbonnenus (the act of learning Chassidus and intently contemplating on it during Davening) is still practiced by many Chassidim. (Come to a Chabad Yeshiva on Shabbos after Davening, you will often find Bochurim and Mashpiyim Davening for hours). It's also heavily discussed in Chabad literature.

In the general non-Chassidic world (and in some Chassidic circles), they don't believe in long "Avodas Hatfilla" and try to hurry through Davening.

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I am referring to Hibodedus. I would still like to understand, why then do no Jewish groups, outside of Breslov, engage in this practice? –  none Feb 23 '12 at 4:00
    
@Moshe for a witty argument between the two sides, see R' Zevin's book linked in the answer. –  Shmuel Brin Feb 23 '12 at 4:09
    
@Moshe the Messilat Yesharim, and the Mishna Berura (in Biur Halacha), and Shela, and the Sefer Haredim and more discuss it. Maybe you should source the Inyan with some definitve sources and then you will have a stronger question. –  Hacham Gabriel Feb 23 '12 at 4:10
    
I'm not sure I understand your comment. I'm asking why most mainstream Jews don't engage in meditation. Are you asking me to post sources as to why they should? –  none Feb 23 '12 at 4:20
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@Moshe The story went like this. Once a "Polish Chossid" asked a Chabadnick why he davens for so long, using the following parable: "A farmer wants to put up a fence to keep the swine out of his vegetable patch. If he places the canes close to each other without leaving spaces, he will have achieved his aim". The Chabadnick answered "That works only if the pigs are outside. However, if they are already inside and there are no open spaces between the canes, he will never drive them out". –  Shmuel Brin Feb 23 '12 at 4:27
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Chassidim have been "meditating" for the past 230 years.[1] Before that meditation was limited to those well versed in Kabbalah. Chabad Chassidus alone has literally thousands of pages on how to meditate and what to meditate on[2].

Outside of Chabad and Breslov Chassidus and Sephardi Mekubalim, meditation isn't popular because to be successful you need to spend almost 2 hours minimum of prayer which the average Torah observant Jew does not feel they have adequate time to achieve.[3][4]


Sources:
[1]Likkutei Amarim by the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch. Published 1797 (215 years ago, prior to that it was given out in pamphlets)
[2] http://www.kehot.com Seforim information. Lubavitcher Rebbe alone has over 62 volumes of published works
[3] Kuntres HaTefillah by the Rebbe Rashab of Lubavitch discusses prayer and preparation (medidation) prior
[4] In the last chapter of Likkutei Amarim the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch says that a person should spend 1.5 hours involved with Shachris (the actual prayer and the preparation)

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MochinRechavim welcome to Judaism.SE and thank you for your insight. If you would add a source for some of your claims (eg 230 years) that would greatly improve the value of your answer. I look forward to seeing you around, and don't forget to register your account to gain the full benefits of the site! –  Double AA Feb 23 '12 at 4:34
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The Arizal (quoted in Biur Halacha O"H 571) says to do one day a week what Breslov calls today "Hitbodedut".

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BTW I've never seen this in the writings of the Arizal (that I remember), but if anyone can source it there it would be greatly appreciated. –  Hacham Gabriel Feb 23 '12 at 4:26
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