Classes and Events

For the next foreseeable future, we are suspending regular online classes.

 

Tal Orot Programs for the Shmittah Year 5782

The goal of our Tal Orot series this Shmittah year is to take our meditation practice to a transformative level and integrate it deeply and effectively into our daily lives. In our sessions we devoted more time to rigorous meditation with detailed guidance, and our learning delved deeper into the exploration of consciousness in kabbalistic, hasidic and Jewish philosophical sources, to provide insight for our meditation practice.

Our Fall series was devoted to the practice of Devekut, constant awareness of God that comes to permeate all our actions, speech and thoughts at every moment. The challenge of Devekut is that God cannot be an object of thought – so how do you maintain steady awareness in a way that does not involve objectifying thought? We practiced Jewish meditation methods that open up different modes of consciousness that give us access to a real, enduring relationship with God.

The theme of our winter series was Kavanah, focused mental intent. The ability to direct attention effectively in prayer, in learning and in meditation is a key element of Jewish spiritual development. The kabbalistic tradition has developed a number of meditation methods, some readily accessible and some quite rigorous, designed to strengthen and refine Kavanah. We studied several of these methods and incorporate them into our daily practice, adding a skill set that can be valuable in many aspects of our lives.

For the spring series, we examined how meditation requires ethical behavior. Meditation is not an end in itself but a means towards more authentic, enlightened life. Its real fruit is greater ethical consciousness. Ideally, our meditation practice should help us be more sensitive in our relationships, more aware of the consequences of our actions, words and thoughts, more thoughtful of others and the world at-large. The Torah tells us that human beings have been placed in this world “to serve it and protect it (Gen. 2:15),” and meditation can be helpful towards this responsibility. Our spring session was devoted towards meditation practice and Torah learning focused on enhancing our ethical consciousness, with sources from the talmudic, Jewish philosophic, kabbalistic and hassidic traditions.

For Post-Pesach, we explored the Challenge of God Awareness, calling it Hide and Seek. The Torah enjoins mitzvot that entail real awareness of God: to know God, love God, fear God, acknowledge God’s oneness, to serve God, to adhere mindfully to God. In truth, all mitzvot that require implementing God’s actual Will in a given situation require awareness of God in some way. Yet the Torah, and the rabbinic, philosophic and kabbalistic traditions all tell us that God is unknown and unknowable. According to some thinkers, God is hidden by the nature of reality. According to others, the structure and habits of mind make it difficult or impossible to apprehend God. In this series, we explored the conditions of reality and consciousness that limit or inhibit a real sense of God, what modes of awareness of God might be possible and appropriate for us, and the transformation these modes of awareness can facilitate in our consciousness and conduct, our whole way of being. Our learning included kabbalistic meditation practice to work on experiencing the insights of our tradition.

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