There has been much discussion in the Jewish world about the disenchantment of the younger generation with their Jewish identity.
This applies both in the conservative and reform communities, who find their youth less and less engaged than ever before, according to the PEW results.
It also applies to a large segment of the orthodox community, which is also concerned with the drop-off rate of many “rebellious teens” who don’t fit into their system.
These issues are broad and pervasive, and are not going to be solved by any one solution.
We need better teachers who are more attuned to the diverse emotional needs of their students.
We need the core philosophical premises of Judaism addressed and discussed.
And we need to find ways to integrate traditional, authentic Judaism into the 21st century with all its opportunities and challenges (and no, banning devices of any kind is not integration, and is doomed to fail).
But it’s more than that
A core complaint is that people just don’t feel the connection. Regardless of how much they know or don’t know – orthodox might know more, reform less; what knowledge exists is intellectual, it’s in the head.
The problem is, we are a generation which has remarkably little place for isolated idealism or cold intellectual clarity. As I wrote in a previous post, today’s’ most popular question is “what’s in it for me?”, and the answer must be a satisfying, emotional and pleasurable one.
I believe meditation can offer a lot in this area.
It allows people to emotionally experience what until know they only knew.
It allows students to learn about themselves, their passions and their misgivings, in a way that is increasingly rare in the age of almost zero introspection.
And it offers the opportunity to learn what it means to disconnect from the world’s obsessive stimuli and return to yourself and your values, in a time where we spend most of our waking hours glued to screen.
Taking it further
Is meditation all we need?
For starters, it provides neither philosophical clarity nor intellectual background – you can achieve a pleasurable meditative state by introspecting on the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and without being able to tell the difference between Noach, Nevuchadnetzar, and Nechemyah.
The next generation needs to be clear on the philosophical premises that Judaism is based on.
It needs to know Jewish history and be learned in Jewish texts.
But then, it could benefit greatly from a medium that brings all that from the head, into the heart.
והיו הדברים האלה… על לבבכם
And these words shall be… upon your hearts (The Shema, Deuteronomy 6:5)
This is one of the most basic values in Judaism, one which we repeat thrice daily to ourselves and which is supposed to be addressed in large during one’s daily prayers.
But one look at the 25 minute Shacharit miynanim and the amount people checking their phones during these sessions, and we can see that this is not enough.
What are you saying?
I am proposing that meditation be taught and practiced in schools.
That adults learn to do it in hands-on workshops.
And that gasp, the orthodox community adopt it as well, even if they need to swap “meditation” for an italicized Hebrew word instead.
It is not hard, nor complicated. All it takes is a few pointers and practice.
Meditation used to be a core part of Jewish life; it was just referred to with different names (as detailed by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s seminal book on the subject). It’s time we returned to our roots (and show that no, meditation is not owned solely by Buddhism).
I’m happy to be part of the transformation.
For starters, I’ve created an online course that introduces the basics of Jewish meditation in bite-sized chunks and includes easy-to-implement guided meditations.
The goal is to enable anyone in the world with an interest in meditation but with zero background to begin integrate meditation into their daily lives.
When they wake up. When they go to sleep. Before praying. Just a few minutes a day can have a profound difference.
I experimented recently with random people at the Western Wall, and it’s true. Anyone can do it.
So click here to sign up, and maybe share it with one other friend who is interested.
Together, let’s create a paradigm shift and introduce meditation, and the clarity, connection and well-being that comes with it, into the consciousness of contemporary Jewry.