A book from Jewish Lights, SkyLight Paths’ sister imprint
The first comprehensive treatment of the body in Jewish spiritual practice. With meditations, physical exercises, visualizations & sacred texts you will learn how to experience the presence of the Divine in & through your body, uniting body & spirit.
6 x 9, 272 pp | 978-1-58023-304-0
Your body is the place where heaven and earth meet.
The greatest spiritual achievement is not transcending the body but joining body and spirit together. But to do this, you must break through assumptions that draw boundaries around the Infinite and wake up to the body as the site of holiness itself.
This groundbreaking book is the first comprehensive treatment of the body in Jewish spiritual practice and an essential guide to the sacred. With meditation practices, physical exercises, visualizations, and sacred text, you will learn how to experience the presence of the Divine in, and through, your body. And by cultivating an embodied spiritual practice, you will transform everyday activities—eating, walking, breathing, washing—into moments of deep spiritual realization, uniting sacred and sensual, mystical and mundane.
“The best text ever composed on the Jewish way to integrate our spiritual paths with our physical bodies. Clear, concise and beautifully written. Highly recommended.”
—Rabbi David A. Cooper, author, God Is a Verb
“A work of genius.... Recasts Jewish observance and daily living as spiritual practices that act as bridges between our physical and spiritual worlds. Should be read by every rabbi—by every Jew—in America.”
—Rabbi Eliezer Diamond, chair, Department of Talmud and Rabbinics, The Jewish Theological Seminary; author, Holy Men and Hunger Artists: Fasting and Asceticism in Rabbinic Culture
“Amazing ... authoritative and sweetly accessible. Presents every aspect of our physical lives as yet another opportunity to experience such closeness to the Divine that blessing becomes spontaneous. The ordinary becomes miraculous.”
—Sylvia Boorstein, author, That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist
“Will transform the old, body-aching asceticism into an altar for healthy, robust and life-affirming worship. Brings Hasidic wisdom to contemporary life.”
—Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, coauthor, First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit: Reb Zalman’s Guide to Recapturing the Intimacy & Ecstasy in Your Relationship with God
“The simplicity of being fully present in the body and the depth of Judaic spiritual tradition find a beautiful companionship in this book.”
—Sharon Salzberg, author, Lovingkindness
“A must read for anyone seeking an integrative, contemplative approach to Judaism. Masterfully weaves many strands of mystical theology into a practical, user-friendly manual that helps one celebrate and develop awareness of the Divine in the most ‘mundane’ activities in our lives.”
—Rabbi David Ingber, founder, Kehilat Romemu, New York
“A brilliant exploration of modern and traditional practices that reconnect us to Judaism’s celebration of the human body. Teaches deep appreciation of the sacredness of even the most mundane aspects of life.”
—Steven A. Rapp, author, Aleph-Bet Yoga: Embodying the Hebrew Letters for Physical and Spiritual Well-Being
“Thoughtful, contemplative, and insightful. You will be intellectually stimulated and emotionally awakened.”
—Rabbi Dovber Pinson, author, Meditation and Judaism: Exploring the Jewish Meditative Paths
“Fuses the heart with the head, the soul with the body.... Full of wisdom, insight and practical exercises; it reflects and transmits a deep, personal spirituality from a fresh and important new voice.”
—Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein, author, Gonzo Judaism: A Bold Path for Renewing an Ancient Faith
“An innovative yet timeless way to understand and live Jewish practice. Should be required reading for the religious leaders who have kept us ‘in our heads’ and not in our bodies—but also useful for beginners and seekers of an embodied religious life. Whether you are a contemplative or an ecstatic, a practically minded sort or a mystic, you’ll find something here that will enhance your way of being.”
—Rabbi Jill Hammer, author, The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for All Seasons
Introduction ix The Union of Body and Soul ix "God"? xi The Idea of Practice xiii Cutting and Pasting xv An Invitation xvii 1 . E a t i n g 1 V'achalta: Eating Meditation 2 Vճavata: Experiencing Satisfaction 7 Uնerachta: Count your Blessings 9 Transparent Kashrut 16 2. P r a y i n g 21 Embodied Jewish Prayer 22 Sweat Your Prayers—Hasidic Style 27 ҅very Limb Will Praise YouӺ Jewish Liturgy and the Body 30 3. B r e a t h i n g 35 Basic Breathing Meditation 36 Adding God to your Breath 39 4. Wa l k i n g 45 Basic Walking Meditation 46 Four Ways to Walk with God 48 Contents v 5. U s i n g t h e B a t h r o o m 55 Asher Yatzar: The Bathroom Blessing 56 Toilet Zen: Meditation for the Restroom 60 6. Sex 63 Sex Is Holy 65 Practicing Sacred Sexuality 72 7. M i r r o r i n g t h e D i v i n e 77 Contemplating the Miniature World 78 Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation 83 Embodying the Ten Sefirot 86 Looking in the Mirror 95 8. E x e r c i s i n g 97 Spiritual Exercise: Beyond the Mat 100 A Four Worlds Workout 104 9. Dancing 115 Ecstatic Dancing, Sacred and Secular 116 The Quartet and the Mosh Pit 122 10. F a s t i n g 125 The Benefits of Denial 126 Fasting in Context: The Five Minor Fasts 128 Fasting as Catharsis: Yom Kippur 132 11. Wa s h i n g 137 Is Cleanliness Next to Godliness? 138 Washing as a Spiritual Practice 141 12. The Mikva 145 Waters of Rebirth 146 Solitary Mikva Practices 149 Communal Mikva Practices 151 Beyond the Mikva 153 Your Blood Is a Blessing (by Holly Taya Shere) 154 v i ¥ Contents 13. Nature 159 Mindfulness in Nature 161 The Path of Blessing 164 14. T h e F i v e S e n s e s 169 Sound 170 Smell 173 Touch 176 Taste 179 Sight 181 15. E m b o d i e d E m o t i o n s 183 Feeling Emotions in the Body 184 Kabbalahճ Map of the Heart-Body 187 16. S i c k n e s s a n d H e a l t h 191 Spiritual Practice in Sickness and in Health 193 The Deeper Meaning of Health 195 17. L i f e C y c l e 201 Birth and Childhood 201 Adulthood: Coming of Age, Partnering, and Aging 205 Death 207 18. J u s t B e i n g 211 Appendix: Four Worlds—A Kabbalistic Map of Our Experiential Universe 215 Notes 217 Glossary 225 Bibliography 231 Credits 239 Acknowledgments 240 Topical Index 241 Index of Practices 246