Opening New Gates of Prayer-Feb 2008

Opening New Gates of Prayer
A recent issue of Zeek magazine (Jan 2008) examined the significance of contemporary “independent minyanim” in the development of Judaism. The suggestion is made that they indicate the growth of a kind of inclusive plurality which may become a hallmark of the Jewish future.

I am reminded of the way in which the various religious orders of Christianity cater for differing personality types. A way is found for people to “serve” in “specifically dedicated” roles amongst, for example, Cistercians, Jesuits, Carmelites, or Carthusians- all of which seem geared to suit people of very different talents and character traits. A similarly varied set of approaches and practices form the various communities of the Sufi Orders in Islam.

Twenty-first century Judaism comes in various denominational forms, including the multi-denominational and trans-denominational. Traditional options for “specifically dedicated lifestyles” within Judaism were generally those of Rabbi, Cantor/Prayer-leader, and Yeshiva/kolel student. The list could now include Jewish teachers, medical professionals, political activists, charitable foundation workers etc, etc…..People who have intentionally chosen to view their professions as dedicated lifestyles, lived not as salary generators but as tasks undertaken “for the sake of heaven”. I would like the list to include Jewish contemplative communities and Jewish contemplative solitaries. That is what this website is about.

Is there a place for dedicated contemplative lifestyles in contemporary Judaism?
Did Jewish monasticism end with the Therapeutae?
Is it possible to live a Jewish life if there are no other Jews living anywhere near you?

The "Cave of the Heart" (M'arat ha-Lev) is a short pamphlet (Kuntres) which I wrote in 2005 to consider these questions. It is in two distinct halves.

The first half is partly autobiographical and partly discursive, and examines some aspects of contemplative Jewish living. The second half is more reflective, and is principally the sharing of a simple method of contemplative prayer.

You can find the text of this kuntres on the sidebar links to the left under the header The Cave of The Heart. The section ends with a posting of the entire booklet for anyone who wants to print the whole thing off to read offline.

At the time of writing "The Cave of the Heart" I had absolutely no idea that the term was already famous in both the Hindu tradition and in several literary works of religious thought and art. It was simply the term that first came to me. A coincidence. These things happen!