Introduction to this website

 (wide lens photo of my "cave" hermitage in Granada)

This website is the place where I share my ideas on Jewish contemplative prayer and on Jewish contemplative lifestyles.


Despite the details of the brief biographical sketch which follows: I am a contemplative whose "spiritual journey so far" has been more direct than it might at first appear.

The route-changes and unexpected diversions, the traffic jams and collisions in one's contemplative journey often reveal their hidden purpose  many years after they have happened, becoming clear to us only in our retrospective reflections.

I was born to non-religious, nominally Christian parents in England in the early 1950's. As a young man I became a Roman Catholic monka Discalced Carmelite in Oxford and Durham. After a few restless but formative years in that Order, and before taking permanent vows,I decided decided to leave the community and return to secular life.

That was in 1976. My Novice-master told me that I would one day return to what he believed was my true calling — a dedicated contemplative lifestyle.

He was right.  But it did not happen quite as he might have envisaged it.

In 1992-3, I converted formally to Reform Judaism under the auspices of the Beit Din of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britainan organisation which, at that time, shared many characteristics with USA Conservative Judaism.  Against all odds, I did this in Jakarta, Indonesia and went on to become the community Cantor and secretary there 1992-1995.

* * *

Over the years, I became much more traditional in my religious thinking and  observanceand since 2010 I have aligned with Orthodox Judaism.

In July 2016 I completed an Orthodox Jewish Conversion (giyyur ki halakah).  This is a major change when viewed from many perspectives, but I see it as an inevitable evolution.

My relationship with G-d may have been transplanted several times, but I am certain that The One I have been attempting to relate to in all those circumstances is one and the same.  He,at least,has been consistent in maintaining an intense contemplative relationship  with me, however much I may have strayed from Him.

I am also equally convinced that the "deepest/highest" part of my soul has always been Jewish despite changes of physical garb, and that my realisation of this  has also been a matter of evolution. 

* * *
But back to the  "mundane" history for a moment:

My contemplative activities were put on a back-burner for many years.  I spent those busy and somewhat workaholic years (in various relationships and partnerships) as a composer and school music teacher in UK and South East Asia. My special area was the teaching of Javanese Gamelan, but I was responsible for the general music education of thousands of expatriate  children living in Jakarta and  in Singapore.

In 1999, tragedy struck when,quite suddenly,I became partially deaf.

Though I retained a sense of hearing which was,with some attendant lip reading,sufficient for most conversations: teaching music and understanding the high pitched voices of young children was suddenly no longer possible. I felt challenged in the extreme, but began to see the changing circumstances of my life as a call to return to the contemplative and monastic life of my youth.

But how was I to achieve this as a Jew?

There were no Jewish monasteries for me to enter, nor  accepted procedures for people who wanted to live as Jewish "solitaries". Faced with that situation...I decided to try “to be what I wanted to find” and to try to encourage other Jews with a similar vocation/character by my (faltering but heartfelt) example.

I lived in a secluded house built into the side of a rock in Southern Spain as a solitary “Dedicated Jewish Contemplative”  from 2003-2014 andthough I had financial difficulties as I was living solely on my  savings without any external financial support I re-discovered the contemplative path and I was happy doing what I believe I was called to do all along.

I would have been happy to continue living in geophysical isolation this way permanently were it not for halachic considerations which insist on community involvement.

Our plans are subject to Divine Providence, and as it turned out, my experience as a full time solitary was to become an experience as a "contemplative within a community".

How did this come about?

It  slowly dawned on me that the so-called "dedicated"  life-style I was leading was nothing in comparison with the ordinary observant life of a truly religious Orthodox Jew. I had been  seeking solitude, but the solitude actually brought me back into  "society": I was being reminded that one can be a contemplative hermit within a crowd, and that all Jews are called to a level of deveykus and "being drawn close" to the Divine that surpasses all external measures of piety.

With the tireless and profound help and encouragment  of Rabbi Dovid Sears of the Breslov Center, and with the  unbounded assistance of HaShemI  moved home in  2014 to live within a thriving (Spanish Moroccan) Orthodox Community in Southern Spain and now attend services there daily. I am still living a life of full time prayer and study at home, where I hope that  the "status changes" in my soul that were effected by the geirus ki halachah may, with the help of HaShem, elevate my prayers to an even more effective level of usefulness in the Divine  scheme of things.

One final and personal note to this "Biographical Introduction":

I  undertook the ten year "solitary living" project that produced these writings using my limited savings and  a lot of faith in Hashgachah Pratis.

I am now looking for part-time work and  I am particularly interested in  working from home as this  would  leave me  the most time for study and prayer.

 I have proven experience as a copy-editor and proof-reader...or perhaps there is some form of English text translation/correction/marking that I could  do for you?

 Any readers of this website who might  be  able to perform the mitsvah of helping me find a way to allow the shefa of Hashamayim  to reach me in this respect.......please get  in touch.



Following my  Orthodox Jewish conversion some of the  ideas and practices expressed on this website have become  history rather than  current practice. Nevertheless, this does not change my conviction that some solitary and contemplative lifestyles are arguably relevant for certain Jews, if not  for  the long as they comply with halakhic norms. 

In Judaism it is not expected that someone would live a life of Torah study in contemplative solitude indefinitely anyway. 

Solitary contemplative retreats tend to be transitional, temporary practices in our tradition (though there are those whose retreats have gone on for many years)- but many are unaware that  there are precedents for living this kind of lifestyle (even on on a long-term basis) within halakhic Judaism --

Many Jews  see the words “solitary” or “contemplative” or “monastic” and the blinds come down with a crash or a thud. Sometimes that is because they refuse to regard those who are occupied "full-time" in lives of prayer and study (eg: in Kolel or Yeshivah) as being as deeply engaged in community action as they truly are.  (Community participation comes in many forms.....not all of them physical and geographical....and all prayer is said in the name of the Kehal Yisroel)  Sometimes it is simply because they were not aware that there  actually is an eremitic tradition (and to some extent even a monastic one) in Classical Judaism if one chooses to look.

I did choose to look...... and I discovered potentially inspirational models for such a way of life in the Nazirite and Levitical traditions of the Torah, in the retreat practices of the prophets in the Writings, and in the descriptions of the Jewish monastic communities of the "Therapeutae" (a contemplative branch of the Essenes) in antiquity.

Then I discovered the writings of the Jewish Sufi Pietists (Avraham and Obadiah ben Maimon and Bahya ibn Pekuda) and the example of mystics like Yitzchak Luria, the Baal Shem TovMenachem Mendel of Kotsk, and Joseph Horwitz who all lived in silent contemplative solitude for many years at a time- some of them existing in total solitude during the weekdays only to re-join their families and community on Shabbos.

(Those who have been taught that Judaism has no place for solitary contemplative lifestyles might, understandably, find that hard to believe...clicking on the hyperlinked names in the previous paragraph will take you to sources that should confirm my statements about these Jewish Mystics.   You can also see my latest and most complete essay on the relationship between solitary Jewish lifestyles and the Halakhah HERE. )

At that point, and encouraged by the clear example of these giants of the Jewish Mystical tradition, and hoping that I might connect with other Jews who felt themselves part of the same "minority"  impulse...... I started this blog  to encourage others like me to come out of the contemplative closet.


The website began with “The Cave of the Heart” .

 The "Cave of the Heart" (in Hebrew: M'arat ha-Lev) is a short pamphlet (kuntres) which I wrote in 2005 (while still aligned with Progressive Judaism). It made a call for increased internet use as a form of Jewish and contemplative outreach. That section of the work is now obsolete as this is now a common part of Jewish practice,but the second half of the document is still (I hope) very relevant:

 It proposes that the act of "attentive listening in receptive contemplative prayer" is a valuable part of Jewish spiritual practice, and one which may even be a practical way to  "hasten the return" of prophecy to Israel. This part of the work contains a simple method of receptive prayer and some reflections on Jewish contemplative practice generally. You can find the text of this kuntres on the sidebar in installments, under the header "The Cave of The Heart"- or you can view the entire booklet HERE.

Two short published articles then followed:The first:Dedicated Jewish Contemplatives-2007 was in the journal  "European Judaism" ....extracts HERE, and the second: Dedicated Jewish Contemplatives: A Jewish Monastic Option?-2010 was for the online magazine "Zeek" ....found HERE.
However my most recent article on the subject (and one which best reflects an Orthodox Jewish perspective) is the one I suggest you read now if you are a new visitor to this website.  You can find it HERE

"Jewish Contemplatives” also has a supporters Page on Facebook which allows members to endorse  dedicated contemplative living generally  and to join  in the prayer intentions posted there. You can find it HERE.


There are no comments enabled on this blog but you can reach me via the email  contact address on my profile if you wish to share responses to what you have found here.

I hope you enjoy your visits to this website.

Nachman  Davies