Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spiritual Experiences in Judaism

Graham Ledgerwood interviews Rabbi David Eliezrie, a Hasidic Rabbi, about spiritual experiences, as well as Shekinah, or the Presence of God.  This interview comes from

"When a Hasid directs the emotion in the prayer, what happens then?" I asked.
"Then a person reaches a certain level of spiritual ecstasy and opens himself up spiritually. He has thought about godliness; he has thought about spirituality; he has thought about the things that God accomplished in the world; then he focuses his prayer on the greatness of God, the spirituality of God. Then he comes out of the prayer with a tremendous feeling of upliftedness," the Rabbi explained.
"Could you give me some examples of states or characteristics which occur in this ecstasy and upliftedness?"
"Characteristics…." He thought a moment. "I think, mainly, there is an awe-ness of God. I think it is a realization by a person of what is important and what is secondary... You develop a proper sense of priorities. You realize what is primary, what is important and what is not important. You have the realization that the essence of this world is really spiritual and that the physical only hides the true qualities of the world."
"My dictionary says Shekinah is: ‘the manifestation of the presence of God; or Divine Presence.' Would you agree with this definition?"
"Yes," he agreed, "basically, Shekinah is the manifestation in the physical world of the Divine Presence."
"If I were to come into your place of worship, would I see a physical object? Is Shekinah a physical object?"
"There were times when Shekinah was physically present in the world," the Rabbi spoke thoughtfully. "When the temple was in existence. And, today, when people get together and study the Torah, Shekinah is present. Shekinah can be brought about when the temple is here or when ten or more Jews get together and study the Torah. Or, when people are together in a holy act. When people fulfill a mitzvah, Shekinah can be present."
"What I’m trying to understand," I explained, "is does Shekinah have any form whatever?"
"No form. It’s a holy, spiritual force."
..."What is that like," I asked, "when you study the Torah and Shekinah comes?"
"There are times when people feel in themselves a spiritual sensitivity and holiness — Shekinah is the Presence of God," he answered.
"This Presence, when people are sitting together reading the Torah or doing a holy act, does the Presence occur within them, or does everyone in the room feel it?"
"That depends," he said. "It depends on their sensitivity. For instance, you can be willing to give somebody something but they may not be able to accept it. God is present but not all may be sensitive enough to feel the Divine Presence."
"How, then, can one become sensitive to Shekinah?"
"You become sensitive through learning, praying, and going through a period of spiritual development. Spiritual development in our religion primarily relates to prayer," he said.

-from, "Hasidic Judaism"

Graham Ledgerwood interviews Rabbi Frank Stern about spirituality in Judaism.  Rabbi Stern was careful to note that his comments do not necessarily reflect the feelings of all Jews.  The interview comes from

"I think that there are many ways of experiencing God...
Spiritual experience has to somehow create differences in your behavior, have an effect on the way you live.
...I think the experience of God is a very distinct and concrete experience. Yes, it’s something you can sense that happens to you, and it’s even something you could attempt to talk about...
I personally had experiences where I felt the presence of God. I know members of my family have had those experiences. We have an adult education study program where just a week ago the whole theme of the get-together was personal experiences of God and how a person can share these experiences with others. There were thirty people attending the discussion and I was amazed that not one of them said they had not had these special kinds of experiences. Every single person there had some kind of personal experience of God — of different sorts and different natures. But not all of them translated their experiences in the same vocabulary: ‘I felt the presence of God’ or ‘Some special course opened in my life. I felt the Divine Presence,’ or ecstasy, or whatever it might be.
...I think ecstasy is one of those attributes of the experience, or one of the consequences of the experience...  I think the heightened awareness of abilities, skills, potentials, that exist within persons is one of the consequences. I think often a new sense of priorities and values is a consequence. Very frequently a person’s life direction is changed from such an experience, and he begins to do things he wasn’t doing previously — or he re-focuses his life.
There is a kind of consciousness of being chosen, of being special in some regard, also. There’s a sense of awe and wonder, too. There’s a sense of purposefulness in terms of the order and harmony of the universe, usually. Perhaps there is also a sense of special relatedness between yourself and other people — and other things.
But, yet, when you begin to tear it apart this way, all of these are but parts of the same experience.
...Feeling the presence of God or experiencing God in some way pushes you onward — whatever that push is."

-from, "Judaism"

An spiritual experience in Jerusalem:

"I had an intense spiritual experience when I touched the western wall in Jerusalem. I was overcome by the desire to pray and I blurted out everything I could remember. (This was before I became observant.) I also closed my eyes and felt like I was one with the wall, and simultaneously like I was flying. It is something I often remind myself of when I have doubts or I am struggling."

-from reddit user Future Mrs. Orthodonk

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