Articles on Contemplative Prayer

The following is an easy reference index and summary of articles on this  website which are specifically concerned with Prayer.

Part Two Of Kuntres M'arat Ha-Lev
Contains the original expression of this website's conception of Jewish contemplative prayer. You can find it on page 31 and following if you scroll down the pages HERE.

Beit El-The Dedication of the Temple (Dec 2008) 
The latter part of the article contains a reflection on Jacob’s Ladder as a model for contemplative prayer. You can read it HERE.

Tallit Tefillin and Contemplative anxiety (Feb 2009)
This article contains a poetic meditation on Tallit and Tefillin and discusses how the practice of the Presence of God and Trust in God’s Providence is the way to drive out contemplative anxieties. You can read it HERE.

Kedushah-So far and yet so near (June 2009)
This article is an in depth explanation of the imagery used in the “Kuntres M’arat Ha-Lev” concerning the tasks of a Dedicated Jewish Contemplative at prayer. It is a poetic reflection on God’s Immanence and Otherness.
You can read it HERE.

Elul: Hide and seek for Contemplatives. (Aug 2009)
Although this is an article for the penitential month of is also a reflection on the relationship of a contemplative Jew with God. It examines the search and the struggle implicit in any real life of dedicated prayer. You can read it HERE.

Jewish Asceticism in the Room of Elisha - (November 2009)
This article promotes this website’s characteristic view of the nature of contemplative prayer: namely that it should be a simple and uncluttered activity, focused on God, and profoundly receptive.
You can read it HERE.

Contemplative Prayer: Asking Questions, Expecting Answers- (Jan 2010)
If prayer is a dialogue, how do we converse with the Divine through the images our mind perceives or creates? This article attempts to show how a creative and intuitive approach is essential if we are to be open to inspiration in our prayer lives. You can read it HERE.

Contemplative Prayer: Preparation and Spontaneity (Feb 2010)
This article contrasts the ups and downs of a life of prayer. Asking “How should we prepare for prayer?” it reflects on the desert sanctuary in comparison with the Temple of Solomon.
You can read it HERE.

Elijah's Cave Revisited - (March 2010)
This article makes the point that the direction in which both prophets were facing was internal and introspective. It expands on this in relation to the idea of “Threshold” as presented in the Kuntres M’arat ha-Lev.
You can read it HERE.

Contemplative Prayer: Encountering Freedom (April 2010)
A commentary on Moses’ “cleft in the rock” revelation in Leviticus 33 and 34. The article acknowledges the ache which all contemplatives feel in wanting to “see” God. It touches on the immanence and transcendence of the Divine and underlines the realisation that we can say nothing about God Himself no matter how much we might try to theorise- that our prayer is not science but experience.
You can read it HERE.

Elijah and the Peace of Jerusalem –(April 2010)
This article presents contemplative prayer as a form of religious activism and describes how the mission of Elijah may be developed when Jewish Contemplatives are praying for peace.
You can read it HERE.

Contemplative Prayer: Letting God Find Us - (June 2010)
This article examines the mood swings in the life of anyone living a full time contemplative lifestyle. It makes some simple practical suggestions for the times when enthusiasm is lacking or faith is being tested.
You can read it HERE.

Contemplative Prayer: Praying for Others (July 2010)
The article reflects on the prayer of Moses and Abraham and examines how contemplatives might view the petitionary prayers they offer. It suggests that focus on God rather on any specific petition may actually be more useful to God than our becoming depressed by or pre-occupied with the sufferings and needs we all feel.
You can read it HERE.

Elul: Teshuvah- An Elul Reflection (Aug 2010)

This article reminds us that prayer is often a form of  "hitpalel"- a time of self examination.  But it also suggests that our prayer is incomplete without the inspiration of God who "notices us" our attempts to improve  and comes running to meet us.  Heal us and we shall be healed" which reminds us that it is only when God "turns to us" that we can begin to return to Him.  You can read it HERE.

Sons of the Prophets: The Room of Elisha Revisited (Oct 2010)

This article is a commentary on Parshah Vayera and examines the akedah (binding of Isaac) and the healing of the Shumamite's son. It contrasts Elisha and Abraham and asks how they might be viewed as exemplars to Jewish Contemplatives  as the "living b'nei nevi'im" (the living Sons and daughters of the prophetic tradition).  You can read it HERE .

Azamra: Doing Our Best - Nov 2010
This article  discusses the Psalm verse "I will sing with the the little I have left" drawing on the Breslov tradition.  It includes a new setting of that text in a "klezmer" style in score form. It reminds us that quality is more important than quantity in our daily prayer and that doing our best is more important than scoring points on a ladder of perfection.
You can read the article and view the score HERE

 The Light of the Tzaddik (Dec 2010)
This article  is an extended essay on the relationship between Hanukkah and the Joseph narrative in Genesis. It's themes are Providence, Hope, Faith and the way in which prayer can fill the worlds with light.
You can read it HERE.

Yissurim shel Ahavah (Jan 2011)
We are invited, in this article,  to view our personal struggles as a form of education and revelation. It suggests that our trials are places where we can grow and that our prayer life should be one of increasing equanimity and trust in Providence.
You can read it HERE.

Singing a New Song- Hearing God's Voice (Jan 2011)
Using the texts of the Kedushah and Parshah Yitro, the article  describes how we might make our prayer a  meditation and a theological statement  at the same time.
You can read it  HERE.

The Embrace of the Keruvim-The Prayer of Nearness (Feb 2011)
Continuing a reflection on things angelic, this article takes the symbol of the keruvim (cherubim) from the ark cover to describe how each jewish contemplative is a "mitkarev" who hopes to draw as close to God as God will allow.
You can read it HERE.

Zechus Avos- The Merit of the Patriarchs (Feb 2011)
This article examines the prayer of Moses and Elijah in Parshah and Haftarah Ki Sissa.  It makes comparisons with liturgical prayer texts which also refer to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob...and attempts to describe why any  "merit"  is actually not theirs or ours...but a gift of God .
You can read it HERE.

Yachin and Boaz in the Contemplative Mirror (Feb 2011)
This article looks at three items from the Desert Sanctuary and Temple and relates them to  three elements of Judaism: Faith in God, Membership of the Holy Community of Israel, and reliance on the Torah.  It also describes the function of the second "tent of meeting" as a place of hitbodedut and the women who donated the mirrors in Parsha Vayakhel as model contemplatives.
You can read it HERE.

Korban Minchah: The Finest Flour (March 2011)
This article reflects on the nature of the meal offering in the temple and discusses the significance of sacrifice and atonement in the liturgical life of a Jewish contemplative. It is a commentary on Parshah and Haftarah Vayikra.
You can read it HERE.

The Jewish Retreat Centre-Our Interior Sanctuary (March 2011)
This article contrasts external retreat in physical isolation with the interior kind of solitude found in solitary prayer in the One who is "HaMakom"...the only true Place.  Using texts from Leviticus (Parshah Tzav) and Avraham ben Maimon (ben HaRambam) it makes some meditative suggestions for how we might vist this "Place" and remain there no matter what we are engaged in doing.  It also has some advice for those undertaking formal retreats in Jewish Centres of Prayer.
You can read it HERE.

Spiritual Marriage-Lag B'Omer (May2011)  
This article claims that Jewish meditation has to be more than  "a well-being exercise" if it is to be called Jewish.  Meditation outside the framework of the halachah and without an explicit relationship to God may be good therapy, but it lacks authentic Jewishness.  The article is a brief commentary on Parshah Bemidbar.
You can read the article HERE.

Sinai: Receiving the Torah in Practice (June 2011)

With help from the Sochatchover Rebbe and  R.Menachem Mendel of Kotsk, this  article  considers the relationship between observing the mitzvot and growing in faith.
You can read it HERE

Contemplative Prayer- In the Company of Elijah (July 2011).

This article is a poetic meditation on Elijah's encounter with the "still small voice" on Horeb and it relates the dark times in a contemplative's life to the revelation described in Haftarah Pinchas.
You can read it HERE.

"Hishtadlus and Bitachon on the Contemplative Journey (Aug 2011)"
This article considers the delicate balance between hishtadlus (initiative and action) and bitachon (trust and faith). It examines the "quietist" side of contemplative living and points out that  we need to work at balancing the two poles through developing as both the Servants and the Children of God. 
You can read it HERE.

"The Torah of the Heart - (Aug 2011)"
This article considers the words of the Chiddushei Ha-Rim and is a meditation on accessing the Torah in our own private prayer, notably through the mitzvah of tefillin. It asks the question: In what way is the Torah a personal gift as well as a communal one?

 You can read it HERE.

"At the Gate of Shabbos- (September 2011)" 
This article is a Hegyon Ha-Lev "scriptural meditation" (predominantly on Parshah Ki Tavo.) It considers the connection between the Friday entry into Shabbos, the sixth day of creation, and the entry into the Promised Land.  It ends with a poetic meditation on the related text of  Psalm 100.     
You can read it HERE.


"Treasuring the Concealed (Nov 2011)"

This article makes the point that all authentically Jewish forms of meditation and contemplation have as their goal the act of cleaving to the Divine, not as a form of personality development but in order for the practitioner to become a channel for the action of of God in the material world. It examines the concepts of bitul ha-yesh(self-anullment) and devekus (cleaving solely to God). It concludes with some reflections to support these points taken from Parashas Chayei Sarah, from Psalm 119, and from the writings of the Berditchever Rebbe.
You can read it HERE.


"Jacob's Angels and the House of Prayer - (December 2011)"

This article is a brief reflection on Parashas Vayeitzei and takes as its primary text the Haftarah verse from Hosea 12:5... "At Beit-El he found him and there He will speak with us." It examines the kind of attentive contemplative prayer which is a few steps "lower" than prophecy and which involves the "hearing" of God's Voice through the "angelic" messages sent to us during prayer and during the everyday events of our miraculous lives. It makes the point that the experience of the Divine in our lives is not something which is experienced only by solitaries aand hermits--- but that it is something which all devout Jews are called to deepen and practice on a daily basis. 
You can read it HERE

Contemplative Roots and Branches - (February 2012)

This short article makes reference to the festival of the "New Year for Trees" and relates this festival  to our acts of "orientation" towards the One is who is HaMakom--the only True Place. It refers to the work of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and Rabbi Avraham Kook who both marvel at the cosmic influence that our humble acts of contemplative  prayer and acts of prayerful study are capable of achieving with God's blessing.
You can read it HERE.  

Ascending and Descending in Elul - August 2012
 This essay connects contemplative prayer with compassionate action and claims that the latter is an essential outpouring of the former. It takes the "parapet" image from Parshas Ki Seitsei and describes how we might care for our immediate neighbours with a compassion that is actually a delicate balance of gevurah and chesed. 
You can read it HERE .