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Jewish "elah" (ةلاص/הלס) Times and Postures for Prayer, Mantra and Meditation The Jewish Origins of the “alāt” of the Ṣūfīs

Copyright New Dawn Publications 2011 © No reproduction, in whole or part, without express written permission from the author Mikhah David Naziri (

Today, different Jewish communities make alāt different ways. Some trace back to Biblical sources to ascertain the way that works best for them. Some focus on the method of the Rambam which expands on the explanation of Rav in the Talmūd that one bow at the word barūkh in the Amīdah (Berakhōt 12a-b). This method is relative to the Amīdah, standing prayer, but is not the most ancient method itself, as the Talmūd teaches that originally the obligatory prayer, three times a day, consisted only of the Shema` itself. We thus read therein that the obligation of reciting the Shema` itself is only of the single sentence itself. “What is meant by the Shema’? The first verse [alone]” (Sukkōt 42a). As well, “Our Rabbis taught: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one’: this was Rabbi Yehūdah the Prince’s recital of the Shema’” (Berakhōt 13b). In the same folio, we read that the first sentence alone was one which the ancient sages used to “take pains”:

Rabbi Ela the son of Rabbi Samuel ben Martha said in the name of Rav: If one said ‘Hear, O Israel, Ha’Shem our God, Ha’Shem is One’, and was then overpowered by sleep, he has performed his obligation. Rabbi Nahman said to his slave Daru: For the first verse prod me, but do not prod me for any more. Rabbi Yōsef said to Rabbi Yōsef the son of Rabbah: How did your father use to do? He replied: For the first verse he used to take pains, for the rest he did not use to take pains.

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There is no contradiction between this and the prostrations of the Shemōneh Esrei (literally “eighteen”), the Amīdah (literally “standing”); they are simply different forms of prayer, composed in different eras. The sentence of the Shema’ itself predated the composition of the blessings and the Shemōneh Esrei, towards the beginning of the Second Temple Era. This, the Shema`-elah, is the most ancient form of Jewish prayer, that was used as a several-times daily meditation, to recalibrate the individual spiritually, and harmonize them – in sound and movement – with the Divine Oneness. The Shemōneh Esrei also known as the Amīdah, as well as any tefīllah thereafter, should be said, before the Shema`-elah, three times a day. The additional four prayer times, do not require the Amīdah. Following the full, standing Shema` recitation and the Amīdah, one can say any tefillōt standing, before the Shema`-elah, including – should they wish – traditional Ṣūfī recitation of short suwar of the Qur’an. In fact, in the Talmūd Yerūshlamī, Rabbi Yose instructed that one must include something new in prayer every day (Berakhōt 8b), which was confirmed by Rabbi Eleazar and Rabbi Abbahu who asserted that the prayer should not simply be recited like a script of a letter. That is to say, that the Amīdah is for the purpose of focusing on matters of the content therein. The Shema`-elah follows, for those who walk in the footsteps of the assīdīm Rishōnīm, literally as a mantric form of zhikr/zachōr and hitbōdedūt. We see such an apparent example of Shema`-elah, being performed apart from the Amīdah, being continued by Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum “when he recited the Shema` prostrated himself fully on the ground, without outstretched arms and legs for several hours, and he uttered groans, and all his limbs shook so that his tallīt would slide off him – though he wasn’t aware of that at all”. 1 It is clear from the context that this practice precluded the continuation of the

1 Buxbaum, Jewish Spiritual Practices, 170

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V’ahavta, V’haya īm shamōa, Vayōmer and Amīdah, etc. Thus, it must have already been performed before this lengthy activity, spanning “several hours.” It should be noted that this specific activity of Rabbi Teitelbaum describes the method of full prostration, which one can incorporate with these methods if they so desire. This booklet, however, will show the less extreme form of prostration, which is an easier method and is additionally alchemically advantageous for the purposes of allowing gravity to force energy from the base of the spine up to the brain. The form of prostration described herein will treat the Tanakh as the preeminent source, when postures are described explicitly as mirroring those practiced by the Muslim world today. Thus, we read “Elijah ascended to the summit of Mt. Carmel and prostrated himself on the ground, placing his face between his knees” (Alef Melakhīm/1 Kings 18.42). We thus maintain that this is the preferred posture for elah, whereas full prostration is preferred for ending a recitation session of any sort and going into a period of prolonged meditation of the kind described above. The Tanakh, of course, makes frequent reference to prayer having postures, including prostration. In Daniel we read that he was seen in prayer postures and was thus placed under arrest. He did not kneel at his bed with his hands pressed together; he used the ancient postures of the B’nei Yisrael.

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Yerūshalayīm, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did afore-time (Daniel 6.10).

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Thus, we see that the Tanakh describes the elah postures – and the way that this text teaches is – as the most ancient way of the assīdīm Rishōnīm; employing the exact same postures as Muslims. Rabbeinū Araham ben Maimonides explained and defended the Jewish origin of these postures. He had detractors - naturally, as his father did as well - who accused him of just synthesizing the practices of the Muslim world. These detractors described him as engaging in Muslim prayer postures, not merely those described by his father and the Talmūd for the Amīdah prayer. Rabbeinū Araham, however, defended that these postures were well known and practiced since ancient times. The Ṣūfīs, he said, were practicing what Jews had and were still supposed to practice. His most often quoted response on this matter is: “Do not regard as unseemly our comparison of that to the behavior of the Ṣūfīs, for the latter imitate the prophets and walk in their footsteps, not the prophets in theirs.” 2 While prostrations to the ground can and was at times done as a full prostration to the ground, it is not what will be shown in these postures. For instance, in Tehīllīm we read: “For our ego is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaves unto the land” (44.25). Yet we are also told “Come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before Ha’Shem our maker” (95.6). Feel free to do the full prostration, if you can do so fluidly. The smoothness of the transition is important with this method, as is the resonation of the words. The reader will almost certainly find that the postures correlate with the words of the Shema` in a very logical way. The names that follow are the standard Arabic names used in the Muslim world to describe the postures. In terms of prayer times, we similarly see a correlation between the earliest Muslim sources and Judaism. Ja`farī fiqh follows the Jewish three prayer times like the Qur’ān itself says too (rather than five). Ja`farī does the same number of rak`ah as the Sunnī schools, but says the afternoon two and the sunset-night two are actually just big sets

2 Araham ben Maimonides, Kifāyat al-`Abidīn, Volume II, translated by Samuel Rosenblatt, Baltimore, 1938, 320

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(making 3 altogether rather than 5). Thus, Tehīllīm says: “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (55.17). These three times are the only prayer times mentioned in the Qur’an itself, as well: the Dawn Prayer (24.58), Middle Prayer (2.238;17.78), and Night Prayer (24.58). The `Īṣunīyīm Jews performed many more rak`ah than these; 52 rather than 17 in 7 daily sets which break down to what is said in Tehīllīm: “Seven times a day do I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments.” 3

The Seven `Īṣunīyah “elah” (ةلاص/הלס) Times

“Seven times a day I praise you upon your righteous laws” (Tehīllīm/Psalm 119:164) ךָקֶ דְ צִ יטֵ פְּ שְׁ מִ לעַ ךָיתִּ לְ לַּ הִ םוֹיּבַּ עבַ שֶׁ The term “elah” (הלס ) cannot be directly translated. It appears throughout the Tehīllīm of David with an approximate meaning of “pause and reflect.” Through Arabic usage the term came to be referred to periodic Jewish prayer postures, mentioned throughout the Tanakh, which individuals would “pause and reflect” during. In addition to the normal, three times of Judaism, and mentioned in the Qur’an as the three prayer times (maintained to this day by the Shī`ah), there are additional prayers which Islam calls nafillah which is a result of the earliest Arabic not having been written with i`jām dots on the letters. As a result, this word was interpreted as nafillah, when it was in fact the Hebrew tefīllah (הלפת ) or prayer of the `Īṣunīyah Jews, which Israel Friedlander has documented the clear connections between this group and the later minhag of the anti- Caliphate Ahl al-Bayt, of Muhammad’s family.

3 119.164

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The Number of Cycles for Classical Jewish elah The number of `Īṣunīyah Jewish elah repetitions is 52 in all. These include the 18 core of the three obligatory prayer times in Yahadūt. This is one more than the traditional Muslim world follows. The number 18 symbolizes, gematrically, the word for “life”.

  • 1. Ma`ariv (בירעמ, “evening”) There are 4 Raka’at for Maghrib/Ma`ariv along with the obligatory prayers cycle of 8: A total of 12 rak`ah.

  • 2. Ne`ilah (הליענ, “closing”) There are 2 Raka’at for Ne`ilah/Isha.

  • 3. Lailah (הליל, “night”) There are 10 Raka’at for Tahajjud (alāt al-Shab)

  • 4. Reshit Aur (רוא תישאר, “First Light”) There are 2 Raka`at for Shaarīt/Fajr are done between the Lailah prayers and Shaarīt. This is when the very first light breaks. The Biblical Shaarīt can be prayed at this time, but can be prayed later, as regarding sunrise, as Tehīllīm says “You will fear him with the sun”. If however, one prayed at the crack of dawn when the eastern horizon was visible, they fulfilled their obligation.

  • 5. Shaarīt (תרחש) There are 2 regular Raka`at for Shaarīt/Fajr. One may say the morning prayer until the fourth hour into the day, which is a third of the day.

  • 6. Minah (החנמ)

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There are 8 obligatory Raka’at for Minah/Ẓūhr in addition to 4 from the obligatory prayer. This can alternatively be done as 8 obligatory and 8 extra if the following prayer is done with only 8. If done the first way, it will be a total of 12 rak`ah.

  • 7. Mūsaf (ףסומ, “additional”) 8 Raka’at for Asr or Mūsaf. This can alternatively be done as 8 Raka’at for Asr or Mūsaf if the Minah/Ẓūhr 8 are done with 8 additional. If done the first way, it will be a total of 12 rak`ah. Then repeat the cycle with the evening prayers.

Where to Pray: Nature and elah

We should again remember the aforementioned passage from Sefer Daniel, which explains that Daniel chose a room with windows constructed in it, facing Jerusalem, to perform his elah postures:

When Daniel learned that it [the ban on praying to Ha’Shem] had been written down, he went to his house, in whose attic he had windows constructed that faced Jerusalem, and three times a day he knelt on his knees, and prayed, and confessed to his God, as he had always done. (Daniel 6.11)

This tells us one of the earliest explicit references to the elah postures of Jewish prayer; that Daniel would go down on his knees physically. It tells us also that he faced Jerusalem, lest there be any confusion about the instruction to do so in the Tanakh. Furthermore, it is told in Berakhōt 30a that “one who is standing in the Diaspora and wishes to pray should direct his heart towards the land of Israel. One who is standing in the land of Israel should face Jerusalem.” Finally, Daniel tells us that there were windows, an important detail for proper practice; to breathe in pure air. Thus we read:

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Go outside at midnight In the footsteps of the men of renown (Berashīt 6), Upon their lips are praises; They embody neither guile nor extortion. Their nights are devoted to prayers; Their days to fasts. Their hearts are pathways to God. There are places for them in His throne. Their way – a ladder upon which to ascend To Ha’Shem, our God. 4

We read in Mark Verman’s work The History and Varieties of Jewish Meditation, that “the earliest biblical passage connected with meditation is Genesis 24.63, which describes Isaac going out into the field at evening to meditate (la-suach). As Isaac and other biblical figures consciously chose to commune with Ha’Shem by going outdoors, it is certainly appropriate to explore the role of nature in Jewish spirituality.” Verman further comments that “it is noteworthy that the verbal infinitive la-suach in Genesis 24.63 is ambiguous. In fact, this is the only occurrence of this particular root form in Tanakh. All grammarians agree that suach is related to siach. The latter, however, has two distinct connotations: conversing and vegetation.” 5 Thus we read in the Talmūd, Baba Batra 78b, “the righteous are sichin (shrubs).” Verman adds then that “la-suach was rendered by the Sages as talking with god (i.e. praying). This also resulted in the standard translation, “meditate.” Noting that the medieval commentator R. Abrahahm ibn Ezra and later the JPS chose to translate this as “walking outdoors”, he comments that “it is significant

  • 4 Yehūdah Ha’Levī, quote in H. Schirmann, Ha’Shirah, 518

  • 5 Verman 46

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that communing with God and walking outdoors are interwoven in this one word”. 6 We can thus surmise that it is superior to do the elah outdoors, but if one must do so inside, for instance, if being seen would cause alarm to the society one resides in, as with Daniel, then they must at least make certain to have access to fresh air. To this end, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero notes that the name Elōhīm has the numerical value 86, which is the same as the definite noun ha-teva or “Nature”, as he notes “for Nature exhibits the Divine will”. 7 Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi comments on this that the name Elōhīm “is also equal to ha-teva, because Elohim hides the Supernal Light that causes the world to come into existence and gives it life… the world exists and functions naturally. The name Elohim is a shield and sheath for the name of Ha-Shem”. 8 Rabbi Nachman said that we should meditatively be like unto the outgrowths of the vegetative itself in that “each blade [of grass] recites a song to Ha’Shem without any deviation or foreign thought. Nor do they anticipate any reward. How beautiful and pleasant to hear their song.” He concluded “Es is sehr gut, frum tzu zein, tzvishen zaya” in Yiddish, “It is very good to be pious (frum) [in a like manner] in their midst.” 9 He explained that meditation outside was especially important in the spring: “As summer approaches all awaken and are alive. Then it is wonderfully good to go out ‘to commune (la-suach) in the field’” (Berashīt 24.63). 10

Preparation in Diet, Attire, Washing, Energy and Intention

The mystics have maintained for millennia that it is very beneficial for a person to have a special room for serving Ha’Shem through Torah study and prayer. This is particularly important for

  • 6 Verman 46

  • 7 Pardes Rimmonim, Shaar 12, ch. 2 f. 66a.

  • 8 Tanya, Shār ha’Yiḥūd, ch. 6

  • 9 Sichōt Ha’Ran, no. 163 10 Sichōt, no 98

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meditation and communing with one’s Master… and our Rabbi, of blessed memory said that being covered by a tallīt is also like having a special room. 11 The well-known Theraputae Jewish mystics of Egypt, in the Second Temple Era – a group related closely to the Essenes in practice and in era of activity – spoke of having a special room or closet for meditative hitbōdedūt as well. This then could be understood in the modern era contextually, and relative to the Tanakhī passages we have already seen. One might designate an attic, like Daniel, for such purposes, while not neglecting the concept of connection with the natural world. Thus, if someone were to use such a room, they must bear in mind a few alchemical criteria; namely that one must have access to fresh air and that one should ideally be connected to the Earth if they have the option. To this end, a basement – if able to access fresh air – is often perfect for such purposes. The sixteenth-century mystic, Rabbi Yehūdah al-Botinī, a rabbinic authority in Jerusalem, wrote on the “the paths of meditation (hitbōdedūt) and deveqūt (cleaving to God)” that one must look at these practices as “correction” or “realignment” (tiqqūn) of the body; “correction” (226). In so doing, one must prepare themselves for these holy practices by discipline and self-purification; purification of the body, from the self or nefesh. They must “minimize physical desires – in relation to eating, he should constantly accustom himself to eat smaller quantities of only high quality food. He should limit his intake of meat and wine, as our Sages have formulated: “This is the path of the Torah…” (Mishnah Avōt 4.4). Regarding the Eastern practice of yogic semen retention, which was highly-regarded by the Essene Jews, Al-Botinī writes: “He should restrict his animal urges and not give them what they desire, for in the diminution of their power, his soul will dominate and his intellect will escape the prison of his animal urges in order to actualize and adhere to His Owner. 12 …Also, he

  • 11 Sichōt Ha’Ran, nos. 274-275: 167-168

  • 12 “Sūlam ha’Aliyah” in Kitvei Yad ba’Qabalah, ed. Scholem, 225

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should wear proper, clean clothes. It is preferable that they are white, for all of this promotes concentration on Divine fear and love… take care to empty your thoughts from all worldly vanities. Wrap yourself in your tallīt and place your tefīllīn on your hand and head if you are able to, in order that you are in awe and quake in the presence of the Shekhīnah, for She is with you at that moment”. 13 We see a similar comment from one of Abu Lafia’s students who writes: “And cleanse yourself and your garments, and if possible let them all be white, for all this greatly assists the intention of fear and love…and wrap yourself in tallīt and place your tefīllīn on your head and your arm, so that you may be fearful and in awe of the Shekhīnah”. 14 The focus on clean white garments is very clearly a remnant of Essenic pietism, that no one acquainted with the historical Essene movement, or the Dead Sea Scrolls would be able to miss. As for whether the above recommendations should take the form of a temporary oath, or a longer period of purification, Al-Botinī writes that these should be followed “For a long time, not merely a day or two days or even a month, but a long time, until one arrives at the point where one’s physical urges do not bother him”. 15 Thus, one should not regard such restrictions on meat as a limited period of Nazīrūt, but preferably one should regard it as a Nazīrūt like that of Shimshōn ha’Nazīr. While a full discussion of Nazīrūt is beyond the scope of the text at hand, Nazīrūt continues to be a powerful expression of Jewish pietism in this day, with the likes of such figures as Rav Kook and his disciple David ha’Nazīr engaging in such life-long oaths (nedarīm). Finally, a word must be said on the notion of tevīllah versus the Islamic wūḍū. It is common within the Jewish world to hear that there is no Jewish form of wūḍū save netilat

  • 13 Ibid 226-227

  • 14 Idel, Mystical Experience, 39

  • 15 Scholem 226

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yadayīm. Rabbi `Ōḅadyah Maimūnī, the grandson of the Rambam, says otherwise. The following passage is from his Al-Maqalat Al-Hawdiyyah (Treatise on the Pool):

Our pure and purifying Law has cautioned us concerning all external and internal defilement. The former, such as menstruation and nocturnal emission, are to be cleansed through immersion in a miqvah. Thus, Aaron and his descendants were enjoined “to wash their hands and feet, that they do not perish” ( Sh’mōt/Exodus 30.21) this being the reason for the act of purification. For through the conviction man’s soul acquires after immersion that all veils, as it were, have been lifted, there ensues a state similar to spiritual predisposition (tahayyu’) and communion (ittiṣāl) with God. If not in need of

immersion, then one must carry out the ablution of the hands and feet in order that the

natural heat circulates in the body and arouse thereby the soul


... not v’neme’tem and (you shall become defiled) but v’niamem (and you shall become

feeble-minded) (Yōmā39a). 16

It thus behooves the individual to perform such energy-washing, prior to these postures. If one knows full methods, preserved in the Eastern mystical traditions, they can engage in these, or learn them in person from the author. If they do not, following the simplified method of the Ṣūfīs, which Rabbi `Ōḅadyah followed and advocated, will serve the purposes at hand.

Sources on the Postures

Verman writes in The History and Varieties of Jewish Meditation that “the body is an alchemical laboratory in which coarse matter and emotions are elevated and transformed into spiritual gold… of special interest”, he explains, is “the spine” in prayer postures. 17 Rabbi Eliahu de

  • 16 Chapter 7.49-51, 53

  • 17 Verman 67

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Vidas, writes in Reshīt Ḥōkhmah Ha’Shalem, that “the lifeforce of a person and the human structure is dependent upon the spine.” 18 Rabbi Eleazar ben Yehūdah, says the following:

The soul, residing on the brain, irrigates the spinal column from the brain. It enters the eighteen vertebrae of the spine. Accordingly, it is the practice upon reciting modem – [“we are grateful”] – that when she [ the soul] recites “we are grateful to you,” she bows until “all of the vertebrae are loosened” (Berakhōt 28b); therefore vitality is ai [with a value of 18] …as it is written, “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18.4) Chet (sin) has the numerical value of eighteen, but if there will be repentance, then you will merit `Eden, which is a distance of 18,000 centuries. 19

This tells us both that the 18 rak`ah give life, but they are simultaneously a short-coming from the prescribed 52. But this is not all that is stated about the spine as both fundamental to Jewish meditation, and the yogic focus of the elah postures. The Qabalistic work Sefer Bahīr explains that “the brain is the root of the spinal cord. The body constantly draws sustenance from there. If not for the spinal cord, the brain could not exist and without the brain, the body would not exist… therefore the spinal cord dispenses to the entire body from the brain.” 20 According to Midrashīm, “the soul is like a winged grasshopper, and a chain is attached to one of its legs and is connected to the spine. When a person sleeps, his soul leaves and roams the world” (Midrash Tehīllīm, 11.102). The Midrashīm pay particular attention to the lūz, the powerful tail bone; a part of the spine which is of great importance in Daoist meditation. While the body is said to be from the Earth and is to return to the Earth, Midrash teaches that the lūz is of heavenly origins. This bone

  • 18 Reshīt Ḥōkhmah Ha’Shalem 3.384

  • 19 Ḥōkhmat ha’Nefesh, 146

  • 20 Sefer ha’Bahīr, no. 37.9a

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is said to be essentially indestructible, and the bone from which resurrection is inaugurated. 21 Thus we read in Shōshan Sodōt, 57a that when the resurrection occurs, it will be from the sefīrah of Keter Elyōn, to Bīnah which “corresponds to the lūz in the lower realm. As in Daoist Wūjī standing meditation we read from Rabbi ayyīm of Volozhin, that the individual “is entirely connected above, as if by a rope. Thus it is written, ‘Jacob is a rope that is His allotment” (Deuteronomy 32.9). 22 Those familiar with Daoist meditation and Kundalini, will need no further commentary on the significance of these passages, and how regular elah postures (or some similar practice), are integral to spiritual elevation.

Breath (Qi)

In the Tanakh, Job writes “the Spirit (Ruach) of God has made me; and the breath (Nishmat) of the Almighty has given me life: (Iyov/Job 33.4) The Midrashīm note the connection between Neshamah (Soul) and Neshimah (Breath), saying “Rabbi Levi taught in the name of Rabbi Hanina, ‘With every breath (neshimah) that one breathes, one should praise his Creator. What is the scriptural basis for this? ‘Every living soul (neshamah) shall praise God (Tehīllīm/Psalms 150.6). Read this instead as ‘each breath shall praise God” (Berashīt Rabbah 4.11). David writes “By the word of Ha’Shem the heavens were made, and all the hosts by the breath of His mouth” (Tehīllīm/Psalms 33.6) Ezekiel quotes Ha’Shem as saying “I will place My Spirit in you and you will be revived…” (Yeezqel/Ezekiel 37.13-14) Thus the Talmūd teaches “You breathed it [the soul] into me” (Berakhōt 60b) In the Torah, Ha’Shem blew into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life to make us “a living being.” (Berashīt/Genesis 2.7) We read of an anonymous tzaddīq in the commentary of

  • 21 cf. Berashīt Rabbah 28.3

  • 22 Nefesh Ha’ayyīm, 343

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Rabbi Hirsh of Zydaczow. This tzaddīq would inhale concentrating every breath on the name

and meaning of Elōhīm while doing the same for Ha’Shem on each exhalation (Tefīllah le-

Moshe, 10b).

We read in the Zōhar of well known Daoist practices associated with alternated

concentration of breath through each nostril 23 and in commenting on the breath in relation to the

Middle Dan T’ien or Heart Chakra, the Zōhar quotes Lamentations 4.20 “The breath of our

nostrils is God’s Messiah” (הוהָ

ְי חי ַ שִׁ מְ וּניפֵּ אַ חוּר

ַ ). Thus we read, “And the breath of the Almighty

causes them to Understand” (Iyov/Job 32.8) Thus Rabbi Naman explains “the basis of the

tiqqūn of the intellect is by means of the breath.” 24 We thus must understand that breathing in

this form of meditative prayer is of the utmost importance…

Enunciating the Shema` for elah: How we make use of the דע in the Shema`...

ד חָ אֶ הוהָ ְי וּניהלֵֹ אֱ הוהי לאֵ רָ שְׂ ִי ע מַ שְׁ

The aforementioned shema` translates loosely to the sentence: “Listen Israel, Ha’Shem your

God, Ha’Shem is One.” There is much more in this sentence, than such an overly simplistic

translation. First, we must look at the word Shema` itself. To be sure, it means “hear” or “listen.”

But it can only be contextually understood in relation to who it is instructing to listen…

Just as Rashi interprets “Yisrael” as deriving from “Sarita,” and Philo plays on the

relationship of “seeing God,” Targum Onkelus translates Yeshurun (Devarim/Deuteronomy

32:15; 33:5,26; Yeshayahu/Isaiah 44:2) as Yisrael. “And He was king in Yeshurun, when the

heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together” (Devarim 33:5). A number of

commentators have further noted the etymology of Yashar El, including Yehūdah Ashlag, known

  • 23 Sefer ha’Zōhar 3.224a

  • 24 Likkutei Moharan 1, 60.3; cf 225; 2, 8.12

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as the Ba`al Ha’Sūlam, in his commentary on the Zohar. He mentions this etymology, 25 as in the

expression “the crooked has become straight” (Vehaya he’aqov le’mishor) (Yeshayahu/Isaiah

40:4). Rabbi Eliezer of Germiza’s Kli Yakar explains similarly that the term Yisrael is composed

of these two words; Yashar and El. 26 Israel are thus those who are right in the sense of being just

or straight in the Eyes of God; those who are on a path (derekh) straight to God and Godliness.

But as well, Yisrael refers to those who see God, because they are Yashar and Yōsher.

We thus must understand that those instructed to listen are those who are already

assumed to have eyes to see. Thus, those called to listen are those amongst those who see who

have ears to hear. We thus must not gloss over the significance of Yishmael and Yisrael ben

Yitzhaq, and the relationship between them. A full discussion of this subject, from the Rabbinic

literature, is beyond the scope of the discussion at hand. It will suffice here to mention it, and

direct the reader to reflect upon it.

Those with eyes to see are told to turn their ears to hear. What must they listen to? The

reality that Ha’Shem is, unto us, our God. That is, what we regard as a god, for us, elohenu, is

the Tetragrammaton – a Verb – alone. What we conceive of as the noun of elohenu is actually –

for us – this Verb of “Ever-Existing”. What else must we turn our ears to hear? That Ever-

Existingness is to us our god, and this Ever-Existingness is One. That is, the Ever-Existingness is

the Oneness of Existence itself; of Existingness itself. This then is a meditation on the Divine

Reality, on what is called in Sufism wadat al wujūd.

Now when this sentence of the shema` is written in a Sefer Torah, it is obligatory for it to

be written with an over-sized ayin (ע) at the end of the shema` and an over-sized dalet at the end

  • 25 Lekh Lekha, 68 items 183-185

  • 26 Kli Yakar Bereshit 32:29

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of the word echad (ד). 27 If anyone knows the meaning of this for the דע in the prayer, they should

realize that it is beyond just a sect of gematria or any subtle meaning such as “bearing witness”;

all of which are true, and interesting, but not the issue at hand. How do we make use of these

letters? This is essential for mantric use of the Shema`, in elah or otherwise. Reflect upon the

fact that originally the Shema` consisted only of these words alone (Sukkōt 42a; Berakhōt 13b). If

you know what the sages said to do with these letters, and if you know the method of ancient

elah of the Am Ha’Ṣūf, then the use for these letters should be clear to you.

And it was taught: Symmachos said: Anyone who prolongs the pronunciation of Ead,

his days and years will likewise be prolonged. R. Aha b. Jacob said: This refers to the

letter dalet. Rabbi Ashi said: Moreover, one should not shorten the letter chet. Rabbi

Jeremiach was seated before his teacher, Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba. (Berakhōt 13b)

And I, Asher ben Rabbi Yaqov ha’Levī, heard directly from Rabbi Eleazar Ha’Drashan,

of blessed memory, they prolong the dalet of Ead in order to acknowledge His

sovereignty in Heaven and on earth and in the four directions. 28

Thus we read from Rabbi Araham ben Isaac of Narbonne, the following on the authority of the

eleventh century Babylonian sage Rabbi Chai Gaon the following lengthy passage, worth

reproducing at length:

We have learned that one does well to shorted the alef, and it is commanded to do so. We

can deduce this from Rabbi Ashi’s stipulation that specifically the chet should not be

shorted. The fact that he did not mention the alef implies that one does well to shorten it.

It has been stated that one should lengthen the chet to a count of three and the dalet to

twice three. First, one should acknowledge sovereignty below and above while reciting

the chet, and then do the four directions during the dalet.

  • 27 Rabbi Avraham Gombiner, Magen Avraham, on “Orach Chayim” 32.1; Ba`al Haturim on Deuteronomy 6.4

  • 28 The Siddūr of Rabbeinū Shelomoh ben Rabbi Shimshōn of Worms, 93

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When contemplating the four directions, one should nod one’s head first east, then

west, then south, then north. We learn this practice from the Hilchot Yetzirah (The Laws

of Creation), as taught there (chapter 1.13)…

At the fifth [stage], He chose three simple letters: yud, hey, vav, and fixed them

for His Great Name. He sealed the six directions with them. He sealed the heights and

turned upward and sealed it with yud, hey, vav. The sixth [stage] He sealed below and

turned downward and sealed it with yud, vav, hey. The seventh [stage] He sealed the east

and turned before Himself and sealed it with hey, yud, vav. The eighth [stage] He sealed

the west and turned backwards and sealed it with hey, vav, yud. The ninth [stage] He

sealed the south and turned to His right and sealed it with vav, yud, hey. The tenth [stage]

He sealed the north and turned to His left and sealed it with vav, hey, yud.

Since we are taught this, it is proper that we acknowledge the sovereignty of the

Creator of the Universe, during our recitation of the Shema`, following the same pattern

with which the Creator created and sealed the Universe. And our teacher, Hai, of blessed

memory explained [ that one should prolong the recitation of Ead] long enough to

motion with one’s head in the six directions and thereby accept the dominion of Heaven.

And Rabbi [Yehūdah the Prince] would cover his eyes with his hands, [when facing his

students during the recitation]. Our sages explain that he was protecting himself from

having his students see his eyes when he was rotating them in the various directions. 29

Thus, it is written “Gal (roll) my eyes that I might see the wonders of Your Torah”

(Tehīllīm/Psalms 119.18), indicating the origins of raising the hands in front of the eyes at the

conclusion of alāt in the Muslim world. This method is also found in Daoist Zhan Zhuang

standing meditation, at the conclusion thereof, for the purposes of sealing the qi in the body, so

that it does not escape from the eye-sockets, following the pressurized reverse breathing and

sinking of qi. We can thus interpret these esoteric practices as a form of such energy-sealing, in

29 This translation by Verman, from the printed edition of Sefer ha’Eshkol, corrected by referring to Paris ms. H-91- A, 3b; cited in Verman 154

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concert, to an extent, with the Qi Kung methods of Abu Lafia, which are beyond the scope of this

particular work.

How to make alāt the Classical Jewish Way

Before and after the postures of elah, the Ma’min should engage in proper sitting meditation or

Nei Kung. The Talmūd teaches “The assīdīm Rishōnīm used to meditate for one hour prior to

praying. What is the basis for this practice? Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levī said, Scripture states,

‘Happy are those who sit in Your house.’” 30 There are certain exercises, mantrically employing

the Tetragrammaton and breath-work, which can bring one from prolonged sitting to standing,

but these are not taught in this text, and are advanced, supererogatory practices. The author of

this text should be contacted directly by those interested in such sitting meditation.

Regarding the method of Shema`- elah, begin your prayers normally, standing straight,

with your arms to the sides and the weight over the bubbling-well point between the bones on the

balls of your feet. Your body thus parallels the “Yōsher” form of the Tetragrammaton in this

position. For this reason, it is important to not stand with the heels together, as has become

tradition. The method can be done with the feet together, but it should never be done in the initial

raka`at this way, for reasons that have to do with actual energy-movement in the body, not

merely with tradition.

There are different reasons to cover your heart at different times, for focusing on the

“Anāhata” chakra, but this is not for your every day postures, so it will be left out for now. The

Muslim world fights over which of these is the right way. In reality, both are right, but for

different things. Different narrators of traditions thus reported different ways they saw

30 Tehīllīm/Psalms 84.5, cited in Berakhōt 32b; B. Sanhedrin 91b

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Muammad doing this Jewish prayer. Thus, Ja`farī and Mālikī dogmatically adhere to the hands-

to-the-sides method, while Shafi`ī, anafī and anbalī do it with hands crossed. Both are right

but both are wrong in that they believe their dogma is the only right way. This is because they

are cut off from the tradition and only have reports recorded long after Muammad left them.

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As mentioned from the outset, all standing prayer s are said before performing the postures. Thus,

As mentioned from the outset, all standing prayers are said before performing the postures. Thus,

in Tehīllīm we read: “My foot stands in an even place: in the congregations will I bless

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Ha’Shem” (26.12), the beginning. In Arabic this is known as qiyām (standing/”rising” literally),

begin by saying raising the hands, cupped to the rear of the ears, palms facing forward:

Then say the “Sh” of Shema` (עמַ שְׁ ) meaning “Hear” or “Listen” as you start bending forward at

the waist. The hands are put to the ears for this reason. This has been lost in the form practiced in

the Muslim world today, even though the posture has been retained. Thus, Tehīllīm says: “Thus

will I bless you while I live: I will lift up my hands in your Name.” (63.4) As well, in Ezra-

Neemyah it is written: “And Ezra blessed Ha’Shem, the great God. And all the people

answered, Amein, Amein, with lifting up of their hands: and they bowed their heads, and

worshiped Ha’Shem with their faces to the ground.” (8:6)

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Continue by saying the “mmm” sound. Rav Sheshet, the Talm ū d teaches, when he bowed,

Continue by saying the “mmm” sound. Rav Sheshet, the Talmūd teaches, when he bowed,

“bowed like a cane” (Berakhōt 12a-b).

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Finish the posture with “aaa”. Thus, Shma` (listening/hearkening), in Arabic this posture is known as ruk

Finish the posture with “aaa”. Thus, Shma` (listening/hearkening), in Arabic this posture is

known as rukū` (bend at the waist with hands on knees). This posture should be prolonged.

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Begin saying “Yis” as in “Yisrael” ( לאֵ רָ שְׂ ִי ) as you straighten back

Begin saying “Yis” as in “Yisrael” (לאֵ רָ שְׂ ִי) as you straighten back up, one vertebra at a time.

Thus, the Talmūd teaches that when Rav Sheshet “straightened up,” he did so “like a snake.”

(Berakhōt 12a-b).

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Finish the posture by sa ying “r’-eeeeel” as in Yisrael ( Yashar-El , the Straightening to

Finish the posture by saying “r’-eeeeel” as in Yisrael (Yashar-El, the Straightening to God, ala

Rashī’s exegesis on the word). In `Arabic, this posture is known as qaumah (raising the torso

back up to straight)

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Here you begin to say the Tetragrammaton, “YHVH” ( הוהי ) or say “Adonai.” You should

Here you begin to say the Tetragrammaton, “YHVH” (הוהי) or say “Adonai.” You should draw

this out as it is traditionally sung, or you should say the first syllable, as this is a sacred use of the

Name and it is thus appropriate for pronunciation in private with the correct kavvanah. Your

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hands should touch the ground on “Yah”, as your body forms the shape of a Hey. Thus, it is

recorded by Rav Yōsef Hayyim of Baghdad, from a manuscript entitled Keter Malkhut, “One

who recites [the Shema`] should visualize with his mind’s eye all of the letters of the verse” (Ben

Ish Chai 81). You can pray with the Tetragrammaton or with a substitute term like Adonai or

Ha’Shem, but outside of the context of prayers and blessings, the Tetragrammaton should not be

said in casual speech (Mishnah Sanhedrin 11.1).

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Finish the Name or “Adonai” as you lower in to what is in Arabic the posture

Finish the Name or “Adonai” as you lower into what is in Arabic the posture known as sajdah

(hands touch the ground then the knees, followed by head on the ground). Thus, it is written in

Sefer Melakhīm Alef, that “Aḥāb went up to eat and to drink. And Eliyahū went up to the top of

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Karmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees.” (18.42)

Thus it is written, “In the merit of prostration, the exiles will be returned


the Temple [re]built


and the dead will live.” (Berashīt Rabbah 107) This prostration should strive to keep the spine

very straight, from the bottom, aligned to the crown point of the head, which should angle

downward, into the ground.

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“Elohein ū ” ( וּניהלֵֹ אֱ ) is sung as you raise to a sitting posture

“Eloheinū” (וּניהלֵֹ

אֱ ) is sung as you raise to a sitting posture (El-ō-hein-nū), as the name itself is

addressed with less reverence than the Tetragrammaton. In Arabic, this posture is known as

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jalsah. Remain sitting, like Japanese style meditation posture known as “Seiza” posture, as you

raise the head with hands on lap.

“YHVH” (הוהי) or “Adonai” is again said in the same way as when you lowered. Upon lowering

with the y’uh sound of Yah, you must not finish the word Yah until your hands have touched the

ground, causing your body to bow like the shape of the hey in the Name Yah. You can modify

this, accordingly, for a substitution name, like Adonai, or even Ha’Shem, if you do not say the

Tetragrammaton in prayer. Thus, complete the performance of sajdah (hands touch the ground,

followed by head on the ground), with the next two syllables. On the first repetition of the Name,

you will touch hands, knees, and head, corresponding to these syllables.

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As you rise from sajdah , come up saying “Eeee” as in “E ḥ ad” (

As you rise from sajdah, come up saying “Eeee” as in “Ead” (דחָ אֶ ) meaning “One.” Your body

should arch in the shape of a chet at the beginning of the chet of this word, on rising up.

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Then continue standing as a short “E” blends to “Eee ḥḥḥ ”, which should be much

Then continue standing as a short “E” blends to “Eeeḥḥḥ”, which should be much longer on the

chet than the alef. Do not start rising from this posture until beginning the dalet.

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And finally complete the word “E ḥ ad” with the dalet; allowing the sound to reverberate

And finally complete the word “Ead” with the dalet; allowing the sound to reverberate and

carry you upward. Return to qiyām (begin raising to qiyām by first raising to jalsah and then

finishing the raising to total standing, representing wholeness of stature, the Yōsher form of

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Tetragrammaton, etc). As mentioned earlier, the dalet of “Ead” should resonate long, as you

rise up from standing, and extend your crown point upward; allowing the sound to reverberate

through your straightened spine. This should be even longer than the chet, but you will notice

that it must begin as you start rising up, not before, as otherwise the reverberation will not be


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v h a h h d m r l ; s h s l k l