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Local Jewish congregation plans meditation service Friday

January 20, 2001

Local Jewish congregation plans meditation service Friday



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


Meditation and mysticism may not be part of the mainstream in the modern Jewish community, but Rabbi Janice Garfunkel of Congregation B'Nai Abraham would like to change that.

A Jewish meditation service has been scheduled for Friday at 8 p.m., taking the place of the traditional Friday Sabbath service.

"We've never done it here before," Garfunkel said. "It's still very experimental, but we're going to try it."

She said there is a long history of meditation in Judaism but, in recent years, a more scientific and rational approach has been favored.

"Now, we are realizing that science doesn't have all the answers," Garfunkel said.

The Bible states that prophets used rhythmic chanting and music to attain higher states of consciousness.

Meditation is simply a form of controlled thinking that excludes the extraneous noise of the everyday world. The repetitive nature of prayer is a technique for attaining meditative states.

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On Friday, Carol Shireena Sakai will help the congregation attain meditative states. A scientist by training, Sakai has taught Jewish meditation in the Washington area. She is a certified yoga therapy instructor.

Sakai and Garfunkel will help participants explore simple techniques that can easily be included in more traditional services or practiced at home.

"The goal is to simplify the mystical and allow each to explore and experience a sense of inner peace," Garfunkel said.

Because she has never conducted a meditation service before, Garfunkel said she will move slowly.

"At the beginning, when the candles are lit, that is a time for deep contemplation," she said.

The rest of the service will be traditional, but the congregation will delve into the world of meditation a little more.

Prior to coming to Hagerstown, Garfunkel was director of the Jewish Study Center, an independent adult education institute in Washington, from 1993-97.

"I noticed huge interest in spirituality and when I looked around for teachers, I met Carol Sakai," Garfunkel said.

A phenomenon that Garfunkel has noticed is that some people are being brought into traditional Judaism through mysticism.

"It's not supposed to work that way." Rather, she said, it should be the other way around.

Garfunkel is extending a welcome not only to the members of the synagogue at 53 E. Baltimore St., but to anyone who is interested.

"I know there are a lot of unaffiliated Jews out there," she said.

For more information or to make reservations, call 301-733-5039.

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