Jewish Aspect of Singing Bowl Meditations

”Where is the Jewish aspect of the crystal and Tibetan singing bowl meditations?”

- Joy Krauthammer

Kalsman Institute of Judaism and Health asks,  
”Joy, Where is the Jewish aspect of the crystal and Tibetan singing bowl meditations?”  
Thank you for this opportunity to further explain the gift of vibratory sound as it pertains to Judaism. 

Sound Healing integrates with Judaism and "Wisdom and Wellness" when I play Crystal and Tibetan Singing Bowls. Rabbis–and leaders of all denominations–offer meditations and Torah teachings, and I accompany them by playing the healing bowls–before, during, and/or after the meditation and wisdom teaching. The breathwork, meditation, and reverberating sounds assist each participant in being henayni/present to the Jewish wisdom shared, by offering a sanctuary for creation of sacred healing space and learning. Abraham Avinu answered "Henayni" when G*d called to him. In the Torah, the patriarch Isaac is described as going "lasuach" in the field; a term understood by all commentators as some type of meditative practice. (Genesis 24:63) (Aryeh Kaplan)

The singing bowls also offer a mode of 'prayer for healing'. Kind David soothed King Saul with healing sounds. “I will set forth my truth to the music of the harp.”  (Psalm 49:5) Through the ages, sacred healing sounds arose with King David’s appointment of Levitical singers and instrumentalists.  David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals. (1 Chronicles 15:16). The Levites' sound of cymbals was reinstated with King David's construction of Jerusalem's Second Temple (Ezra 3:10).  Today, I play those cymbals and connect with our ancestors to praise G*d and to offer healing.

Rabbis for whom I play the singing bowls offer thoughts on the "Jewish aspect of meditation," and I share them with you.  

Rabbi Toba August shares: "As a rabbi who has experienced Joy and her crystal bowl and Tibetan singing bowls for many years at our retreats, please know, as the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan taught, meditation is intrinsically Jewish (and Joy
shares that with us via sound).  The goal of our prayers is to change ourselves, so
we can be the Mentchen we are meant to be.

"The crystal bowl, played by Joy, takes us deeper…into a meditative prayer. We invite a oneness with Shechinah...with Reality and the Source of All Life.  The calm peacefulness opens the way to experience the One, the Holy One, in the most intimate and meaningful way. This ritual is an integral part to our spirited, reflective and meaningful Shabbat morning davening." 

Rabbi Laura Owens writes: "The watchword of our faith is the Sh'ma prayer, a prayer from G*d to us, a prayer that comes directly out of the Torah.  The first word of this prayer is SH'MA–which means "LISTEN,"  to "HEAR". It is one of the most important things we are commanded/directed to do – to listen to our hearts, our souls, our conscience; to listen to the messages from our bodies; to listen to the pain and suffering of others; and through listening and hearing we can begin the important work of healing ourselves, our relationships, our communities, and the world.

"LISTENING to the sounds of the bowls, HEARING the singing that arises from them, puts our bodies and minds in a place of "kabbalah," of receiving and accepting that which is to come next. One of the foundations of Jewish healing is the ability to connect to the Greater One, and One-ness, and the sounds that emanate from Joy's playing of these beautiful bowls are a language of connection without words."

"Being Jewish means being present in each moment. That is what makes each moment sacred–when one is present. The singing bowls help one move into a state of present-ness, and being able to say, 'Henayni' / I am here." - Rabbi Stan Levy

As a member of Rabbi Stan Levy's B'nai Horin Comfort Group (since 1991, I share various healing methods. I use the singing bowls as part of my Bikur Cholim avodah–for those physically ill with acute and chronic illness, for caregivers, for those in pain, for those at end-of-life and in need of spiritual healing/r'fuat hanefesh, and for those grieving a loss. Holy moments occur when I hand the singing bowl and wand to the friend in bed on hospice, and they are pleased to 'play' the singing bowl.  I also share with visiting guests a gift of meditation. As shomer, I have served souls with sounds in shalom.

Over two dozen years ago, I began my Jewish meditation studies with Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man, and Metivta, A Center for Contemplative Judaism; I served also on Metivta's Bikur Cholim committee. Rabbi Omer-Man, in leading weekly meditations, played for us the Tibetan singing bowl that the Dalai Lama had personally given to him. To bring sound into my Jewish prayer practice, I then studied sound with the Dalai Lama's monks.  (I do not know of any other Jewish people in Los Angeles publicly playing Tibetan singing bowls. For over two dozen years, I also have been the only Jewish female percussionist playing regularly for synagogues in LA.)

At the 1997 Jewish Meditation Conference ~ Opening the Heart, I was inspired as the Chochmat HaLev rebbetzin-cantor played the Tibetan singing bowls while we gathered and meditated inside the Byzantine-designed Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

To assist congregants to be grounded, present, and to 'open to' and receive "wisdom" of Torah, I play singing bowls and gongs. Jewish Renewal movement's founder, and Chabadnic, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z"l, taught us to leave outside thoughts outside the Temple doors, as we enter for services. Hearing the singing bowls helps with this kavanah. (For many years on High Holidays I played singing bowls for Reb Zalman at Makom Ohr Shalom.) For two dozen years as a Neo-Chasid and Renewal Jew, I “Ivdu Et Hashem B’Simcha/Serve G*d in Joy". In meditation, I play for individuals, congregations, retreats, classes, and diverse gatherings for healing of Jewish people, and for D'vekut/cleaving to G*d.  I help people to find a Jewish place of healing in the universal sounds. People feel good about receiving the Sounds of Joy, and receiving MiSheberach chanted to רופא חולה, Healer of the Sick. Sound is universal, a bridge to cultures, and for crossing narrow places.  

"Kol haolam kulo gesher tzar meod
V'ha ikar lo l'fahed klal."
The whole world is a very narrow bridge
And the essential thing is not to fear.
(Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav, Likutei Moharan 2:28)

"El Na ReFa Na La"  לה נא רפא נא אל / G*d, Please Heal Her, Please (Numbers, 12:13) is an ancient Jewish healing prayer that Moses spontaneously cried to Hashem to heal his percussionist sister, Miriam HaNeviah, when Miriam was stricken with tzara'at, a biblical disease. Eleven letters compose this prayer. The Source of Healing, Whose Name was given to Moshe at the burning bush, also has eleven letters, אהיה אשר אהיה, "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh"/I will be who I will be To heal our loved ones, when we chant this first healing prayer in Torah, we call out to the ever-present G*d, using G*d's Name that speaks to us in our need (Source of All BlesSings, Creator, Shaddai, Shechinah, Holy One). We tell G*d our name and invite G*d in.

At the onset of the chants, individuals may offer up to Hashem the names of those loved ones, including themselves, that need healing, serenity, courage, strengthening, restoring, reJewvenation, hope, and enlivening of body and/or soul.

Chants I use in healing, with crystal and Tibetan singing bowls, include El Na ReFa Na La, Ruach, Ribono Shel Olam and Shalom. Hebrew sounds are elongated, and have importance. "Ah" in ShAlom, is a universal sound for healing, as is AhOhm. Following the chants, we enter space of verbal silence, hearing and receiving the vibration sounds of the healing singing bowls.

Spiritually, I offer Mi Sheberach (by Debbie Friedman, z"l) and blesSings for Refuah Shleimah, healing of soul and body (refuaf haNefesh, u'refuah haGuf). Sound healing offers an opportunity for prayer other than using Hebrew and expressions of the heart. At times, people want to commune with the Holy One for comfort by themselves being quiet, and going more deeply inside. Having played alongside with Debbie, I personally know her Kavanah/intention in her offering healing prayers.

Traditionally, Chasidim can be quiet in their environment, and listen to surrounding sounds. As a Chabadnik since 1970 when I met The Rebbe, I know Chasidim appreciate niggunim/wordless melodies, and can repeat sounds over and over again in their hearts and aloud, and hear sounds like the vibrations of the singing bowls.  There is the story of the young shepherd flutist outside of shul who could not use traditional words for prayer, but could play his flute and deeply connect to HaShem. Sound is a medium, a language for making contact with the Divine.

My Crystal Singing Bowl is tuned to 'F', the heart chakra, and helps to open hearts. While hopelessness, despair, and anger may become obstacles to verbal prayer, the vibrations of the bowls are then desired for their welcome serenity. They vibrate in the Sephirah Hod, in reverberation of splendor.

I intuitively play crystal and Tibetan singing bowls, gongs, chimes, ocean drums, rain sticks, and bells for 'Sound Spa' and 'Gong Bath' meditation and relaxation. I offer participants the opportunity to immerse in a symphony of meditational, vibrational healing soothing sounds. For meditative and reclining listening comfort, participants may bring a mat and pillow.

The Sounds of Joy Singing Bowls (which I carried back from Tibet) are known for their harmonic, lingering resonance and soothing sounds. The singing bowls' sound and vibration balance the brain's right and left hemispheres, and help center our chakras. Sound waves reverberate through one's body for relaxation and stillness, and create harmony within the body as they resonate higher healing emotions of gratitude and compassion.  Vibrations open energy channels for flowing, allowing for access to more joy, heart, love, unity, peace, Oneness connections with soul and Source, and higher enhanced, expanded states of consciousness in our universe.  

Although classically musically trained in piano, violin, and clarinet, and later in percussion including drum set–by dozens of world-music masters (and in music schools), and with renowned sound healers, I attribute my playing and "being played", to Hashgachah Pratit/Divine Providence.

My need, my avodah/my work, is knowing that if my presence, my Sounds of Joy, my gift of Light that The Source of All BlesSings gave to me–can help another neshamah to lift their prayers/tehilim to G*d, as a dance going up, for a shefa/abunDance to come down through the Four Worlds of Spirit, Mind, Heart and Body; then I am grateful that I can be of service in joy to G*d and to community.
Conscious connection of wholeness, healing and Oneness, in the Kabbalistic Four Worlds of Spirit, Mind, Heart and Body, is my musical kavannah / intention.  I am inspired by the call to Serve G*d in Joy/"Ivdu Et Hashem B'Simcha" (Psalm 100:2), and believe with Emuna v'Bitachon/faith and trust, that especially with music, "Joy breaks through all barriers," as shared by the Baal Shem Tov.

BlesSings,  Joy Krauthammer, sound healer
12.16.2014  Erev Chanukah 5775

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