The Jewish Eye
The Art of Kavana
The Art of Kavana
Ignite Your Judaism & Your Life
A Handbook for Improving Kavana and Deveikus Bashem in Tefilla and Throughout the Day
By Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld
Devora Publishing (2009)
Reviewed by Boris Segel - December 10, 2009
The Art of Kavana: Ignite Your Judaism & Your Life is life changing book that is designed to teach you a series of basic techniques that will help you to not only improve your Kavana, but to learn how to apply it to your tefilla (prayers) and to your life in general. This book is also designed to help you increase your spiritual awareness.
Kavana can be a hard term to translate into English, or for that matter, even to define in Hebrew. For the purposes of this review, I have chosen to translate and define Kavana as focused attention, one of the many definitions mentioned by the book's author, Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld.
First things first, this book is totally Torah centered and it is based upon traditional Jewish spiritual practices, and rabbinic and textual sources are cited throughout. The book is designed like a textbook. It begins with an overview of how this curriculum was developed, and then moves onto the philosophical foundations of the Art of Kavana. From this firm beginning, the information on learning the Art of Kavana is presented in incremental stages, with Rabbi Seinfeld teaching you the basic techniques you'll need to begin mastering the art. These techniques run the gamut from various meditation practices to saying your berachos (blessings) with kavana. In addition, each chapter includes step-by-step exercises to help you master these techniques.
The nature of this book is that is can be studied with a teacher or a chavrusa (study partner) so that you can discuss the topics covered in the book. However, you can also use this book as a self-study guide. It is also a book that can be used profitably by both beginners and those who have already developed a spiritual state of mind. To aid you in your study and development of Kavana, Rabbi Seinfeld has also included a study schedule, that divides the material into a sixteen-week course.
I found The Art of Kavana to be an eye opening book. Rabbi Seinfeld's discourse clearly shows that Judaism has a long history of spiritual and meditative practices that date back to Avraham and Sarah. His writing is also clear and though you will find that you need to ponder some points in depth, once you set your mind to the task, you will find that they make perfect sense. What I also liked is that Rabbi Seinfeld has fully footnoted this book so that you can go back and check with the original sources for the information if you need clarification about a point or want to study a given topic in greater detail. As well, I've found that while these lessons are geared at improving one's religious kavana and deveikus Bashem, they also have the added benefit of helping to improve your overall concentration and they strengthen your self-control and self-discipline. This book is essential reading for anyone looking to elevate their level of spirituality and to find greater happiness in their religious and personal life.
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