Labyrinths in Judaism I: The Jewish Sacred Path
Some today say that a labyrinth is distinguished from a maze because a maze features multiple paths and dead ends, while a labyrinth follows a single, set path. This is certainly not accurate, as the most famous labyrinth all, the labyrinth of King Minos of Crete, was not a simple single route. This modern idea of the labyrinth, that there is (or should be) only one path through life or toward enlightenment, may reflect the Christian appropriation of much of the western labyrinth tradition. Moreover, it is a markedly fatalistic metaphor, one that is belied by human life itself, which entails constant choice, many possible paths - even occasional dead-ends - as we make our way to the heart of human experience. Labyrinths, like life, can require us to walk in ways of uncertainty. In Jewish tradition, unicursal (single-path) labyrinths do appear, but so do multi-cursal labyrinths.
The Jewish use of labyrinths is rather more often literary then it is graphic or physical. Jewish spiritual masters will often use the image of a complex palace or a daunting forest in their teachings, midrashim, and parables, to illustrate our journey toward home/God/the self. Here is a beloved example from the tradition of Hasidic parables: