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The Dharma of Yontiff: Deepening the “High Holidays”

Online Program
Dates: Aug 31, 2021 - Sep 14, 2021

Instructor(s): Jay Michaelson

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Course Description:

For Dharma practitioners who are Jewish or Jewish-adjacent, the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – commonly called the “high holidays” – sometimes provoke ambivalence. On the one hand, themes of introspection and ethical reflection often resonate with Buddhist values and practice. On the other hand, themes of judgment and sin may not, and gathering with challenging family members can be its own intense practice. In this three-session program, we will explore texts and practices from both Jewish and Buddhist sources that can enrich the yontiff (holiday) season. 

Themes we will explore include: different approaches to ethical reflection and refinement, the toxicity (or benefit?!) of self-judgment, the distinction between remorse and guilt, the role of historical consciousness (and its nemesis, Buddhist Modernism) in relating to Buddhist and Jewish traditions that may be patriarchal or sex-negative or particularistic, the practice of fasting, useful mindfulness practices for the Days of Awe, and the magical and mythic resonances of the Shofar as a possible site for alignment. Our texts will include Biblical and Talmudic texts, suttas and other texts on hiri and otappa and related ethical mindstates, and contemporary ‘JuBu’ texts that address the convergences and divergences between Torah and Dharma.

    About the Instructor(s):
  • Rabbi Dr. Jay Michaelson has taught meditation for twenty years in Buddhist, Jewish, and secular contexts.  He is an editor at Ten Percent Happier and a columnist for The Daily Beast whose ten books include Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment.  Jay holds a PhD in Jewish Thought, a JD from Yale Law School, and nondenominational rabbinic ordination, and was a member of the BCBS Board of Directors for six years.