THE HIGH HOLIDAYS:
A TIME FOR TRANSFORMATION
What is this course?
The High Holidays are a potent time for personal growth, but oftentimes it takes work and preparation to truly reap their benefits. This course, led by Rabbi Ami Silver, is designed to help you enter deeply into these holidays, to explore the unique meaning and practices embedded in these days, and to access their transformative potential.
This five-week, online course will begin during the month of Elul, the traditional time to prepare for the upcoming holidays. Weekly classes will combine in-depth textual study together with guided practices and exercises to help integrate these teachings into our own experience.
Here are descriptions of the topics this course will cover:
1. Rosh Hashana - A Day of Love
Rosh Hashana is not mentioned in the Biblical text - at least not in the way that we’re familiar with it. In this session, we’ll explore a range of primary texts about Rosh Hashana, from the Bible through the Talmud and Midrash, in order to uncover what this day is really about. This will offer us a new framework for relating to this day, and experiencing it with a greater sense of connection and possibility.
2. “God, Open My Lips” Prayer as Path of Teshuva
Traditionally, the majority of the High Holiday experience is spent engaged in prayer. This can be filled with moments of inspiration and elation, and can also feel overwhelming or hard to connect with. In this session, we’ll use a fundamental prayer text to explore an embodied approach to prayer that relates to the High Holidays in particular, and offers a powerful framework for stepping into prayer.
3. Hearing the Voice of the Shofar
The Shofar plays a central role in the holiday of Rosh Hashana. It is rich with symbolism and associations. Based on a Chassidic teaching from Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman of Piaseczna (1889–1943), we will develop a particular orientation towards Shofar that ties to the core of our relationship with the Divine, and guides us towards an inner, embodied experience of this practice.
4. Yom Kippur - Transcending Shame
Yom Kippur is oftentimes considered the most sacred day of the year. It is a day of atonement and internal cleansing. One of the central practices of this day is confessing our sins and misdeeds. This session will focus on a teaching from the Chassidic master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) that offers a paradigm for using this practice to transcend our sense of shame and smallness, and bring more of ourselves into presence.
5. Sukkot - Tasting Joy, Tasting Life
The holiday of Sukkot comes a mere four days after Yom Kippur, and it is in a sense the culmination of the High Holiday period. Rather than being a time of somber reflection, Sukkot is called “zman simchateinu - the time of our greatest joy.” This session will explore the joyful nature of Sukkot through a number of Rabbinic texts, that guide us toward an enlivening and liberating experience of this holiday.
Together, this course will provide you with a deeper understanding of the opportunities for growth during this time of year, and a practical framework for pursuing inner transformation. All texts will be presented in Hebrew and English, with clear line-by-line translations; no prior knowledge or experience with the subject matter is necessary.
How does it work and when does it happen?
The course includes five weekly 1-hour sessions, which can be either attended live via online video conference, or watched or listened to at your own convenience for anyone who cannot make the class online. Participants can choose to join for some sessions or sign up for the entire course.
Live sessions will take place at 9:30am Pacific Standard Time/12:30pm Eastern Standard Time/5:30pm UK Time/7:30pm Israel Time.
Dates: (variations in dates are due to this year’s holiday schedule)
1 - Sunday, September 8
2 - Sunday, September 15
3 - Sunday, September 22
4 - Sunday, October 6
5 - *Thursday, October 10
Each session will include:
A source sheet with Hebrew and English texts covered in each weekly session
A Practice of the Week based on that week’s study session. Practices will be presented with gentle guidance and clear instructions by Rabbi Ami, with plenty of room for participants to practice in the way that feels most suited for them.
Invitation for participants to join an ongoing conversation with each other and Rabbi Ami via WhatsApp or email. A forum to discuss the material, ask further questions, share personal experiences about the content and the practice, and be supported in your practice by Rabbi Ami and fellow participants.
I’m looking forward to learning and growing with you!