Embodied Teshuvah: a course of transformation for the High Holidays

Event Details

This event finished on 15 September 2019

Josh blowing shofar
When:  Sunday, September 22, 2019
10:30 AM – 1:00 PM

Where: The Center for Jewish Life
129 Lake St, Arlington, MA

Cost: FREE!

This class will give you space to explore what kind of change you feel you need in your life this year. Through a combination of Jewish text study, ritual, and Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons (with a bit of influence from Taoist and Zen teachings) we will create the conditions necessary for that change to begin.


A space for personal preparation

Have you ever had the experience that, as the Days of Awe progress, you’re just beginning to touch something, just beginning to see and feel your life for what it really is, just beginning to realize what it is that you need to do to really turn over a new leaf in the new year … and then … it’s all over. The final shofar blows, and … you feel lighter! The Holidays have worked their magic once again.

But what of that glimpse? What was that possibility of redemption? Of transformation? Of some fundamental shift in your relationship to the way you inhabit your life?

It is for this reason that we are invited to begin the process of self-examination a full month before Rosh Hashanah. To “prime the pump” as it were, in order to discover what it is that we feel the need to address in our lives before the gates open, so that we can allow the magic of the season to work more deeply upon us, and help us make the changes we need to make in our lives.

A way in to the liturgy

.אשמנו. בגדנו. גזלנו

“We have sinned. We have been traitors. We have stolen.”

-High Holiday liturgy

So you come to High Holiday services for that magic. You are moved by the mood, the music and singing, and the words of the service leaders. But have you ever looked at the words of the prayers and felt alienated by what looks like a theology of reward and punishment? Have you ever felt yourself balk at the breast-beating, ostensibly in contrition for transgressing laws created by men (yes, men) and attributed to a God you’re not sure you believe in?

On its face, some of the theology of the High Holidays can be quite challenging to those of us who have come to understand spiritual growth as a function of self-acceptance and self-empowerment. This class will look at some of the central prayers of the High Holiday liturgy and see how they can be – and have been – read and understood in a deeply and genuinely empowering way.

Why Embodied?

וְתִפְתַּח אֶת סֵפֶר הַזִּכְרוֹנוֹת וּמֵאֵלָיו יִקָּרֵא וְחוֹתָם יַד כָּל אָדָם בּו

“You will open the Book of Remembrance, and its content will speak for itself, for it is sealed by the hand of each person”

– High Holiday liturgy

“The truth of our lives is the closest thing to us there is, as the Torah reminds us. It is right in front of our eyes. It is embedded in our bodies”

– Rabbi Alan Lew.

Our bodies tell the truth about our lives, if we can only learn to listen. Paying attention to our felt sense of ourselves will reveal to us what really matters in our lives, in a way that no amount of intellectual exploration can accomplish.

At its deepest level, the Feldenkrais Method invites us to notice ourselves. To notice our actions on the most fundamental and subtle level: in the way we make every single movement. As we do that, we also become aware of our assumptions about ourselves and about these habits, and realize – finally – that we are not our habits. Our habits do not define us. They are not truths of our bodies beyond our control like the shape of our bones, nor are they immutable aspects of our personalities. The way we have always done things is not our destiny, is not how we must do things forever. By becoming aware of ourselves in action, we open ourselves to choice. We open ourselves to Change. We open ourselves to Life.

In the language of the High Holidays, this process is called Teshuvah: Repentance, Return.


Note: some years I offer this program as a series of four or even five classes; other years as a single workshop. Ultimately, the work is up to you.

One thought on “Embodied Teshuvah: a course of transformation for the High Holidays

  1. Pingback: The High Holidays embody the spiritual significance of Awareness Through Movement. Or is it the other way around? | Josh Schreiber Shalem, The Moving Musician

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