Shana tovah u’metukah (“a good and sweet new year” in Hebrew)! Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, started on Wednesday and will finish today, beginning the Jewish High Holy Days. The holy days, also known as the Days of Awe, culminate with Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, which falls this year on October 7. Why all this non-Buddhist information about the Jewish holidays, you ask? Well, as of course we know, there are a lot of religious differences between Buddhism and Judaism: a belief in a Creator God, for one. But as I was meandering around the Huffington Post yesterday, I was struck by this culminating paragraph, from Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman’s article “Weaving Together the Jewish High Holidays“:
Whereas during Sukkot we shake the four species and make one circle of the synagogue daily, on Simchat Torah we “shake” ourselves by dancing joyously with the Torah scrolls. The dancing of this day is the true integration of all the previous holidays and their various inner and outer actions and symbols. The constant circling brings us to a place where inside-out and outside-in weave together in perfect harmony and unity. As we finish the Torah on this day, we immediately roll it back to the very beginning and start again, the epitome of the statement in the Sefer Yetzira: “Their end is enwedged in their beginning and their beginning in the end.”
Buddhist themes, everywhere. Apparently, the Sefer Yetzira is an esoteric creation text with interesting (and Buddhist-y) theories of contrast in nature. From Wikipedia:
…the Sefer Yezirah draws the important conclusion that “good and evil” have no real existence, for since everything in nature can exist only by means of its contrast, a thing may be called good or evil according to its influence over man by the natural course of the contrast.
Do Judaism and Buddhism teach the same thing? No, of course not. But it’s always cheering to find examples of the different faiths in dialogue. Suzanne Morgan, an architect from Chicago, thinks so too, which is why she is launching the “Sharing Sacred Spaces” project this Sunday. The project will lead visitors through Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic places of worship, teaching about each faith as well as discussing the building’s history and architecture. The Midwest Buddhist Temple, affiliated with the Buddhist Churches of America and built in 1944, is the first site on the list. Morgan is hoping that the project will “bridge religious divides among local faith communities.”
And though this article, about a Nepali Buddhist nunnery whose nuns are (excitedly) learning kung fu, may not strictly fall under the definition of “interfaith dialogue,” it’s a wonderful example of the good that can be done with inter-cultural dialogue: H.H. the Gyalwang Drukpa brought kung fu back to the nunnery after traveling to Vietnam and observing female kung-fu practitioners there.
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.