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The December Project

An Extraordinary Rabbi and a Skeptical Seeker Confront Life's Greatest Mystery
Paperback Book
Publisher: 
HarperCollins
 | 
April, 2015
ISBN:
9780062281753
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Banyen's Description: 

In 2009, Sara Davidson (author of Leap) was surprised by a call from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, asking her to engage with him in what he called, “The December Project.” At 85, Reb Zalman wanted to teach people how to navigate the December of life and to help them “not freak out about dying.” Davidson jumped at the opportunity, although she has a seeker's heart and a skeptic's mind.

For two years, she and the rabbi met every Friday to explore our greatest mystery. Interspersed with their talks are sketches from Reb Zalman’s past. He barely escaped the Nazis, became an Orthodox rabbi in the U.S., was married four times and had eleven children, took LSD with Timothy Leary, and formed friendships with leaders of other faiths, such as Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama. Breaking with the Orthodox, he founded the Jewish Renewal Movement to encourage people to have a direct experience of God.

During their time together, they created strategies to deal with pain and memory loss, and found tools to cultivate simplicity, fearlessness, and joy—at any age. Davidson includes twelve exercises so readers can experience what she did—a sea change in facing what we all must face: mortality.

Topics We Cover:

  • What is the spiritual work of the December years, and how do we prepare for the mystery?
  • What inner work will help us glean every drop of joy and meaning from all our years?
  • Facing the fear of nothingness.
  • Dealing with physical pain.
  • What if you feel you’re losing your memory and mental faculties?
  • Forgiveness—the most important skill we need to perfect, especially forgiving ourselves.
  • How intuition can be more important than thinking, and how to expand your intuitive capacity.
  • Practicing the art of letting go.

“Davidson brings us the dialogue we dream of having: where we can place our darkest doubts and fears in the loving embrace of a profound elder, who’s grooming us patiently for what’s waiting around the inevitable corner of our lives.” —Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, author of The Woman's Kabbalah

“Reb Zalman (who died in 2014, after this book was born) is wise, funny and irresistible. You will want to read this book cover to cover.” —Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness

Publisher’s Description: 

In the tradition of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Last Lecture, New York Times bestselling author Sara Davidson met every Friday with 89-year-old Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi, the iconic founder of the Jewish Renewal movment, to discuss what he calls The December Project. "When you can feel in your cells that you're coming to the end of your tour of duty," he said, "what is the spiritual work of this time, and how do we prepare for the mystery?"

Davidson, who has a seeker's heart and a skeptic's mind, jumped at the chance to spend time with him. She'd long feared that death would be a complete annihilation, while Reb Zalman felt certain that "something continues." He said he didn't want to convince her of anything. "What I want is to loosen your mind." Through their talks, he wanted to help people "not freak out about dying," and enable them to have a more heightened and grateful life.

For two years, they met every week, and this is Davidson's memoir of what they learned and how they changed. Interspersed with their talks are sketches from Reb Zalman's extraordinary life. He barely escaped the Nazis, became an Orthodox rabbi in the US, was married four times and had eleven children, one from a sperm donation to a lesbian rabbi, and formed friendships with leaders of other faiths, such as Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama. Breaking with the Orthodox, he founded the Jewish Renewal Movement to encourage people to have a direct experience of God.

During their time together, Davidson was nearly killed by a suicide bomb, and Reb Zalman struggled with a steep decline in health. Together they created strategies to deal with pain and memory loss, and found tools to cultivate simplicity, fearlessness, and joyat any age. Davidson includes twelve exercises so that readers may experience what she dida sea change in facing what we all must face: mortality.

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