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A New Machzor

05/01/2019 12:00:00 AM


Rabbi Taron Tachman

I realize that some congregants may be wondering why we need a new machzor—the prayerbook used for the High Holy Days. Many of us, like myself, have grown very fond of our current Gates of Repentance (GOR) machzor. For me, it is the siddur that I grew up with, and the first Machzor from which I led High Holy Day Services. I know many of the passages by heart. I bet you do as well. There are also those who have fond memories of the small, black Union Prayerbook machzor.

I find many of the readings of GOR very meaningful and inspiring. I am especially moved each year by the Yizkor readings and the alternative translation of Unetaneh Tokef found on page 311. This reading had such a profound impact on me that I used it as the central text for my Rabbinical School application in 1998.

So why new Machzorim? Simply stated, Gates of Repentance was first published in 1975 and much has changed since then. The new Machzor of the Reform Movement, called Mishkan HaNefesh—meaning “Tabernacle of the Soul” or “Spirit”—breathes new life into our High Holy Day worship. The new prayerbook provides both the prayer leader and the community a wealth of resources, text, and modern readings that resonate well with contemporary worshippers, while at the same time offering the familiarity of the prayers and readings from previous Reform machzorim. In particular, the language, style, and theology of Mishkan HaNefesh is more current with our time. Like in our Shabbat Prayerbook, Mishkan Tefillah, the Hebrew texts are transliterated and God is described in non-gender specific terms. In addition, while texts in GOR depict God as judging and punishing, Mishkan HaNefesh better enables worshippers to experience God in a more nuanced and positive light.

There are many other updates and innovations as well. Mishkan HaNefesh is a two volume set with a gold cover for Rosh Hashanah and a silver cover for Yom Kippur.

As you may know, for the last three years, Beth Tikvah Congregation has been piloting Mishkan HaNefesh on Yom Kippur afternoon and the response from worshippers has been very positive. The introduction of Mishkan HaNefesh in 2015 received overwhelming support from Reform communities throughout the United States and Canada.

Though we will always cherish Gates of Repentance, I am very excited to introduce Mishkan HaNefesh for this coming year of 5780. In August and September I will be offering two open learning sessions to explore and discuss the new prayerbooks prior to the High Holy Days.

Yes, we are changing to a new machzor, but I do want to acknowledge what a blessing the Gates of Repentance machzorim have been to so many of us, and that for many—myself included—it will be sad to see them go. Before we put these siddurim to rest, please know that if you would like to obtain a personal copy to take home, you can pick one up at the Temple office August 15 - October 15, or you can take a copy from a box we will bring to Holy Family Parish on Rosh Hashanah. The remaining Gates of Repentance machzorim will be buried in a genizah at Shalom Memorial Park, as is the proper way to care for sacred objects bearing God’s name when they are no longer of use.

Beth Tikvah Congregation will continue the tradition of providing High Holy Day prayerbooks for members and guests attending services to use. The funding for the new sets of Mishkan HaNefesh is generally provided by Steven and Marla Leibach and the Susan Lynn Krupp Fund.

Beth Tikvah members also have the opportunity to purchase copies of Mishkan HaNefesh for yourself, for family members and as gifts. The order form has the opportunity to dedicate machzorim to the memory of a loved one or to mark a special occasion. (See box below.)

While the High Holy Days are months away, the lessons we draw from these Days of Awe are with us everyday: May you all live lives of meaning and blessing. May your worship bring you closer to God, family, and community. May you tend to your most sacred priorities, and may you be the best you, you can be. Happy Spring and Summer!

Rabbi Taron Tachman

Mon, July 6 2020 14 Tammuz 5780