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TCS Question - Why do we have a new Machzor?

As a religion Judaism has always been changing. While some might claim that every detail, law, and instruction was given, by God, to Moses on Mount Sinai; it is clear that Judaism is a religion that has been constantly evolving and reimagining itself.

 To pick just two moments in our history; with the destruction of the Second Temple the Rabbis had to “reinvent” a Judaism that could survive without a single centralized place for worship. At this time they replaced the Priests as the primary leaders of the Jewish community and they did away with the animal sacrifices that had been our major means of worshipping God. Then in the early 1800s as the Jewish community came into contact with modernity a number of “reformers” started to challenge many of the long held traditions within the religion, establishing what would come to be known as Reform Judaism. This new generation of Rabbis sought to embrace the modern world and so they changed the form of the prayer service and started to question many of the laws that had previously been immutable.

Judaism has always been changing and Reform Judaism has embraced the need for us to constantly be questioning our religious traditions and the way that we do things. In this way it is hardly surprising that every generation, or two, a new prayer book is introduced, seeking to move our community and to respond to the changes that have taken place in the intervening years.

It is against this backdrop that we are introducing our new ruzjn Machzor, apbv ifan Mishkan HaNefesh, for this year’s High Holy Day services. As you may note the name is similar to that of our current Siddur, vkp, ifan Mishkan T’filah. To explain the name, ifan Mishkan was the term given to the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the meeting place between the people and God. In this way our rusx Siddur is the “Tabernacle of Prayer” and our ruzjn Machzor is the “Tabernacle of the Soul”.

One reason for introducing the new ruzjn Machzor is that our regular Shabbat services have adapted through the use of vkp, ifan Mishkan T’filah, and now, against that backdrop Gates of Repentance (our previous ruzjn Machzor, dating back to 1978) may seem out of date to many who have grown to love and appreciate the Siddur we use every week. In reflecting on the need for apbv ifan Mishkan HaNefesh, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) wrote: “The fact that it [Gates of Repentance] does not include transliteration is a stumbling block for many in our communities. So too, many of today’s Jews feel disconnected from prayer and from theological and ideological concepts that do not seem consistent with a contemporary sensibility.

Having seen the new ruzjn Machzor I am very excited that we will be using it for the forthcoming High Holy Day services. apbv ifan Mishkan HaNefesh provides us with a wealth of resources for deepening our relationship with these most sacred days of our calendar. As a prayer leader the new ruzjn Machzor challenges me to be more thoughtful in the choices that I make in terms of what we include in the services. For our community it will provide an abundance of resources and material to find new meaning in our High Holy Days.

Introducing a new prayer book is never easy. People grow attached to the old texts and there is something comforting about having an old, familiar book in our hands. But we must remember that

Gates of Repentance was not handed down to Moses at Mount Sinai, and there were probably similar concerns when that ruzjn Machzor was introduced almost four decades ago. And I am sure that in years to come (hopefully not too soon) there will be further debates when a new prayer book is proposed to eventually replace apbv ifan Mishkan HaNefesh. Judaism has always been changing and evolving, and it is important that on our most sacred days of the year we keep pace with the changes that have taken place within our community.  

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Rabbi Danny
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