I love the High Holy Days. I love the intensity. I love drama. I love seeing the sanctuary full, with everyone coming together. I love the sound of so many voices lifted in prayer. I love the feeling that when we all pray together, there is a uniquely spiritual, holy sense of connection, community, and covenant with God. And I love the idea that if I really work at it, I truly can change. I can improve. I can wipe the slate clean and start over. I don’t have to be forever burdened with yesterday’s mistakes. Tomorrow is full of the promise of new beginnings.
And I love the honor of working with the Worship Committee, with our Cantorial Soloist Hilary Bair, with our Choir, and with Phil, our organist to create the most special and meaningful prayer experience we can possibly create for all of us together, and for each of us individually. Worship should never be stagnant. Just as we constantly change and grow and learn, so too, our worship should do the same. Our worship should be a melding of the voices and traditions of our past, and the experiences and understand-ings of our present. We seek out ever new ways of connecting ourselves to the timelessness of Judaism, to the thousands of genera-tions of Jews who flocked to their synagogues for the High Holy Days, to the traditions of our parents and our grandparents, to the memories of our observances in years past, and to our God. We see out ever new ways of connecting ourselves in ways that are both traditional, and modern, in ways that are meaningful to us today. Our High Holy Day services are all this and more.
Some of our services this year will be very familiar to you. For decades, we have prayed from the Machzor (High Holy Day prayerbook) Gates of Repentance. We will continue in this tradition. Our Rosh HaShannah evening service, Yom Kippur morning service, and concluding service will be from Gates of Repentance. Our services will continue to inspire and renew us.
Some of our services will echo with the traditions of the past, enhanced by new and even more beautiful translations and prayers. Each two page spread in the new Machzor will contain “multiple modalities of expression with traditional and other creative ap-proaches….(with) the possibility to enter different voices, perspectives and understanding into prayer…(to) experience the sacred through the exposure and employment of different approaches to God….a synergistic understanding of God.” (Rabbi Elaine Zecher, chair of the Liturgy and Practices Committee of the CCAR, chair of the Machzor Advisory Group) Around the corners of the pages will be explanations, enhancements, and additional readings. Some of the traditional High Holy Day prayers that were intentionally left out of the Gates of Repentance have been reintroduced to Mishkan HaNefesh, (the draft version of the Reform Movement’s new Machzor). You might also notice that some of the High Holy Day prayers have been re-ordered and now in the ‘traditional’ order of High Holy Day services. The services in Mishkan HaNefesh are both more traditional and more creative than those in Gates of Repentence. On Rosh HaShannah morning and Kol Nidre evening, our services will be from Mishkan HaNefesh. We are proud to be one of the pilot congregations for this new Machzor, and we look forward to the opportunities it presents for us in our worship experience.
One of our services will be uniquely special and designed specifically for our MMT community. In place of the traditional afternoon service on Yom Kippur, we will be gathering together for a Yom Kippur Healing Service. This liturgy and rituals will be both new and traditional, focusing on healing ourselves spiritually and physically; on healing our community, and on heal-ing our world. We seek to open our souls to the peace and wholeness that healing can bring.
It is my hope and prayer that these High Holy Days will bring to each of us a renewed sense of connection, wholeness, and peace. I look forward to sharing these special days with you.
Jack, Jenny, Becky and I wish all of you and your loved ones a happy, healthy, sweet new year. May you be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a year of blessing, fulfillment and all things good.