In just six weeks we will greet the New Jewish Year, 5782. It is exciting to be back at Caramoor in-person. Many things will be the same, a few things will be new. There will be the option to join us at Caramoor virtually by live-stream. The choir will be back. Rabbi MJ Newman, as the music director, will lead us in the classical legacy music of Temple Shaaray Tefila. Rabbi MJ has been creating a rich offering of 70 percent traditional melodies with 30 percent contemporary music. Last year we piloted a new high holy days prayer book. It contained selections from the Reform Movement’s new machzor (high holy days prayer book) Mishkan HaNefesh. It was published by the Reform Movement in 2015, and is now in use at more than 700 Reform Temples across North America.
The new prayer book is called Mishkan HaNefesh, which means a place for the soul. Following a long tradition in Jewish history, prayer books evolve and change to reflect the language of our day. The Hebrew is still the same, except it now includes the names of the matriarchs (Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah) like in our current Shabbat prayer book.
The English is updated. God is presented as non-gendered. Here God is not an old man in the sky, rather the mystery of God is presented as the source of life and the impulse for justice for all humanity. Every Hebrew prayer is transliterated on the same page to encourage more participation and to make it more inclusive, particularly for interfaith families. The poetry and philosophical readings are rich and compelling. You may find a reading in which you want to linger. Just stay there and explore. You don’t have to worry about keeping pace or moving ahead. Remember, the goal is not to get through the service. The goal is to have the service get through you. So stay there a while, linger and eventually…we’ll announce a page and we’ll come back together. By allowing yourself to get lost in the book, you may discover a spiritual treasure.
May these books inspire us towards tomorrow and holy living, enabling us to explore our character and embrace love and meaning and the different parts of ourselves and each other. Look for opportunities to dedicate a prayer book in honor or memory of a loved one coming soon.
I want to thank everyone who contributed to make this possible.
Baruch ata adona elohenu melech halaom shehecheyanu, vekiyanmanu , vehigiyanu lazman hazeh.
Thank you, God, for giving us life and making it possible for us to reach this moment.
Rabbi David Wilfond