Machzor Blog: What’s in a Name?

Apr 22, 2013 by

L’chol Machzor, yesh shem…

MHaNefesh webWe finally have a name to call our new Machzor!  Mishkan HaNefesh.  As we turn each year to our prayerbook for the High Holy Days, we want to ensure the name would and could reflect not only its contents but the experience of these days as well.

The title of our Shabbat, Weekly, and Festival Prayerbook, Mishkan T’fila led the way.  The choice, years ago, of “mishkan” captured the desire to move beyond the “gates” into the sanctuary, the inner circle of prayer.  It gave access to the many voices and layers of the liturgical experience and reminded us of the centrality of the communal experience within sacred space, even when that space is a prayer book.

Yet, as we have learned, the prayer book itself cannot guarantee the efficacy of prayer or any worship.  It will take the individual within the context of the community to find meaning and value.  Thus, when what name should be linked with mishkan arose, the idea of hanefesh which connects to one’s inner life and what we call a human being became a fitting complement.

The Editorial Core Group made up of the editors:  Rabbis Eddie Goldberg, Shelly and Janet Marder, and Leon Morris; along with our Cantorial colleague, Evan Kent, as well as Hara Person, Peter Berg and me; unanimously supported by the CCAR Board, sought to capture what these Days of Awe seek:  t’shuvah, celebration, renewal, personal challenge and reflection, reaffirmation of communal connection to the Jewish story, among others.

As the introduction to our High Holiday Prayer Book notes: “We hope that this Machzor will be a “place” where the spiritual lives of individuals and the religious framework of the community meet….The focus of the Days of Awe is the inner life, each person’s sacred core—the divine essence breathed into us, which the Bible calls nefesh (Genesis 2:7).  Jewish tradition gives us tools for helping the nefesh (soul) grow and improve: t’shuvah (repentance) and the work of cheshbon hanefesh (accounting/taking stock of the soul).  Our Machzor guides and celebrates this personal journey of transformation and renewal…” while it also recognizes the profound significance of the communal experience.

It is our desire that within every community and congregation, each nefesh can find him or herself within this Machzor just as we hope this particular Machzor, Mishkan HaNefesh, will be found within our community and congregations as a means to give voice to our heartfelt aspirations and sacred work we engage in throughout the holiday season.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher is at Temple Israel in Boston, MA, and is the Chair of the Machzor Advisory Group.

Learn more about the new CCAR Machzor.  For more information about participating in piloting, email machzor@ccarnet.org.

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