Inside Mishkan HaNefesh: A Letter to My Younger Self
What follows is a hypothetical letter written after this coming Yom Kippur to myself.
Dear Myself from Three Months Ago,
As I munch my Yom Kippur break-the-fast madeleine, I recall the past ten days with joy that so much about praying with the new machzor went well. But I also feel some regret, and a bit of the subjunctive mood sits in. If only I had known three months ago, when preparing for the Days of Awe, what I now have discovered having used it. So I am writing this to you in hopes that, through some wrinkle in the space-time continuum, you get this before it is too late and can prepare properly.
Here are Ten Things, in no particular order, I wish I had known about Mishkan HaNefesh before these High Holy Days:
- The Hashkiveinu in the evening services restores Shomreinu to Malkeinu. After all this is the time of year for the sovereign side of God to be highlighted.
- The Kaddish restores the High Holy Day ul-eila mikol. It’s the same matter of privileging the transcendent as above.
- The Uvchein restores the image of the Sparks of David, not as a literal progenitor of the Messiah but a symbol of messianic hope.
- The Kaddish Yatom inclues now kol yoshvei teiveil, in keeping with our historic Reform value of universalism and in recognition of the worth of all humanity.
- HaMelech HaYosheiv is now correctly HaMelech Yosheiv, the proper phrasing for the High Holy Days.
- Page 207 of Yom Kippur has Leonard Cohen’s Who By Fire as a commentary to Unetaneh Tokef.
- Page 243 of Rosh Hashanah adds to the Akedah verses about Abraham’s brother’s great progeny back in the old country. This is another test of Abraham’s faith. He sacrificed everything for one son, whereas Nahor stayed put and was blessed with so many.
- There is a great midrash (Pesikta drav Kahana 24:1) on Cain repenting and receiving a reduction in punishment from God.
- Page 607 of Yom Kippur features a great transition from Yizkor to N’ilah:
Set me as a seal (chotam) upon your heart, for love is strong as death. Song of Songs 8:6. Love stronger than death leads to the “seal” motif of N’ilah.
- The Prayer for Our Country for Canada contains French.
Bonus Insight: The Al Cheyts are different than in GOR. Wish I had known that!
Rabbi Edwin Goldberg is the rabbi of Temple Sholom of Chicago and is one of the editors of Mishkan HaNefesh.