Rabbi’s Review – September 2017

New and Holy

Rabbi Charles K. Briskin


A century ago, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (d. 1935), the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel in the 20th century, described how the Land of Israel was being built and settled. He famously said “the old shall be renewed and the new shall be made holy.”

I think of his lesson as we prepare for the High Holy Days. In recent years, I confess, our services have lulled me into complacency. The familiar music and liturgy endures, but it doesn’t change much.

However, this year the old shall be renewed and the new shall be made holy as we introduce Mishkan HaNefesh, our new High Holy Days mahzor. We will experiment with different ways of praying, teaching and experiencing these Days of Awe.

The basic structure of our liturgy isn’t new. We are awakened by the blasts of the shofar. We beat our breasts as together we confess our transgressions; ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu… We are moved by the powerful and haunting melody of Kol Nidre. This year these enduring elements and many more will be renewed. Our new mahzor and the creative flourishes we add will make what is new, holy.

While we are still putting the final touches on our services, I want to prepare you for some changes. I believe they will add depth and meaning to our worship. Because hearing the sound of the shofar is one of the few ritual obligations of Rosh HaShanah, we will add a shofar blast to the service on the evening of Rosh HaShanah, in accordance with a new liturgical and ritual offering that Mishkan HaNefesh provides.

A new, and perhaps the most noticeable, change for Rosh HaShanah morning is the timing of the Shofar service. While we are accustomed to hearing its three distinct sections consecutively, Mishkan HaNefesh separates each section to a different part of the morning service.

I will offer a different type of sermon on Rosh HaShanah morning; instead of sharing a traditional single sermon, I will intersperse three short sermonettes that speak to lessons learned from each section of the shofar service.

Thediversityof Englishreadings, bothtraditionalandinterpretive, enables us to offer more honors to more people. As usual, many of our teens will chant Torah, George Mayer will sound the shofar, and a cadre of TBE volunteers will be working hard to welcome you and to make your High Holy Days comfortable and meaningful.

I am excited for what these High Holy Days can offer us this year, and I look forward to renewing the old and making the new holy together in sacred community.

Wishing you a joyous and sweet New Year.