Leap of faith: Judaism lives in the present

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Leap of faith: Judaism lives in the present

Progressive Judaism heralds the launch of a new prayer book for the High Holy Days

Rabbi Paul Freedman with the new machzor
Rabbi Paul Freedman with the new machzor

In 1985 the Sinclair C5 electric buggy was launched, as was the first mobile phone network in the UK. The miners’ strike came to an end, and the Live Aid concerts took place. This was the year in which the previous Movement for Reform Judaism machzor, our prayer book for the High Holy Days, was published.

Almost 40 years later, co-editors Rabbi Professor Jonathan Magonet and Rabbi Paul Freedman have just published the ninth edition of Days of Awe Yamim Noraim since the original in 1840. It was launched at the Movement for Reform Judaism Chagigah conference this month. Several members of the group of rabbis and cantors who advised our editors were there with them and we literally danced the hora together in celebration of the 10 years of work that created the machzor.

When you hear how long ago the last edition was published, it becomes obvious that in a Judaism that lives in the present, it was necessary to get to work and ensure that in the hands of Reform Jews of today and the future, there is a renewed prayer book on the High Holy Days. We renewed our siddur Forms of Prayer Seder HaTefillot in 2008 and have carried over many of the popular innovations from that siddur.

We aim for this to be an especially accessible machzor. All Hebrew prayers are also available in transliteration. The great graphical design of the siddur by sofer Marc Michaels was adapted for the machzor so that it is now clear where you are in the many services. To make the second day of Rosh Hashanah different there are choices of interpretive prayers and readings alongside the traditional prayers, and this sense of choice is also there throughout Yom Kippur.

The 2024 machzor includes over one thousand study passages and additional readings, poems, and meditative pieces to help all to find their own meaning on the High Holy Days. Far more are written by women than was the case in 1985, both startlingly contemporary and steeped in classical Jewish ideas of past millennia.

We address issues that are likely to mark out the coming generation, such as climate change, our increasing distance from the direct trauma of the Holocaust, and Israel’s roles in Jewish life. Our machzor is published in two volumes so that each is light to hold on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  In their slip case they will be a great resource for our own home preparation for the High Holy Days.  Copies will soon be easily available from the Movement for Reform Judaism and most of our synagogues.



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