The Shofar service in the new Mishkan HaNefesh.

Believe it or not, I am preparing for next year’s Days of Awe.  As you know, we are getting a new prayerbook for the holidays and the services will be even more meaningful.  As the cantor and I are planning what we will do, let me fill you in on some of things we have in mind.

  1. We will be doing all the prayers you know in the music you know. In other words, everything you are used to is what we continue to do next year.
  2. There may be new songs that we have never done before and we will introduce them as the services progress.
  3. There are lots of creative readings and, as usual, you will have the opportunity to participate.


There are many more exciting parts of the High Holidays that I will be sharing with you as the year progresses.  In fact, I will be leading a course of several sections to help guide you in the prayerbook and familiarize yourselves with it.  It is a good opportunity for learning for its own sake and learning that you will able to apply to your holiday experience.


One of the obvious changes you will see will take place on Rosh Hashanna.  In fact, for the first time ever, we will sounding shofar in the evening of Rosh Hashanna.  morning.  But the real changes are what you will see in the morning.


In the old prayerbook – and any traditional prayerbook – the shofar service has all three sections together.  Not so with the new machzor.  In fact, the editors of the machzor stepped back and looked at the shofar service and asked the question, “How can we make the sounding of the shofar even more meaningful?”  They came up with something very special and very meaningful and I pretty much guarantee that you will be both puzzled and inspired.


I pretty much guarantee that you will be both puzzled and inspired


Here is what the editors (with slight redactions by me) wrote about the changes in the shofar service:


“Early on in the process of creating the machzor, the editors decided that, since the overall motif of Rosh HaShanah morning is the sounding of the shofar, we should consider spreading it out throughout the service. Like synecdoche in literature, the symbol of the shofar stands for more than just a ram’s horn. It represents the essential nature of the day. Indeed, it is more than the sound; it is the liturgy surrounding the shofar sounding. And more particularly, it is the themes of Malchuyot (sover-eignty), Zichronot (remembrance), and Shofarot. Long ago in its liturgical development, Reform Judaism did away with the Musaf Service on Rosh HaShanah (and everywhere else), but kept the practice of the three shofar sections. The editors of Mishkan HaNefesh thought that the sounding of the shofar, and its attendant liturgical themes, could be developed and dramatized more powerfully by placing the three sections into three different places in the worship service, each positioned in some logical place. After experimenting during the pilot program, we settled on the following: Malchuyot (God’s Sovereignty) would come in the Amidah. Zichronot (God remembering our ancestors and us) would follow the scriptural readings, including God’s remembering Sarah and and Hannah. And Shofarot (the full redemption of the Jewish people and all the world) would precede the closing prayers and the redemptive message of the second part of the Aleinu – itself a prayer about redemption.  Spreading out the sounding of the shofar in this way allows the congregation to spend more time with each theme.”


The shofar service is the most obvious change because it is so visible and such a foundation of the Rosh Hashanna service.  The changes may be a bit off-putting at first but I believe you will have the same reaction as I did when I was preparing the services – a real sense that something so meaningful was made even more moving, meaningful, and holy.