Due to Judaism’s calendar revolving around the lunar cycle, times for our holidays always fluctuate when compared to the secular calendar.
This year the Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) are relatively late, starting the eve of October 2nd. However, in the Jewish calendar, preparation for the Days of Awe always begins a month in advance, in the month of Elul. During Elul, each day, except Shabbat, the Shofar is sounded in the morning to serve to awaken us in preparation for these precious days of transformation. Typically, this month of Elul is left to each of us, on our own, to turn within in reflection that is symbolic of how significant this period is.
This year, we have reason to pause as a community, in such preparation, because the Days of Awe at B’nai Israel will truly be unique, due to the arrival of a new Mahzor (the name of the prayer book used during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), produced a couple of years ago.
To celebrate and prepare for this new prayer book, we are holding a special half day retreat which I hope you will put in your calendar and plan to attend: Sunday, September 25, at 10:45 AM. From 10:45 until 3 PM, we will prepare for the holidays through the lens of this new Mahzor that promises to make our services this year, and for years to come, greatly enhanced and deeply inspiring, for a variety of reasons.
At this retreat, to be held in our newly enhanced and refurbished courtyard, with lunch provided, you will have an opportunity to discover a book that will enrich our prayer experience in a number of ways: new translations that bring alive the values and meaning of the holiday; significantly expanded transliteration of most of the prayers we sing for those not comfortable with Hebrew; wording that is gender neutral with imagery more suitable to our times; inspiring commentaries and interpretations that will engage participants as they go through the services; and an overall user-friendly prayer book, designed to make the experience special in ways we have not known in the past.
Part of the morning/early afternoon will provide opportunities for people to choose, if they like, to adopt one or more of these Mahzorim, with donations for them that will include dedicating them to loved ones, either celebrating them in life or honoring those no longer with us. Plans are to create a special book plate with space for a sentence or two, describing qualities/attributes of those you want to honor, so that, years hence, people will know who these people are/were, especially to you who choose to honor them in this special way.
The new Mahzor will provide a context for our visit on September 25 to prepare, in a meaningful way, for the Days of Awe that begin a week later; in so doing, we will bring alive the power and impact of the month of Elul, helping us to become ready for wonderful changes in our lives, and in the energy and participation level of our community.
I hope you will choose to make a donation in some multiple of “Chai” (“18”, symbolic of life) that will connect you to this experience in a long standing meaningful way, while helping CBI, with the funding that will assure our strength as community for the coming year.
One of the reasons we have books to “adopt” is thanks to the generous donation of an anonymous donor, along with a number of members who gave generously, so that we were able to acquire these new Mahzorim.
I look forward to this special retreat with all of you, as we introduce you to Mahzor Lev Shalem and its promise for a renewed and invigorating welcome to the Days of Awe and this new year 5777 with anticipation of many blessed years that await us for celebrating these Holy Days with new energy and special times, as we continue to grow our remarkable CBI community.