I have a new relationship - it’s with our new prayer books for the High Holy Days- Mishkan Hanefesh. Over the last few weeks, I have been creating new visuals for the High Holy Days based on our new High Holy Day prayer books
To be honest, the relationship hasn’t been easy. I was really attached to our old High Holy Day prayer book, Gates of Repentance. It was the one I grew up with, I knew the cues with my eyes closed, and the translations really resonated with me. My prayer book was already marked up- marks from cantorial school with translations and devotions throughout. There were music notes where the music would come in. And the inscription in the book reads “Cantor Amy Elizabeth Lefko (my maiden name).
It is hard for me to change, and perhaps change is hard for you too.
I ask myself, what am I attached to? The book? The order? The ease? The memories? The translations? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.
How does the attachment to the past benefit us? It says pretty clearly in the prayers for the Holy Days “Hashiveinu” “Hashiveinu, Adonai Eleicha v’nashuva, chadeish yameinu k’kedem. Help us to return to You, O God; then truly shall we return. Renew our days as in the past.” Our prayer, “Hashiveinu” as translated by the old book points to holding onto to the past to be renewed, to move forward, and to return to ourselves.
When I open the Mishkan Hanefesh to see the “Hashiveinu,” something is illuminated and I realize how important it is to change and to grow. The translation is now: “Take us back, Adonai-let us come back to You. Renew in our time the days of old.” Mishkan Hanefesh was created in our time- a time when a lot more women were involved in the writing, when technology has taken us to a different place, and we face different challenges then we did in 1980 (the time of the Gates of Repentance). Mishkan Hanefesh addresses the challenges and priorities of this time, in this day and age.
I will be singing a lot of the old melodies for the High Holy Days. And as I pray through the new Mishkan Hanefesh, join me in opening your hearts to prayers and translations of “our time.” While at the same time holding onto deeply and fervently our love for the ancient traditions of our people and our ability to re-express ourselves in each generation.
Wishing all of you a happy and healthy sweet New Year, 5778 filled with both cherishing the past and embracing our time.