05 October 2006

Machzor Madness: In with the New!

I davened out for the first time out of Machzor Hadash/The New Machzor these Yamim Nora'im, at both the shul where I belong & the shul where I work--and I much prefer it to either the Harlow (which my previous Conservative kehillot have used, and which I led Rosh Hashanah/YK davening out of at Yale for several years) or the old Silverman (which the Traditional Minyan at Adas still uses, and which my childhood shul used lo those many moons ago).

It's got all of the advantages of the Harlow:
  • Conservative, not Orthodox, in its texts
  • not outrageouly voluminous and stuffed with piyyutim no one knows, but
  • keeps enough of the traditional texts and piyyutim people do know!
  • provides an alternative Yom Kippur mincha reading from Lev. 19 as well as the traditional reading of Lev. 18
and none of the disadvantages:
  • no evil purple text for Shabbat insertions (and is more attractively & legibly laid out in general)
  • actually translates on the left what's there in the Hebrew on the right, instead of abridging or fudging it (drove me crazy the way Harlow splits up the passages in Rosh Hashanah musaf amidah translation so you can't actually use it to see what you're davening when you know most but not all of the unfamiliar vocabulary), which allows you to actually use the 2 simultaneously or back-and-forth, unlike Harlow's set-up which presumes either complete Hebrew literacy or total ignorance of the Hebrew side of the page
  • has in the back an "alternative Amidah opening" which includes the matriarchs, and includes them all in its English translations of the Amidah (with a note saying that the translation is based on the alternative opening found on page 800-whatever)
  • has gender-sensitive language (I forget whether they claim to be gender-neutral, gender-balanced, or gender-sensitive...but I do know there's not a bunch of referring to God as He all over the place; I believe they pull the same trick as Slim Shalom re: phrases like "Adonai" or "Avinu Malkeinu," of transliterating them in italics in the English rather than either translating them with the gendered terms "Lord" and "Our father, our king" or with somewhat less accurate and less specific gender-neutral terms such as "Sovereign" and "Our parent, our ruler")
  • has good interpretive selections, separate from the translations (which, as I've said above, actually are translations of the Hebrew, instead of giving us a new English version of the Ashamnu that concludes "we are xenophobic, we yield to evil, we are zealots for bad causes"), and more of them as little short thought-provoking observations at the bottom of a page, thematically linked to the main traditional text appearing above it
  • has a martyrology that doesn't make me wince, but does make me cry--one that acknowledges that the history of Jewish suffering didn't just skip from Roman oppression to 19th/20th-c. Eastern Europe and Nazi Germany with nothing in between and nothing after (even if the rabbi leading Musaf in my service didn't use any of the 3 passages that had to do with medieval massacres and forced conversions, they were in there: one had to do with the Jews burned in the marketplace of Blois in the 12th century--a Jew from Sens drove me there at 11 at night, back in 1994, because I had wanted to visit the site) -- plus it acknowledges and includes Yiddish, the language spoken by most of the Jews who died in the Holocaust (prints the Yiddish text as well as the English translation of the Partisans' Song), instead of continuing to ignore the vernacular of the vast majority of Ashkenazi Jews from medieval times until the early-to-mid-20th century in favor of liturgical & modern Israeli Hebrew on the one hand and late-20th-c. English on the other
  • and that doesn't commit the transgression that I regard as politically charged and theologically near-blasphemous, of asking me to recite an Al Khet for "the sins which we have sinned before you and before them"--the six million--by evils such as appeasement or failure to act. We don't have intermediaries, saints, or intercessors in Judaism (by and large), and I'm not about to set up the victims of Nazi genocide, no matter how great their suffering or how important in our Jewish history, as some kind of semi-divine body before whom I should be genuflecting and confessing my sins, particularly ones of a semi-political nature.
  • has fewer hokey moments in the English translations or interpretive selections that would make me roll my eyes rather than raise them in reflection or gratitiude (I don't miss not having "who shall be torn by the wild beast of resentment, and who shall be drowned by the waters of jealousy"--I don't mind the idea, but never liked the execution, and I really do want to keep actual translation & interpretation separate)
Just about the only things lacking that one might complain of, so far as I can see, are:
  • The Avodah service does not include all of the descriptive text in the Hebrew (which we always skipped at Yale anyway: the rabbi read the narrative framing in English regardless): it provides the English for this narrative framing and then both Hebrew & English for everything the Kohen and the people said & the description of the recitation of the Name (which was what the hazzan would read/enact in Hebrew at Yale anyway). Fine by me! And if people really wanted more, it would be easy to make booklets/photocopies.
  • I don't remember seeing some of my old favorites from the English selections in the Harlow (poems by Anthony Hecht and maybe also A.M. Klein?)...but so much is gained in the other English readings they add that I can deal with this potential loss.
Until that new RA/USCJ machzor comes out, and unless it proves itself superior to what the Conservative rabbis & laypeople of Media Judaica have produced in Machzor Hadash/The New Machzor, I know what I'll be davening out of from now on on the High Holy Days. I thank Adas Israel and B'nai Israel for making it their machzor of choice, and I hope more kehillot (especially ones who haven't gotten around to replacing their Silvermans and are just now in the market for new machzorim) will follow their lead.



[shamelessly repeated from my post to the Shefa Network
group ]

Oh, and P.S.:
Its prayer for the country & prayer for the state of Israel are both better IMHO than the ones in SimShalom & Harlow machzor. No more "administer all afFAIRs of state FAIRly" (my friend Shari's great point of amusement with the version of the Prayer for Our Country in Sim Shalom)!


ben_abuya said...

I saw this on Shefa... then saw your comment on Zackary's blog... so I will comment here.

Can you let me know if there is a new version of Machzor Hadash that you are using? We use one from the 70s, and I must say that I hate it. There are many places (eg psukei dzimrah) that are not translated at all as well as dramatically truncated. And I can't stand the Al Chet that varies from place to place in the service.

I didn't care for Harlow, either. I grew up with Silverman but I actually daven from a very old Adler machzor I rescued from my shul's genizah. I can add in anything I'm used to, but for HH in particular, I really want to know what I'm saying!

MiriyaB (Becca) said...

The version used at B'nai Israel (which I now have on my desk here) is from 2002. At the top of its publication-info section it says:

Newly-Enhanced Edition (2002). Expanded & With Egalitarian English Terminology, in a format which is "basically compatible" with previously published editions.
Enhanced & Revised Editions Copyright 2002, 2001, 1998, 1995, 1978; Original Ed. copyright 1977 by THE PRAYER BOOK PRESS of Media Judaica, Inc.

Though you may have to flip to it in a Hebrew-only section, it does have the full traditional Psukei dZimra, etc. Hope that helps!

MiriyaB (Becca) said...

There may actually even be a later (2005) version, it looks like, from what I can tell from the listing here.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

When I joined the Hillcrest Jewish Center in Queens, New York, I received a 2004 copy of Machzor Chadash. I was impressed by the variety of materials it included that could be used for study and reflection. Having used the machor now for the High Holidays, it will be something I will be referring back to over the course of the year. I was using an interlinear version since I my knowledge of Hebrew is not great. I was spiritually fulfilled by this machzor and would recommend it!