I am in my seat at the Metropolitan Opera House. The majestic crystal chandeliers start their rise into the sky. The spotlight reveals an elegantly attired conductor. The house falls silent, he lifts his baton, the orchestra begins. The music goes straight to my heart; I am enraptured by my favorite moment, the overture.
Selichot is the overture for our High Holidays. You don’t want to miss it. It is a truly breathtaking service. This year, with Mishkan HaLev, the new prayer book for Elul and Selichot, we can soar in spirit and reflection, in ways that are contemporary and traditionial.
The High Holiday season is somber and the work we do is heavy. How refreshing then to begin our overture with Mishkan HaLev, which works because it is rooted in joy and celebrates the opportunities the season offers us to change our lives. The name of the book itself - Mishkan HaLev - not only promises a connection to the other Mishkan prayers books in our lives, but also a focus on the heart - a joyful heart.
Yehuda Amichai’s beautiful poetry appears throughout the book, tying together both the ancient and the modern with timely, meaningful messages that are neither moralistic nor pedantic. One poem, “The Place Where We Are Right,” demonstrates this theme:
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
Mishkan HaLev helps open our hearts to the tasks at hand. I look forward to seeing you at Selichot Services on Saturday, September 16th at 7pm, when the new book will be in our hands as we open the gates of 5778.
L’Shanah Tovah Tikateivu,
Rabbi Stacy K. Offner