Mishkan T’shuvah: And the editors are…

It’s happening. After the wild popularity of Mishkan T’Filah in the American Reform movement, the Central Conference of American Rabbis announced in April that they will produce a new machzor, to replace Gates of Repentance. This machzor will be modeled after Mishkan T’filah and is intended as a companion volume.

It will be called Mishkan T’shuvah.

Until recently, I had low hopes for this volume. I was imagining scores of committees being convened, leading to a camel (horse created by committee) volume just as muddled as Mishkan T’filah.

But I have good news. I have learned the identity of the four editors of the new machzor.

First, let’s digest the number of editors. Four. Theoretically, MT’f had one editor, Rabbi Elyse D. Frishman. In reality, it was created by committee, after committee, draft after draft. The CCAR spent the better part of my lifetime on it and managed to bankrupt itself in the process (see this for real insight on the CCAR’s financial situation). But with only four editors, I’m far more hopeful for this machzor.

And now for the editors: Rabbis Janet Marder, Sheldon Marder, Edward Goldberg and Leon Morris.

Janet Marder is a former president of the CCAR. Sheldon Marder is a former dean of HUC LA and Goldberg is at Temple Judea in Coral Gables, Florida. The choice of Leon Morris is a real surprise here. Leon is a different kind of Reform Jew altogether, thinking always in terms of mitzvot and obligation.

Watching this machzor develop will be interesting, to say the least.

Shabbat Shalom.

36 Responses to Mishkan T’shuvah: And the editors are…

  1. Larry Kaufman January 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    The new Gang of Four has several things going for them that the Mishkan T’filah Gang of Four and its predecessors didn’t:
    1. A proven prototype, along with enough years of experience with it that they’ll know what’s working, what isn’t
    2. Many of the big battles have been fought, and probably won’t have to be fought again. Transliteration. M’chayei meitim. On-page author identification. Rachel first or Leah? Etc.
    3. With the passage of time, many of those who were still in love with the UPB will have passed from the scene. Nobody has ever been in love with GOP/GOR, unless possibly Chaim Stern z”l.
    4. No need for the years of field testing.

    One thing that wasn’t an issue for Mishkan T’filah that may be for Mishkan T’shuvah: a
    Kindle edition.

    Since I don’t know any of the editors personally, I won’t have the same access to progress that I did while MT I was gestating, so I will rely on you to keep me posted.

  2. Kelly January 30, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    I’m intrigued…is there a timeframe for when it is expected to be available?

  3. Ben Sternman January 31, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    Two things:

    As member of the CCAR finance committee when we were cleaning up the mess, I can state categorically, the CCAR never went bankrupt. We had an enormous accounting mess and things were tight, but we never went bankrupt.

    Having heard from colleagues, there are a small number who prefer GOP/GOR to MT. They may not love GOP/GOR but they prefer it. After all there are still congregations who prefer The UPB.

    As for how long it will take, I would guess (and this is completely a guess) that it will take 2-3 years. As Larry said, the heavy lifting is already taken care of.

  4. Larry Kaufman January 31, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    Two addenda to Rabbi Sternman’s comments:

    1. It’s important to remember that the hegemony of GOP was interrupted by the advent of desktop publishing. At many congregations, GOP was sidelined in favor of home-made compilations — even after GOG negated the sexist objection to GOP. I imagine that many congregations that have not adopted MT are using their own DIY adaptations of GOR — and two of the real reasons for not switching to MT (despite what Rabbi Sternman’s colleagues may tell him about preferences) are cost and fear.

    2. I have no information as to the number of congregations that have adopted the Chicago Sinai update of UPB — which itself lacks one of the “charms” of the original: what they call in the world of the Web its “look and feel.” The Chicago Sinai update maintained the “majestic poetry” of the classic UPB, while adding transliteration, and incorporating acknowledgment of the Shoah and of the State of Israel — but in the process it lost the compact Protestant feel which I suspect is the real endearing factor to the nostalgists who cling to it as their Tree of Life.

  5. BZ January 31, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    What do “mitzvot and obligation” (or lack thereof) have to do with editing a mahzor?

    • David A.M. Wilensky January 31, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

      Well, that’s a good question. I don’t know that I totally thought out that bit of this post, it does have a lot do with making choices about liturgy and prayer. And I think it goes hand in hand with (not out of necessity, but out of preference) a tendency toward a more conservative (note the lower case “c”) structure, form and aesthetic for liturgy and ritual, which is something I like.

  6. Larry Kaufman January 31, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    No, it has more to do with your knowing and admiring Rabbi Morris, and therefore trusting him to make liturgical judgments akin to those you would make. Do you have any knowledge at all of how the other three editors think about mitzvot and obligation (as if that were relevant)?

    What will be important is how the four editors feel about including liturgy that is in the machzorim of the other movements but that is not in GOR or UPB II. Also on their plates will be thinking about the shitstorm that will be raised should they want to drop a beloved UPB warhorse (my favorite, of course, being All the World Shall Come to Serve Thee). Those thoughts will arise not because they are (gasp) institutional types, but because anybody who produces a book does so in the hope that people will buy it.

    • David A.M. Wilensky January 31, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

      You’re probably right about why I trust Leon to do right with this machzor. But I’m not sure why everyone is so convinced that mitzvot have nothing to do with prayer.

      • BZ February 1, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

        They don’t have *nothing* to do with prayer, but just about everyone treats praying on the High Holidays as an obligation, regardless of what they do the rest of the year. Also, the classically “required” prayers on the High Holidays are basically the same as the required prayers the rest of the year; it’s the “optional” stuff (whether it’s All the World Shall Come to Serve Thee or Veye’etayu) that makes the mahzor interesting.

        • David A.M. Wilensky February 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

          Fair enough. But I don’t think most people who feel obligated to go to HHD do it out of the same sense of obligation we’re talking about here.

  7. Larry Kaufman February 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    In the post that started all this discussion, you referenced Rabbi Morris’s commitment to mitzvot and obligation. Since I tend to translate mitzvot as sacred obligations, we can readily telescope the two into one — unless you had something else in mind? Some distinction, maybe, between mitzvah (external) and hiyyuv (internal)? But in any case, I too question whether they are really germane to the editing of liturgy.

    But let’s look at obligation in another light. What are the obligations of the editors?

    They have an obligation to the CCAR, which honored or burdened them with this assignment. This obligation plays out in creating a machzor that their colleagues will find acceptable.

    They have an obligation to the tradition, a word we have to use particularly carefully in a discussion of which BZ is part. Let’s take GOR as the benchmark (and let me assume — not having studied this — that everything that was in UPB II is in GOR in form even if not in the same (English) language). My sense is that those decisions that were controversial in compiling MT will stand for the new machzor as they were decided for the siddur. And in the spirit of today’s movement, addition trumps subtraction (although I haven’t been at a Reform HHD service that uses a fraction of what’s offered in the GOR shofar service.). So what’s not in GOR that needs to be picked up from Orthodox liturgy? (And that question needs to be answered from your perspective as a Reform Litvak, not from your perspective as a Reform frummie.)

    And they have an obligations to the Jews in the pews, who made an earlier generation of rabbis put back Kol Nidrei, and problematical though it is, never abandoned Unesaneh Tokef.

    My scenario: Mishkan T’shuvah will first incorporate all the relevant hiddushim of Mishkan T’filah, will be laid out in the 2-page spread format, will not offer alternative readings in the Shofar service. and will smoothe out some of the bumps that have been encountered in MT. (I suppose in the new era, we’ll be back at least in the world of abbreviations to differentiating the siddur and the machzor as MT I and MT II — shades of UPB — or shall we get informal and short-form them at Tshu and Tfil? )

    Oh yes. They have one more obligation — to the ticking clock — they better get the book out before the era of books ends! And that sense of urgency will hopefully defuse some of the quarrels that might otherwise arrive.

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 2, 2010 at 10:14 am #

      I’ll be the first to admit that I know far, far less about HHD litrugy than daily and Shabbat liturgy. So I won’t speak to specific decisions I hope they’ll make or think they’ll make.

      But I imagine that if Leon has his way, this Machzor will use MT’f as its staring point in form, but will ignore GOR and UPB II in substance. Its starting point in substance will be the machzor in general.

      • Larry Kaufman February 2, 2010 at 10:37 am #

        If his way were to prevail (which it will not), we will not see Mishkan T’shuvah in my lifetime, and perhaps not even in yours.

        He may argue for the inclusion of liturgy from “the machzor in general” that was not part of GOR or UPB II but neither the Conference nor amcha wants the editors to re-invent Reform theology or liturgy — only to re-present it in a contemporary presentation.

        This committee was appointed for a remodeling project, not for a construction project. And I suspect your chaver is smart enough to know this. As I have said, I don’t know any of the four newly-appointed editors, but I do know the Movement, as well as the movement, and I do know the world of committees.

        • David A.M. Wilensky February 2, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

          Excuse me, Larry. You’ve often chastised me for my doom and gloom pronouncements about the Reform world. I’ll just shut up and stop trying to hope it ever looks like a world I’d like to live in.

          • ML February 2, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

            Well, do you want to live in a Reform world or David’s world? It’s an honest question. Suggesting that you can’t live under the “big tent” because a part of a psalm or a kaddish isn’t included (when it hasn’t in awhile) seems a little bit small to me. Do you suggest throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
            Is their room for compromise in David’s Reform world?

            • David A.M. Wilensky February 3, 2010 at 9:21 am #

              Is there room for compromise?Probably.

              All I know for now (note that I’m saying for now, knowing full well that people, myself included change) it’s not one abridged psalms, but an institutional insistence on treating liturgy with complete inconsistency that drives me so nuts in Reform settings that I have to get out.

              • Larry Kaufman February 3, 2010 at 10:18 am #

                1. This may not be the exact wording, but Ralph Waldo Emerson teaches that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. (He said it, not me.)
                2. Would you like MT’f (I like the abbreviation) any better if it was consistent in always making wrong choices? The thing that drove me craziest in GOP was distorted translations, of which my particular bete noir was l’viat hamet as console the bereaved. The English better expresses my priorities or values, but I resented being “deceived,” taking it as a kind of condescension — those ignorami won’t know the difference, so this is a good way to resolve our (rabbinic) argument. But that annoyance was never enough to drive me out of shul. Any more than the things that annoy me in MT’f are.
                3. I don’t see your position as gloom and doom, although it does have elements of despair. I think your chances at tikkun t’nuah would be better from the inside than the outside, but that’s a compromise you’ll have to come to on your own. And if you do, your younger self will question whether you are selling out. You won’t be — you’ll just be coming to terms with the inadequacy of the best of all possible worlds. As we have been taught to the point of cliche, five days out of six God settled for good, and even on the sixth, only for very good, not perfect.

                • BZ February 3, 2010 at 10:24 am #

                  The English better expresses my priorities or values, but I resented being “deceived,” taking it as a kind of condescension — those ignorami won’t know the difference, so this is a good way to resolve our (rabbinic) argument.

                  Siddur Sim Shalom is much worse on this front. And then there’s the prayer for the congregation, when they fix “this congregation and their wives” in Hebrew, but not in Aramaic…

                • David A.M. Wilensky February 4, 2010 at 10:39 am #

                  Would I like it better if it was consistently wrong? Yes. I’m not a fan of the choices made in the Recon. sidur, but I appreciate that it presents a complete, consistent vision.

                  • BZ February 4, 2010 at 10:42 am #

                    You know what happens when you try to be complete and consistent…

      • BZ February 2, 2010 at 11:18 am #

        But whatever you’re thinking about adding from the “machzor in general” that isn’t in GOR isn’t in there out of “obligation”: GOR already contains the obligatory parts of the service (Shema, Amidah, shofar, etc.).

  8. Ilana February 2, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    I actually rather like the Mishkan Tfilah- what are your complaints about it?

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 2, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

      Wild inconsistency; uninteresting commentary; interpretive readings that barely cling to the topic at hand; wasting ream upon ream of paper in some bizarre quest for expansive whitespace; for selectively quoting uncomfortable psalms and not pointing out why; and for claiming to be a big tent sidur for all Reform Jews, while ignoring simple wants of a few Reform Jews that could be skipped by those that don’t want them including, but not limited to, Kadish Shalem.

      For more, see the rest of this entire blog.

      • Ilana February 2, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

        No need to get upset- it was just a question.
        Although I sort of wish I hadn’t asked, now I’ll be reminded of your vitriol (and abuse of semicolons) whenever I try to daven :/

        • David A.M. Wilensky February 3, 2010 at 9:19 am #

          It’s not vitriol and if there’s anger it’s certainly not directed at you. Sorry if it came off that way.

          By the way, in a list in which some items will contain comas, it is acceptable to replace the comas between list items with semicolons.

          • Ilana February 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

            Apology accepted and returned.

  9. Jason Rosenberg February 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    Not to take away from the larger conversation about mahzorim and such, but are you sure about the editors? One of the people you mention told me that they are not, in fact, an editor.

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 4, 2010 at 10:40 am #

      Which one and how recently? I have this on pretty good authority. I’m gonna go back to him though and make sure I have it right.

      • Jason Rosenberg February 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

        Rabbi Goldfarb told me yesterday.

        • David A.M. Wilensky February 4, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

          And he’s the one I had wrong. It is in fact Edwin Goldberg of Temple Judea in Coral Gables, Florida. He is the head of the editorial team.

  10. Larry Cohen March 10, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    I can imagine it in the kindle edition!! Okay, everyone in my congregation, in order to come to high holiday svcs, you must have a kindle. Now open your machzors (oh excuse me) kindles, to the Mishkan page… And than if you are bored you can always surf the net on them. Gotta love it.

  11. Stuart Simon April 20, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    David does have a point about the white space. It at first amazed me that when reading the page counts of GoP and MTf, MTf was shorter. But then I remembered that, although GoP did not have the problem with white space, it did have four (five?) alternative weekday services (in addition to the full evening and morning services), ten Shabbat evening services, and six Shabbat morning services. MTf was shorter primarily because it cut down the alternative readings of each prayer to what could fit onto two pages of text.

    The surprising thing about MTs is that if the same procedures are followed, it will actually be longer than GoR. There is not much to condense. There are only two of each service for RH and one of each for YK. In a nutshell, the problem is that there is simply not much room to condense. I see it far more likely that the book will expand. Even so, I can see how we can minimize the expansion by combining the parts that leave the most white space: the Barechu with either the Chatzi Kaddish or the creation prayer, the Shema with the V’ahavta, and Adonai S’fatai with the Avot V’Imahot, to name only the most obvious.

    Stuart

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