i would love to use some compelling liturgy (with current translations) for our prayer next year and cannot afford to buy books. am hoping there is something out there so i don't have to start from scratch. i am most interested in erev shabbat, erev rosh hashana, and kol nidrei. any advice would be appreciated! noa
Here are some very personal assumptions about High Holiday davening, shared by some I'm sure:
1) The service is too long (few would disagree).
2) The traditional melodies and some of the prayers are truly powerful, enchanting, and moving.
3) The social history behind the development of the liturgy is fascinating, especially in small tidbits such as in the Birnbaum Machzor, my childhood favorite.
4) The English translation is ridiculous. No one pays attention to the English words, and if they do, no one believes that stuff anyway. (Well, I use "no one" metaphorically, not scientifically.)
5) Hebrew is hard for lots of people, but they like hearing the "real" prayers like they imagine their grandparents prayed.
So -- my ideal Mahzor would have the following characteristics:
1) Lots fewer piyutim -- their presence makes the current Mahzor physically heavy, and reminds you that you're not really doing all the service like you're supposed to.
2) A two-color Amidah -- the really important stuff you "have" to read, and the stuff you can pretend to mumble.
3) Lots of explanations in the footnotes for who wrote these prayers, when, and why and how they've changed (I give that job to our own world-class liturgist, Larry Hoffman).
4) Transliteration of everything we sing out loud so if you don't read Hebrew you can pretend to know what you're doing.
5) Translation of the really big prayers ... the Al Hets, the Vidui, etc.
6) A melodic rendition online (one hour maximum) so you can practice before coming to shul.
7) No English except for the rabbi's (short) sermon. (NO words of inspiration -- I always find them disturbing to my getting into the service. I know where I want to be and don't want a rabbi getting in my way or interrupting the flow of Hebrew.)
All of this suggests two ideas:
1) S3K puts out the SMC Mahzor (I'll write the 300-word introduction).
Failing that ...
2) We run an online blog-like site in which we ask everybody to chime with their ideas -- be they wacky or irreverent like mine -- for the Mahzor and the Tfillah they'd like to see.
Actually I think idea #2 would be a hit. Not sure about the commercial value of the SMC Mahzor.