Monday, September 17, 2007

Reflections on the Rav's Machzor

This year, I used the new Machzor Mesoras HaRav on Rosh Hashanah and found it to be incredible. The following are some thoughts and critiques, and a meaningful quote from the commentary. Please add in the comments any observations you have about the machzor because they will be read by the author and taken into account for any possible revisions in the future.

  • I hate to say it but the best feature about this machzor is simply that the type (both Hebrew and English) is larger than the regular Artscroll machzor (and the English is not in italics). My son was sitting next to me and using the Artscroll, and I could see just how much of a difference it made.

  • I don't know why the beginning of each English paragraph is just a large
    letter and not the first word of the corresponding Hebrew. It is probably for some technical reason but I think it is a negative not to be able to easily match up the English and Hebrew.

  • The commentary is, of course, amazing. It is a combination of philosophy,
    commentary, homiletics and stories that inform and inspire.

  • The sources of the commentary are wide and varied, even an article in
    The Commentator as recent as this past March. But not all of the sources are listed in the bibliography and I couldn't place a book that I think was called The World of Prayer.

  • This machzor will never fully replace the Artscroll because the Artscroll explains what is going on in the davening and what each prayer and piyut is about. This machzor only gives Rav Soloveitchik's commentary when available. It is great and I will probably use it every year, but it isn't everything.

  • I believe that the following was a practice of Rav Soloveitchik but is not mentioned: During ma'ariv, in the kaddish following Shema and preceding Shemoneh Esreih, he would only answer "Amen. Yehei shemeih rabbah... and the final "Amen" but not the intermediate responses.

  • Thank you for taking out the extra weight of the mishnayos for Rosh Hashanah. That is totally unnecessary.

  • I personally appreciated having the shofar blasts listed in the silent mussaf shemoneh esreih because I davened at a shul that is nusach sefard and blew the shofar at that time (which I hate, because I cannot keep up, but such is life).

  • The page number mentioned on p. 702 (Tashlich) is incorrect.

  • If I had to grade this machzor, I would give it an A+. Yeyasher kochakhem to those who created it.

P. 576:
לבוחן לבבות ביום דין, לגולה עמוקות בדין - To the One Who tests hearts on the day of judgment; To the One Who reveals depths in judgment. An individual must be the same person on the street, at home, in the office, in his bedroom, and in shul as he is when he stands wrapped in his tallis during Ne'ilah. The Rav knew many Jews who in public were refined, upstanding, caring, and generous people, but who in their private lives were nasty and detestable. Hypocrisy, though, does not always connote falseness. Sometimes a schism is embedded in a person's nature; he truly has a double personality. He acts differently alone than when among people. The Rav said that he was acquainted with people who took a very long time to pray Shemoneh Esrei while they were in public, but ran through it very quickly when they davened alone. This is not hypocrisy per se; such people are truly different people in private than they are in public.
What a wonderful way to look at people in a positive light. However, regarding how long one prays, I think we should also take into account that in synagogue there is a mood that lends itself to better prayer, and that explains why someone might pray longer there than at home, where the mood is lacking.

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