Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Days Between - Marcia Falk

In The Days Between Marcia Falk of the Book of Blessings  siddur fame provides a High Holiday machzor in her own unique style, expressing her own take on the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah, the Days of Awe, and Yom Kippur.

For those looking for a traditional machzor, Falk’s work is not for you.  She makes a point of not only failing to anthropomorphize God, but even mentioning an entity called God at all.

Rather, Falk tries to evoke a sense of sacredness in everyday items, things, ideas, and in the process, give the person using her machzor a sense of an all-encompassing divinity not confined to one time, one place, one notion, or one angle of belief.  Even, in a deep sense, trying to destroy the idea that something called 'God' and the 'World' and its seemingly multifarious 'objects' are separate at all.

This is a tall order, and this book sometimes succeeds in this grand mission and sometimes fails.  The Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur prayer books are filled with majestic images, invocations on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death, all presided over by an all-powerful King God who judges the world.  Like it or not, something about those themes pulls many non-religious Jews into temple on the High Holidays (and to be fair, keeps many away!)

Falk’s work is a brave attempt, but it falls short of the show stopping opulence which most Jewish people expect at the High Holidays.  Although I agree with the ideology behind her work, I don’t think she quite reaches the mark she sets for herself, or that is expected during the High Holidays.

But if the book is a failure, it is a wonderful failure.  The Days Between certainly stands as a powerful counterpoint to Jewish traditions at this time of year, departing from well-worn tracks in liturgy and theology, while retaining a broadly defined Jewish sense.

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