Our new High Holy Day prayer book is called Mahzor Lev Shalem meaning “full, content heart”. We will use it when we gather next week for Rosh HaShanah.
It’s a beautiful image, to enter into prayer with hearts full of our desires and cares, feeling pain, joy, and always love. Deep within each of our hearts beat the promises and hopes of our dreams. Quiet and private, our hearts know our real personalities. In our hearts, we imagine and plan.
How do we find wholeness when we have been broken? What is true? What do we believe? For who and what do we care? In our hearts’ feelings we find goodness to share with others. In our hearts’ longings we hope to receive kindness. On the eve of a New Year, approaching our sacred Holy Days our hearts yearn to be full, to be strong, to know love and tenderness, conviction and resolve.
When you open this Mahzor you’ll recognize the words. It’s not the Hebrew prayers that are different. It’s how we may approach them that moves us to adopt a new prayer text. Filled with rich commentaries and meaningful reflections, this Mahzor represents what I think prayer should be; something personal shared in community.
Recitation and reading enable us to pray together. Words, texts, and melodies facilitate our prayer. They unite us. They embrace us. They inspire us. They teach us. But, they are not our prayers. Prayer is awareness of God, engagement with life, reflective thought, and personal feeling.
The secrets of our hearts are things known only to each of us, properly private and hidden. Hurts we remember. Loves we feel. Things we’ve done. Thoughts we’ve chosen not to say out loud. Hopes and memories we cherish. Disappointments and choices we regret.
What we know and share with each other forms our relationships and sense of community. What we know and keep quiet forms our bond with God and sense of mystery. Joining these two realms allows us to pray.
Whatever our emotions, whatever our feelings, if we genuinely try to be present when we pray, and if we have a resource in our hands that helps us to do that, then it works. We pray by connecting our lives to the ideas and ideals of Jewish tradition. We pray from the private recesses of our hearts in the public forum of our community.
It’s a beautiful image, to enter into prayer with hearts full of our desires and cares, feeling pain, joy, and always love. May it lead us into a New Year of goodness, contentment, and blessing.