Machzor Lev Shalem

The Board of Trustees recently approved a decision to purchase the new Machzor Lev Shalem to replace the Harlow Machzor that we have used for many years. Below you can read the report of the Ritual Committee that was presented to the Board. To view sample pages and learn more about the new machzor, check out the Machzor Lev Shalem website.


Ritual Committee Report to the Board of Trustees

The mahzor we now use is called the Harlow Mahzor. When it was introduced in 1972, the world was a different place. Many Conservative congregations did not even count women toward a minyan. Our parents and grandparents were sitting where we are now, debating whether to change over from the Silverman mahzor, with the influences of the Old Country fresher in their minds. By choosing to replace our machzorim, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our High Holiday experience into something that better reflects our contemporary Conservative sensibilities. 

Mahzor Lev Shalem has been created to address the shifting religious and cultural landscape since the Harlow Mahzor was introduced. It is gender-neutral in almost all cases. English translations are more literal and are responsive to changes in language that have occurred since that time. It includes running commentaries that briefly explain each prayer. In addition, there are transliterations provided for every verse that is sung. These features should serve to welcome congregants into the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. 

Mahzor Lev Shalem speaks to the diverse backgrounds and expectations in our community and promises to open doors for every congregant. Congregants who are otherwise disconnected from or, frankly, bored by the service should find something to appeal to them in this volume. For the congregant who is familiar with the tefillah, this mahzor’s running commentary presents both a historical overview and insight into the meaning of prayers. For the congregant who doesn’t know Hebrew, the English translations are close to the meaning of the original Hebrew, and there are transliterations for every major prayer of the services. For members who come to services looking for meaning and direction, this Mahzor has a rich assortment of readings, including classic Piyyutim that appear in Conservative publications for the first time. There are also Hasidic stories and reflections, as well as quotes from Jewish philosophers, contemporary Israeli and American poets, and leading Conservative Rabbis. There are abundant readings that focus on spiritual issues and tikkun olam in this Mahzor. The combination of classical, contemporary, historical, and spiritual elements will speak to the rich diversity of our community and promises to be inspiring and relevant for years to come. 

Mahzor Lev Shalem can be used by both adult and Teen services, so it would not be necessary to acquire separate mahzorim. Certain readings and commentaries will appeal to a younger crowd, while others are more appropriate to an adult crowd. Each spread (two facing pages) has Hebrew text, English translation, transliterations of texts recited by the congregation, commentaries, as well as alternate and meditative readings. Red and black are used as colors, which make the text easier to read than the purple and black used by the Harlow Mahzor. Instructions are written in red, as well as transliterations. The layout is easy to read. In addition, there are symbols indicating when it is customary to stand as well as bow, a change from the world of the Harlow Mahzor in which it was expected that either the congregation would already know what to do without instruction or would be directed by the Rabbi. 

Despite the changes, Mahzor Lev Shalem retains the core liturgy of a traditional mahzor. Congregants will recognize all of the prayers that they are used to. In addition, to add flexibility to the service, many traditional piyyutim eliminated from the Harlow have been restored in this Mahzor. For traditionalists, the order of some of the prayers has been changed to correspond to their traditional settings. For example, the Avodah is included as part of the Yom Kippur Amidah. However, Mahzor Lev Shalem expands traditional liturgy by including contemporary Israeli poetry, quotations from Heschel and Kaplanm, meditations written by 20th century Rabbis, new liturgies such as Kiddush Hashanah in Arvit for Rosh Hashanah and a section of prayers called “Service of Brokenness and Wholeness” to be recited before the blowing of the Shofar.