Tag: Mishkan ha Nefesh

Why is it time for a new Machzor?

– by Rabbi Greg Alexander

We are very blessed to begin 5779 with a brand new machzor, Mishkan HaNefesh, the Sanctuary of the Soul, a partner to our already beloved new siddur Mishkan T’filah.  But why change?  After all, our previous machzor, the Gates of Repentance, has served us well.  When it was edited in 1978, it represented exciting and progressive liturgical innovation.  The world was a different place then, and it was replacing the old Union Prayer Book that some of us grew up with, reclaiming much of the Hebrew liturgy that had been taken out before.  I remember my bar mitzvah was one of the first with the (then new) Gates of Prayer siddur in my childhood congregation and for a barmy boy the news that there was “more Hebrew” was not something that 13-yr old Greg appreciated at all.  But comparing the outlook, layout and ideology of Gates of Repentance with the Union Prayer Book (even without opening the book – just in size) shows just how radical that change was then.

But in recent years, Gates of Repentance has increasingly felt dated and even obstructive to some of our prayer experience.  The language reflects its time and the readings reflect the thinking of Jews in the mid- to late 20th Century.  Once we introduced Mishkan T’filah for Shabbat and Festivals the difference became glaring.

The fact that Gates of Repentance contains male-gendered language and did not insert the names of the Imahot – the foremothers – alongside the Avot – forefathers – does not seem consistent with contemporary sensibilities.

Mishkan T’filah introduced a fully transliterated service where every page invited those who know Hebrew and those who don’t to join in Hebrew prayer.  The absence of this in Gates was a barrier to entry to many in shul and left them as passive observers rather than inviting them to join the davening.  Gates of Repentance presented one, linear service that was followed page by page and designed to be lead by the service leader and choir with the davener a participant/ follower.  Mishkan T’filah radically altered that dynamic with each page presenting options on the right and left pages for the davener to choose.  Even if the congregation is reading one, the davener can read another, and still “keep up” with the service.

Like Mishkan T’filah, Mishkan HaNefesh makes strides towards a multi-vocality that creates a space for all to inhabit, offering a multiplicity of different approaches. Through updated translations, elucidating essays, rich commentary, and a beautiful selection of poetry, Mishkan HaNefesh provides an environment for those of all backgrounds to find meaning in the High Holy Days.

Most importantly, the Mishkan series does not assume one understanding of G*d, prayer or the meaning of our lives and allows the davener to find their own inspiration and comfort within its pages.  May it serve us just as well as Gates of Repentance has done.

We will use our new High Holy Day Machzor this year for the first time. You will not be able to follow the services with the old Gates of Repentance. You can purchase your set for R 700 per set either during the week from Glynnis, or at the sales point in the gallery before the service.

Please consider donating one or two sets of our new Machzor to Bet David to be loaned to guests on the day. We will acknowledge your donation with a book-plate.


Yizkor: Let my cry come before You.

As a deer yearns for streams of water,

so I yearn for You, O God.

My whole being thirsts for God,

for the living God. Psalm 42:2

 Hear my prayer.

Let my cry come before You.

Do not hide from me in my time of sorrow. Turn Your ear to me.

When I cry, answer me soon. Psalm 102:2–3

 My God,

my soul is downcast.

Therefore I think of You. Psalm 42:7


Dear friends,

The above beautiful prayer is taken from the Yizkor service section in our new High Holy Day Machzor for Yom Kippur (page 549).

Celebrating a new year includes also remembering those who walked this path before us. Those who came together in joy and in sadness, who were in awe, fear, and in tears, and in love, happiness and full of hope.

When we bow down our heads in remembrance this year on Yom Kippur, we will know that they are with us, and that as long we remember them, they will be part of us and our lives.

May the coming Shabbat and High Holy Days comfort those who have lost a loved one only recently or at this season in years past.

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

The Yizkor service will take place on Yom Kippur (19.9.) at 17:00. The  dedication of new leaves for the tree will take place at 16:45.


Take us back


Repentance is acceptable, the Rabbis teach, at any time, but the special time for repentance is the season from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, the Ten Days of Penitence, our High Holy Days. In all the rabbinic sources, repentance involves two things: remorse at having sinned and confession of the sin. The numerous rabbinic statements regarding sin and repentance are scattered through the rabbinic literature and are not presented in any systematic form, nor linked to only specific rituals, giving us an idea of the openness and fluidity on how we can find our own personal path and approach to find back to the Eternal.

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Take Us Back

       A precious teaching I have given you:

My Torah. Do not forsake it.

       A Tree of Life to those who hold it fast:

all who embrace it know happiness.

       Its ways are ways of pleasantness,

and all its paths are peace.

       Take us back, Adonai —

let us come back to You.

      Renew in our time the days of old.

   Quote: Mishkan HaNefesh: Yom Kippur:
Machzor for the Days  of Awe (Page 353).

The vulnerability of our own existence


At no other time of the year are we more exposed to the vulnerability of our own existence in this world as we are during in this season of the High Holy Days. It seems that our holy texts paint an image where we are unimportant figures in a game far bigger than us. But, looking closer, we see messages of hope and encouragement, love and an outstretched hand, inviting us to become active partners in God’s plan to heal the world, and to leave our footprint in a world redeemed.  

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Our days —

Like the grass of the field,

like flowers in the meadow

vanish in a momentary gust of wind,

gone, never to be seen again.

But God’s love is infinite

and with us forever.

God’s goodness reaches far

into the future —

This is the gift of the covenant.

Psalm 103:15–18
Quote: Mishkan HaNefesh: Yom Kippur:
Machzor for the Days  of Awe (Page 546).

These I remember …


In our journey of the High Holy Days, our tradition invites us not only to find our inner selves, but also to deepen our conection with those who lived before us and prepared this path for us. Our forebears are many, and their contributions are uncountable. May we find meaning in their acts and the inspiration to follow them:

These I remember —

The ones whose lives were shaped by a mitzvah:

“You must not remain indifferent.”

The ones who lost their lives through devotion to a mitzvah:

“Justice, justice you shall pursue.”

The ones who embodied, through deed and dedication,

a mitzvah: “Choose life.”

And these I remember…

The ones who mended the broken, brought healing

to the wounded, fought back despair with the solace of faith.

The ones who breathed life into a prayer:

L’takein olam b’malchut Shaddai: to establish in the world

the sovereignty of High and Noble Purpose.

I remember these…

Artists of the soul, architects of redemption —

the activists and advocates of justice and beauty,

exemplars of tikkun olam: repairing the world.

On this holy day, we remember…

Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Quote: Mishkan HaNefesh: Yom Kippur: Machzor for the Days of Awe (Page 518).

 Avinu Malkeinu


Tisha B‘Av marked a turning point in our preparations towards the High Holy Days. The days of rebuke and warning are replaced by those of comfort and love. God is not only the judge, assessing our short comings, but also the parent, helping us to grow and to overcome fear and hopelessness. The following prayer encourages us to open ourselves to those important aspects of God, to invite God into our lives, as a source of strength and love:

On the night of return, let us find the humility to come close to You, and open ourselves to Your presence. For You are absent only when we fail to make room for You in our hearts; distant, only when we turn away from You. Now, as others have done before us, let us overcome doubt and speak these words of affirmation:

 Avinu Malkeinu

We call YouAvinu — as loving Parent, forgive our wrongs and failings; accept us in our human frailty.

We call YouMalkeinu — as Sovereign of our souls, help us rise from our brokenness to build a world of shalom. To this vision we offer ourselves anew.

 Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

 Quote: Mishkan HaNefesh: Rosh Hashanah: Machzor for the Days of Awe (Page 74).



Let there be light

This week, South Africa celebrated Mandela Day in honour of a man who undoubtly was a light for this nation, and also a light to the nations. Our Jewish tradition teaches us that striving for justice and equality is the foundation for tikun olam, but also that we have to open our hearts and souls for any other person to contribute to a world redeemed.

The smiling children I saw on the many pictures taken last Sunday made me grateful, witnessing that little deeds can bring happiness into this world. Thank you to all of you who supported, contributed and helped to create a special day for those children.

Perhaps the following quote from our new Machzor mirrors best this holy bond between our actions and the betterment of the world we live in:

The first mitzvah in the Torah is “Let there be light!”

So, we are commanded:
In everything you do, be a menorah, a bringer of light. Live with honour, act with integrity, do your work with passion — and the radiance of your deeds will live after you.

May our ideals burn bright, forever unextinguished, and may we live our lives like the flames we kindle — always stretching upward, striving for the good, reaching for You.

May God‘s light shine upon you and grant you peace –

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Quote: Mishkan HaNefesh: Rosh Hashanah: Machzor for the Days of Awe (Page 11).

To make life easier for you, we will sell the new High Holy Day prayer book every Friday before services. The price per set is R700. Please note that we can only accept cash payments. Learn more about our new High Holy Day prayer book and how you can order your personal set at: www.betdavid.org.za/mishkan/




We loved.
And we wept.
We were kind—
and spoke thoughtfully.
We were faithful and trusting.
We put forth effort.
We were mindful.
We embraced.
We took delight in the holy books.
We were creative.
And we yearned.
We fought for justice—
and searched out the good.
We tried our best.
And we were attentive.
We did what You commanded us to do.
We found meaning in Torah.
And, most of the time, we did what is right. We proclaimed Your name.
And we were accepting.
We were joyful.
And we cared.

This wonderful poem from our new Machzor invites us to acknowledge the good in us. May this wisdom serve us as a source of strength where we feel weak, where we need to improve, or where we might have failed on our journey towards Rosh HaShanah.

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Quote: Mishkan HaNefesh: Yom Kippur: Machzor for the Days of Awe (Page 659)

Mishkan ha Nefesh: A dwelling place for our souls


This is not the first time, I have mentioned it, but I think it is still exciting news. Together with our sister congregations in South Africa we will embark on a new spiritual journey, introducing a new prayer book for the High Holy Days: Mishkan HaNefesh. The new Machzor will be a valuable tool for innovation in our Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur experiences. The language in the books is modern and accessible, with gender neutral wording and all Hebrew prayers available in transliteration.  There are inspired alternative options, a variety of study commentaries throughout the book, Torah reading options, and some magnificent new prayer alternatives. We are going to use the new Machzorim for the first time on Rosh HaShanah 2018.

Why do we need a new machzor? Why should we switch to Mishkan HaNefesh?

Our current Machzor, Gates of Repentance, has served Bet David well for many years. When it was first published in 1978, it represented exciting and progressive liturgical innovation. However, time has changed and we have changed. The fact that it does not include transliteration is a stumbling block for many in our communities. So too, many of today’s Jews feel disconnected from prayer and from theological and ideological concepts that do not seem consistent with a contemporary sensibility. Like Mishkan Tfilah, our Shabbat prayer book, Mishkan HaNefesh makes strides towards a multi-vocality that creates a space for all to inhabit, offering a multiplicity of different approaches. Through updated translations, elucidating essays, rich commentary, and a beautiful selection of poetry, Mishkan HaNefesh provides an environment for those of all backgrounds to find meaning in the High Holy Days.

Mishkan HaNefesh gives both the prayer leader and the community a wealth of resources for finding new and old meaning for the High Holy Days and to match the requirements for today‘s services. Mishkan HaNefesh breathes new life into High Holy Day services and forms a meaningful bridge to our Shabbat liturgy we love at Bet David.

How do you get your copy?

The new two volume Machzor can be bought from the offices from March 2018 on, but we are happy to offer you a pre-order option to save your copies already now, with a early bird discount. The regular set (one set includes the Machzorim for RoshHaShanah and Yom Kippur) price is R700. If you order your set(s) before 31 December and pay it by the end of 2017, we can offer you a special pre-order price of R600 per set. The other option we can offer you is to order now and pay them off in several installments for the regular price. Please use the order form (Mishkan HaNefesh Information Letter).

With your support, we will be able to make this important change in the worship life of our congregation. If you have questions regarding the new Machzor, please don‘t hesitate to contact me or any members of the ManCom.

 Rabbi Adrian M Schell