Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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44
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
ing our people receive attention in the new
Mahzor.
One addi­
tional component, equally pervasive, needs to be mentioned—
secularism. Eric Hoffer’s devastating indictment of the religious
institution is that God and priests have become superfluous, as
if secularism is the panacea. Lamentably, all movements tend to
give more significance to their values than they merit. Secularism
produces its own fanaticism. For Jews, a culture of secularism is
a real challenge. If there is no covenant, no God, no growth, no
future of eschatological implications, life becomes unbearable
and meaningless.
There are selections in the
Mahzor
that try to come to
grips with this dilemma; especially those culled from the writ­
ing of Will Herberg. While some passages are complex and dif­
ficult reading, there is one for the second day of Rosh Hashanah,
in the
Musaf
service, that is rewarding and refreshing.
To a large extent, as Hertz pointed out in his introduction to
the
Siddur,
a liturgy defines a people. In the instance of the
new
Mahzor,
it helps a movement define itself. While Judaism
is not as theologically centered as Christianity, a mixed bag of
theology inevitably found its way into the
Siddur
and
Mahzor.
It revolved around God as Creator, as Author of History, Law­
giver, Redeemer. The critical concern was to communicate to
the Jewish people what God expected of them. The
Mahzor
tries to explain more definitively what the Conservative move­
ment is all about.
Early
Mahzorim,
such as the Szold and Jastrow books, were
scarcely distinguishable from the old
Union Prayer Book
of
Reform Judaism. As the pendulum swung to the right, newer
prayer texts differed little from the Orthodox ones.
Mahzorim
in use before the new edition appeared were the Silverman, the
Adler, and the Philips. Changes in these were few and could
irritate only the fundamentalist and the purist.
The prayerbook, now available through the RA, endeavors
to steer a course between two extremes. Rabbinic and lay leaders
have obviously played a crucial role in the contents of the new
book. What has been produced reflects great sensitivity and
loyalty for tradition. Concurrently, there is an air of contempo­
raneity about the writing and the selection. Above all, the new
Mahzor
is distinguished by a high level of intellectuality and
integrity.