Today is December 15, 2017 -
By Hazzan Michael Krausman
With the High Holy Days just around the corner, now is a great time to start to prepare. Here is a quick reference guide for making High Holy Day services more personally meaningful. By following some of these suggestions, services can become more of an active – rather than passive – process.
A) Reading Readiness
B) Personal Experience
C) Z’chut Avot
D) Personal Prayers/Meditations
E) Buy Your Own Machzor
F) CD’s or MP3’s of Holiday Music
Hebrew, as you may know, is based on a system of three- or four letter roots around which all of the various forms and conjugations of words are formed. By looking at a few of these, you will be able to receive an idea of some of the concepts the author of the particular prayer is seeking to convey. These roots can be expressed in English transliteration as a series of letters separated by dashes. So here we go:
1. B-R-Ch. This conveys the concept of Praise or Blessing. Thus the word BRaCha, means blessing, as in “Blessed are you our God”. Any time this root is employed we are evoking the presence of the Creator in what we seek or in that for which we are grateful. So BiRCHat Kohanim, is the Priestly blessing recited on the holidays, festivals and other significant Selichot occasions. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “knee” is BeReCh; we often bend our knee when acknowledging God’s presence.
2. K-D-Sh. This conveys the concept of Holiness. God is the Holiest of all entities because there is only one God in the universe. So we have KidDuSh, the sanctification of Shabbat or a Festival usually made over wine. KiDuSha, the expression of God’s holiness, is found during the public recitation of the Amidah. KaDiSh is the prayer said by mourners, and KiDuShin is the Hebrew word for wedding.
3. M-L-Ch (K). This conveys the concept of monarchy. God is described as MeLeCh Ha Olam, the ruler of the universe. MaLChuyot is a section of the Rosh Hashanah service that cites texts demonstrating and focusing on the monarchy of God. Also, we often sing the popular prayer, Avinu MaLKeinu (Our Parent, Our Monarch), pointing to the continuum between justice and mercy that defines our relationship with God.
4. Z-Ch(K)-R. This conveys the concept of Remembering. So we have ZiChRonot, a section of the Rosh Hashanah service that cites texts demonstrating and focusing on the past, and the memory of the relationship between God and our ancestors. Many gather on Yom Kippur and other festivals for the YiZKoR memorial service. We also have the Israeli version of Memorial Day – Yom Ha ZiKaRon.
5. Tz-D-K. This conveys the concept of Justice, or doing that which is right. Thus the Bible implores us, “TzeDeK, TzeDeK Tirdof; Justice, Justice shall you pursue.” We come to the realization before God during the High Holy Days that we are not TzDiKim, completely righteous people like our great sages, but that we have indeed committed transgressions. During Yom Kippur it’s a good time to support the Synagogue by giving TzeDaKah, i.e. doing that which is right
Please feel free to contact me for help with any of these suggestions or to explore other possibilities. By doing a small amount of pre-planning, the services that we experience together this year can be the most meaningful ever.
Shanna Tovah U’Mitukah
Best wishes for a year of Blessing, Peace and Sweetness!
Hazzan Michael Krausman, Laurel, Zev and Zach