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Rosh HaShanah


When the words of liturgy are taken too literally, the sacred power of prayer is often lost. In his latest book, Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman offers a way worshipers can transcend the limitations imposed by language. You recently published Volume Six of “Prayers of Awe,” your series on the High Holidays. Naming God: Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father Our King, from Jewish Lights Publishing, explores the problems we have in naming God. What are the problems and why did you choose Avinu Malkeinu to illustrate them?

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman: Jews the world over are...

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There are pages even in my new machzor that I imagine stuck together, remnants of honey from my daughter’s sticky fingers, sacred fragments of words and stories memories and possibilities smudged one atop the other like sandcastles on a beach trying to describe a person’s life full of tiny specks and bold mysteries.

Pages, bound and stuck, like so much of life, sweet and stubborn, worn they help us gulp down the bitter with the delicious.

Tender we separate sticky pages and sticky hearts lest we tear them and smudge or erase or wreck words and worlds and loves that call us...

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Nothing is more intimidating than leaving your comfort zone, facing a mix of new people, routines, and cultures – especially when you're doing it alone. I’ll never forgot how it felt when I left for college, a New York girl heading to school in the Midwest. I really hoped people were kidding about cow-tipping.

By the third week, it hit me. Classes were overwhelming, my dorm didn't feel like home yet, and I hadn't made friends that I felt connected to. And though my school had a large Jewish population, I seemed to meet a lot of kids who had never met a Jew. One guy asked (politely...

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One of my most precious possessions is a copy of the Talmudic tractate Kiddushin printed in Munich in 1946 on presses once used for Nazi propaganda. A Talmud printed on an erstwhile Nazi printing press is a powerful symbol of our privilege to use our time, our talent, and our material resources to help replant vibrant, progressive Jewish learning and living in the places where the Nazis tried to destroy them.

In this volume (page 40B), we find one of the most uplifting of rabbinic teachings whose message is particularly appropriate during the last month of the year, the month of...

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Every summer, I go through the same routine. Come early August, I open the High Holidays prayer book, the machzor, and review the Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services rapidly approaching. All of the familiar readings and prayers are right where I left them, as if they were just waiting all year for this season to return. The sheer act of dusting off the cover and opening the book feels like a religious experience, as if I’m coming back to something timeless and true.

We have been preparing for our holiday season with great gusto at my synagogue. There are brochures to print,...

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