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October 14, 2015 | 1st Cheshvan 5776

  1. I was wondering if anyone has a new and meaningful Tashlich liturgy out there, or has attempted to recast the Martyrology section of our endless Yom Kippur afternoon service an a dramatic or theatrical format. Our congregation is looking to do something that would break the lockstep of this service. Burt

  2. After our Synagogue 2000 experience in Dallas [in October 2002] with a new approach to the avodah, several of us were determined to try this at [our temple] to try to wake up the Afternoon Service congregation and let them learn the meaning of the Martyrology section of our endless Yom Kippur afternoon service. We have developed a readers' theater version which consists entirely of reading from the Gates of Repentance, but the selection is different from our usual choices and the flow is created by using a narrator presenting the connections and linkages as the well as page numbers. We are also using music, some of it original. We will have seven readers positioned at various places on the bimah and the narrator will have a lapel mike and be among the congregation. We hope to move the readings with drama and interest flair, but not to the extent it becomes theater instead of liturgy. We have been working on this balance in our rehearsals. We will continue the format for the reading of Jonah. After Yom Kippur when we can evaluate the result I will post our assessment. I cannot promise that we will make it available since I am only one participant, and it is not mine to offer, but I expect that the format will be available. The joy of this has been the work in developing it. The essence is selection, pacing and rehearsal with dedicated readers. Paul

  3. I respect Burt's ambition to enhance the afternoon service for Yom Kippur, but I demur at his description of it as endless. The whole point--well, not the whole point but you'll get my drift--is to keep us boys and girls off the streets, or at least out of the kitchen, until sundown. If we are entertained, or better yet, inspired in the process, so much the better.

    We, the readers and writers of the iWorship list, wouldn't be here if the quality of our religious services were not a matter of significant concern. But Jewish worship is supposed to be a mix of keva and kavanah--the fixed liturgy and what each individual brings to it. Part of the kavanah process for me is the recognition that these words which are set before me this day are the same words that I encountered a year ago, and the same words that, God willing, I will encounter next year.

    The story is attributed to Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolff--that on being confronted with the ten choices of liturgy for Erev Shabbat in Gates of Prayer, he told his congregation that they could do whichever one they wanted, as long as it was Service #1. I applaud that sentiment.

    My own rabbi and teacher for many years...explained the rotation of liturgies as a way to keep the congregation from getting bored--and my consistent response was, No, it's a way to keep the clergy from getting bored.


  4. If the "Keva" continues to empty the seats and feels like a filibuster until Yizkor, then we have a problem. There is an important metahalachic principle called "Kvod ha Tzibur" that many in my profession ought to take more into account. (Rabbi) Burt

  5. When [our temple] introduced Tashlich a few years ago (about the same time that we introduced second day Rosh HaShanah), I was as negative about its role in Reform Judaism as I was enthusiastic about second day. (A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.) When I challenged the rabbi about it, his rationale was persuasive--and the more I have thought about it, the more accepting I have become--which doesn't mean that I have made it part of my personal observance (as second day has always been).

    At this season of teshuvah--return--it's truly interesting to note the recapturing in Reform Judaism of dozens of discarded rituals--and the equanimity with which even old-line Reform congregations accept them. We also tend to lose sight of some of the rituals that we have discarded, as if to make room for the new-old ones. For example, at [our temple] we no longer dim the house lights and shine a spotlight on the rabbi during Kol Nidreiwhich thirty years ago was the high point of the year.


  6. We have adopted Tashlich as a regular part of second day Rosh HaShanah services, traveling a short distance to a small stream--which was at flood levels this year--and using a service borrowed from [another] temple. When we first started three years ago, we had less than a minyan. On Sunday afternoon, we had over twenty adults and close to that many children. The day was sunny and windy, everyone joined in the singing, although some of the voices were unsteady. The numbers were not too bad, considering we have a membership of fifty families, not all of whom attend second day services.

    Whether the service is meaningful or not and whether it is appropriate or not in a Reform setting are discussion points for those wiser than myself. However, it was for those who came and that is really what counted.


  7. We had never had any second day ritual for Rosh HaShanah at our congregation. Four years ago we began using the day (which happened to fall on a Sunday) for a Tashlich ritual/pot luck picnic in a local park with a beautiful waterfall. Apple picking at a nearby orchard was an option to start the day. It was a way to celebrate the beauty of the world, to relax and enjoy our temple family, and to return to an ancient ritual.

    The one time in the past few years that the holidays haven't fallen on the weekend, we chose to do it as a "pre-holiday" ritual--Tashlich as a preparation of sorts for the days to come.

    Attendance has been good each year (100 to 120 people) and has consistently represented all of the generations of the congregation, which is delightful. It is a much appreciated, relaxing event for us all.


  8. This is the first year we had a second day of Rosh HaShanah and Tashlich. For RH we started the morning with a family service (oriented toward small children) which was followed by a study session for adults in two parts--one a text study which I led, the other a discussion about ethical wills led by our rabbi. This was all followed by a walk to the nearby river for Tashlich. Attendance was light, as expected, but those who were there were very participatory. It will be interesting to see if we can do 2nd day next year when it's on a weekday. I think we will continue Tashlich but move it back to first day when it's not on Shabbat. Marzy 300

  9. Thirteen years ago, when I came to my Reform congregation, the Tashlich observance did not exist. After two years, I suggested to the rabbi that we should give it a try. At first, people came either out of curiosity, or due to memories of past Tashlich services. Attendance keeps growing each year, and now it has become a time of shmoozing and socializing, along with its original purpose.

    While most Reform congregations are revisiting some of the more "traditional" rituals, let us remember that the one thing that will not change is the philosophical stand that Reform takes. Reform Judaism tends to "reframe" those observances and make them uniquely ours. No one is ever required to participate, and once a person makes a commitment to learn about and understand a particular observance, it is still (most importantly) their choice, whether to observe it or not. We return to those rituals, not because we desire Reform to be more Traditional, but because we find those observances meaningful for us in this modern world.



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