Rosh Hashanah Read­ings: Inspi­ra­tion, Infor­ma­tion, Contemplation

  • Review
By – October 24, 2011

Dur­ing the peri­od of the Holy Tem­ple in Jerusalem, the Rosh Hashanah hol­i­day ser­vice, con­sist­ing of sac­ri­fices and appro­pri­ate Bib­li­cal read­ings as well as the sound­ing of the sho­far end­ed fair­ly ear­ly in the day. Since Rosh Hashanah is not a pil­grim­age fes­ti­val, most Jews at the time sim­ply read the appro­pri­ate vers­es cor­re­spond­ing to the sac­ri­fices and accom­pa­ny­ing the sho­far blasts while gath­ered in their com­mu­ni­ty cen­ters (i.e. pro­to-syn­a­gogues). Fast for­ward to the present. Lengthy ser­vices often led by a can­tor and choir are dif­fi­cult to sit through for the aver­age layman.

Those well-versed in Hebrew and schooled in rab­bini­cal writ­ings can fol­low the ser­vice and even be inspired. Many indi­vid­u­als, even in syn­a­gogues where Eng­lish is incor­po­rat­ed and even where the ser­vice is some­what trun­cat­ed, need some­thing cur­rent and con­tem­po­rary to inspire them and to keep them involved in the themes of the day. For those wish­ing an explana­to­ry com­pan­ion to the text of the hol­i­day prayer book, sev­er­al are avail­able. Those wish­ing to be inspired may also pro­cure a num­ber of Rosh Hashanah-themed books with essays and arti­cles rel­e­vant to the holiday.

Rab­bi Dov Peretz Elkins is a well-known rab­bi, schol­ar and author. His New Year gift to us is this vol­ume con­tain­ing mul­ti­ple nuggets from con­tem­po­rary and clas­si­cal writ­ers to inspire, engage, and inform the read­er. There are med­i­ta­tive pieces, thought-pro­vok­ing snip­pets, inspi­ra­tional para­graphs, devo­tion­al pas­sages, the­mat­ic essays, didac­tic selec­tions, as well as explana­to­ry dis­qui­si­tions. One can find read­ings rel­e­vant to the prayer ser­vice or to any of a wide range of top­ics asso­ci­at­ed with the many themes of the Jew­ish New Year. All the read­ings are con­gru­ent with mod­ern sensiblities

The selec­tion of top­ics is so vast that every­one can find some­thing of inter­est. The sources are drawn from the entire range of Jew­ish and rab­binic lit­er­a­ture. One finds in close prox­im­i­ty a Bib­li­cal prophet, a Tal­mu­dic rab­bi, a medieval sage, a fem­i­nist rab­bi, a non-Jew­ish author, and an Israeli poet. All con­tribute to a fuller under­stand­ing of the Rosh Hashanah experience.

The only annoy­ing aspect of the oth­er­wise excel­lent bib­li­og­ra­phy is the fre­quen­cy with which he lists per­son­al cor­re­spon­dence” as the source of a thought or para­graph. Read­ers may find the oth­er arti­cles and books list­ed but would be hard pressed to access his let­ters from colleagues.

The read­ings are com­pelling and con­sti­tute a wor­thy com­pan­ion to his pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished Yom Kip­pur Read­ings. Keep this book in your Tal­it bag.

Wal­lace Greene, Ph.D., has held sev­er­al uni­ver­si­ty appoint­ments, and cur­rent­ly writes and lec­tures on Jew­ish and his­tor­i­cal subjects.

Discussion Questions