(1948) Reconstructionist Machzor (Holocaust & Zionism)

This 1948 Machzor is a neat little time capsule. Of particular interest is the names of authors and translators in the back of the text. Included below are the authors and translators to the Yom Kippur section (vol.2).


Also in the Yom Kippur section (vol.2): The first thing I noted were not just the supplemental readings by Mordecai Kaplan (to be expected) and Abraham Joshua Heschel (unexpected). The second thing I noted in the authors and translators list was how already in 1948, a High Holiday liturgical text marks both the Holocaust and Zionism. Skimming through the pages and even the table of contents, you might have missed this. But there it is. The Holocaust is not named as such, but it is omnipresent in this Machzor. It is marked first by reference to the the Bialystok and Warsaw Ghettos and Hannah Shenesh and Chaya Feldman. Appearing in this text is an index to how quickly and even organically what cynics call the “myth of Holocaust and redemption” gelled in American Jewish consciousness. The Holocaust is martrydom. Zionism is mystical.

Also stamped by the Holocaust. The Kaplan and Heschel texts that I am including are themselves are both unremarkable and remarkable. Most of the entries by Kaplan echo the theology staked out in The Meaning of the God in Jewish Religion (1937). God is the power in the world, in nature, to save, protect, etc. But then, in the piece I’m including here there is an anti-theodicy of outrage and protest against God, a taking God to task. And Heschel’s piece on the Pious Man anticipates the appearance of that figure at the end of Man is Not Alone (1951). But cutting through the ordinary pieties that suffuse Heschel’s prose regarding the pious man is the way piety illuminates death and dying.

[[By way of a personal mention. I have had this Machzor in my possession for some 20 years. It once belonged to my Great Aunt Sylvia and I grabbed it when M. and I were squatting in her apartment after she died. This year I had occasion to use it, given that I spent Rosh Ha’Shana this year holed up at home and I read through it with some care for the first time. I’m pretty sure Aunt Sylvia did not use it much either. The pages and binding are still clean and fresh.]]

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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