“The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season” by Marcia Falk— Modernizing the Days of Awe

the days between

Falk, Marcia. “The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season”, (HBI Series on Jewish Women) Brandeis, 2014.

Modernizing the Days of Awe

Amos Lassen

The ten days beginning with the New Year, Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are the holiest days of the Jewish year. It is during this season that religious as well as nonaffiliated Jews attend synagogue services in large numbers. However, this is not always a pleasant experience. Marcia Falk changes that in her new book, The Days Between”.

What Marcia Falk has done here is to take the themes of the important rituals and prayers and makes them more contemplative and therefore more personal (as she does so in both English and Hebrew). We have not only blessings and prayers but also poems and meditations for reflection. There are two main emphases—introspection and relationship to others. The overall stress is on “ten days of striving to keep the heart open to change.”

The first question that critics will undoubtedly ask is what about the traditional? I am reminded on an incident at a service I once attended at a reform temple in Little Rock, Arkansas where I lived for seven years. We were singing before the service and we came to “L’cha Dodi”, a song used to welcome the Sabbath. The rabbi asked if anyone had a preference for melody and someone yelled out, “Let’s do the traditional”. There is only one problem—many of the melodies to “L’cha Dodi” are traditional so which one is the most traditional? It is here I rest my case regarding tradition.

The other aspect of song and blessing is those that come from liturgical and biblical sources and we often wonder how to make something that was written thousands of years ago relevant to day. Ask no further; Marcia Falk has done just that.

The readings here are filled with beauty and meaning and we can use what is here either personally and intimately or we can bring them into services in which an entire congregation takes part. They can be used alternatively or additionally.

What Falk has written puts us in the mood for both reflection and introspection and we can even find new places and ways in which we can approach the high holidays. Falk has taken some very old practices and updated them so that they have meaning for us today, She gives us a wonderful new addition to the ten days and I am sure that everyone will find some use for something that she has written. She has captured the main points of the ten days and takes us on “a journey from reflection to renewal to resolve.” However, I must tell you that if you are looking for a traditional prayer book, this may not be for you. Falk dies not mention God yet there is indeed a sanctity to what she writes.