The Machzor is the prayerbook for the High Holidays. There’s so much to be said on Rosh Hashanah and Yom-Kippur, so many special poems and readings, responsive prayers and add-ons, that a regular Siddur prayerbook couldn’t ever fit. Hence the Machzor!
We use the Machzor we have, because we already have it for years and right now we can’t afford that many new books for 3 days a year. So we deal with it and make the best of it (at least for now).
But I’d like to highlight three special Machzorim that we can’t use but there’s much they can teach us.
a) Esther-Miriam’s Kindergarten Machzor
Our daughter made this one at school. It has 6-8 pages plus a cover, maybe a total of 10-15 words but mostly illustration – her illustration. It highlights key things like the 3 Shofar notes, a picture of a father and a king for Avinu Malkeinu, and has the 3 words on bottom of Unesaneh-Tokef. She proudly held it all morning and found the appropriate page at the right time.
OK, don’t get excited. This 40-second Machzor won’t suffice for an adult, but is so deeply personal and illustrative for a child. The few parts she learned about, she gets the gist and core message.
b) Levi’s Post-Its
Our nephew is here with his family for the holiday. He is 9 years old and his teacher in Monsey helped them affix colorful post-it markers at various points of the Machzor, where they (even as kids) ought to try to participate. Even adults can get lost in the many pages of Machzor text, so this method allows a child to visually highlight the parts that are most important to him. It gave Levi enthusiasm and interest for prayers that would be much too long and too much for his age.
It also reminded me of a Baal Shem Tov Siddur Bookmark story, see it on Chabad.org: “The Man Who Crossed the River with a Kerchief”
c) Moshe Greenberg’s Machzor
Moshe Greenberg was in a Soviet labor camp, without a Machzor and Yom Kippur was approaching. He asked a Jewish contractor from a nearby village if they could borrow a Machzor from there, but they only had one so they didn’t want to part with it. Moshe asked if he could borrow it and return it in time for Yom-Kippur – and then he copied the Machzor by hand! Years later he took that notebook of copied Machzor with him out of Russia.
Rabbi Moshe Greenberg passed away in 2013. My brother-in-law Rabbi Schneor of Commerce Chabad in Michigan is one of his sons.
See the story here at “My Father’s Machzor” on chabad.org. You can even see a picture of a page or two of the Machzor on that link.
This is an inspiration for all of those times when we feel that the prayer is too long and we’ve seen one word too many…