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The mahzor (alternately machzor, plural mahzorim, Hebrew מחזור, pronounced [maxˈzor] and [maxzoˈrim]) is the prayer book used by Jews on the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Many Jews also make use of specialized mahzorim on the three "pilgrimage festivals" of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The prayer book is a specialized form of the siddur, which is generally intended for use in weekday and Shabbat services.

The word mahzor means "cycle" (the root Ħ-Z-R means "to return"). It is applied to the festival prayer book because the festivals recur annually.


Origins and peculiarities of the mahzor

Some of the earliest formal Jewish prayerbooks date from the 10th century; they contain a set order of daily prayers. However, due to the many liturgical differences between the ordinary, day-to-day services and holiday services, the need for a specialized variation of the siddur was recognized by some of the earliest rabbinic authorities, and consequently, the first mahzorim were written incorporating these liturgical variations and additions.

The mahzor contains not only the basic liturgy, but also many piyyutim, which are liturgical poems specific to the holiday for which the mahzor is intended. Many of the prayers in the machzor, including those said daily or weekly on the Sabbath, have special melodies sung only on the holidays. Most mahzorim contain only text and no musical notation; the melodies, some of which are ancient, have been passed down orally.

Popular Mahzors

  • Artscroll Machzor - Very popular mahzorim used both in the Haredi and Modern Orthodox Jewish community. The text has English translations, commentary, scriptural sources, and choreography (when to sit, stand, bow, etc.) Many versions are available.
  • Machzor HaShalem: High Holiday Prayerbook - Edited by Philip Birnbaum. Still used in the Modern Orthodox Jewish community, and for a time in some Conservative Jewish and Masorti synagogues. The text has English translations, commentary, scriptural sources. This book is only now going out of print, after having been used for thelast 50 years. Many congregations still use it.
  • Mahzor: High Holiday Prayerbook - Edited by Conservative Rabbi Morris Silverman, this mahzor became the defacto Conservative Jewish mahzor for 30 years. The text has explanatory notes, meditations, and supplementary readings. It is still in use in some congregations today. Published by the Prayer Book Press.
  • Mahzor for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Ed. Jules Harlow, the official Mahzor of Conservative Judaism from the early 1970s until 2009. 816 pages. Unlike previous machzorim published in the 20th century , this text has much less commentary and instruction. The editors focused on the translation, feeling in most places it would be sufficient. It has somewhat fewer poems than other traditional and conservative machzorim. The translations are more poetic and less literal. In 2009 the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism announced a new successor volume, Mahzor Lev Shalem intended to replace this edition.
  • Mahzor Lev Shalem - The new official Mahzor of the Conservative movement in Judaism. This prayerbook presents a complete liturgy, restoring many traditional prayers that had not been included in the Silverman or Harlow editions of the mahzor, yet also offers options to use the creative liturgical developments presenting the theology and gender-equality of non-Orthodox Judaism. It contains a variety of commentaries from classical and modern-day rabbis, gender-sensitive translations, and choreography instructions (when to sit, stand, bow, etc.) It offers more literal translations of the prayers than previous non-Orthodox mahzorim. English transliterations are offered for all prayers and lines recited aloud by the congregation. The page layout surrounds prayers with a variety of English commentaries and readings, as one finds in classical rabbinic commentaries. This book was designed to be used by Conservative, non-denominational and Traditional-Egalitarian synagogues and chavurot, and by leaving out certain texts and choosing the included options, it also can be used in Orthodox or Reform congregations.
  • Mahzor Hadash - A Mahzor edited by two Conservative rabbis, Sidney Greenberg and Jonathan D. Levine, using gender-neutral translations, used by Conservative, non-denominational and Traditional-Egalitarian synagogues and chavurot.
  • Kol Haneshama: Prayerbook for the Days of Awe, published by the Reconstructionist Press. This is the official mahzor of the Reconstructionist movement in Judaism.
  • Gates of Repentance: The New Union Prayerbook - the official prayerbook of the Reform movement in Judaism. While significantly smaller and less complete than any of the above books, this prayerbook features a wider range of excerpts and selections from the traditional mahzor than any other Reform work in the 20th century. It features a rich variety of English commentaries, readings and transliterations. The original version was published in 1978, and a gender-neutral edition was published in 1996. Published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

See also

External links

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