Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton introduced a new Reform Judaism prayer book at its Rosh Hashanah services..
The prayer book, called Mishkan Hanefesh (meaning "sanctuary of the soul") "changes the way the worshiper approaches these High Holy Days," said Beth Emek's Rabbi Laurence Elis Milder.
"We are very excited about the new possibilities that Mishkan Hanefesh offers our congregation as it enters into this sacred time of year," Milder said. "The High Holy Days are meant to be a time when we examine our lives, and commit to a more conscious and holy way of living. Our prayers are the guideposts to that personal journey."
He said the new prayer book places a greater focus on the spiritual transformation of each worshiper than did previous prayer books.
Milder said the last time the Reform movement published a High Holy Day prayer book was in 1978.
"Much has changed in the past 30 years," Milder said. "Reform Jews have a deeper appreciation for traditional texts, while at the same time desiring a more creative spirituality."
Congregation Beth Emek is the Tri-Valley's only synagogue affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism and is one of the early adopters of the new prayer book, which is being used for the first time this September at synagogues around the country.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis, publisher of the new prayer book, describes it as inspiring a multifaceted experience of the High Holy Days, "from feelings of awe to moments of solace, from the solitude of contemplation to the solidarity of song and worship."
Many Jewish Americans observe Rosh Hashanah, known as the New Year in the Jewish calendar, for two days, while others celebrate the event for one day. It is a time of family gatherings, special meals and sweet foods.
Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, follows, starting at sundown Tuesday, Sept. 22. Also known as the day of atonement, it is traditionally observed with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer.
Information about Yom Kippur services is available by calling Congregation Beth Emek at 925-931-1055, or visiting its website at www.bethemek.org/