Approaching retirement after more than 20 years of working at the Movement for Reform Judaism, I was recently seeking some spiritual guidance and inspiration. I found it in Seder Ha-T’fillot, the Reform prayer book that includes a very moving prayer on retirement.
The prayer notes that while this can be an occasion for anticipation and looking forward to what the future brings, it can also be a time of anxiety and uncertainty. So, if it is not too greedy to request a book whose pages number well over 700, I can think of no better companion on an island than this siddur.
Seder Ha-T’fillot is much more than a liturgical tome. With prayers, meditations, reflections and study passages, I would find much with which to occupy myself through the inevitable ups and downs that life alone on a desert island would bring.
Being alone would be one of the greatest challenges, but having the siddur at my side would provide me with a spiritual, if not physical, minyan and that companionship would be invaluable. What other book could offer inspiration from such diverse voices as Anne Frank, Allen Ginsberg, Marjorie Proops and Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav?
And it is full of nostalgia and personal meaning, too; the contributors include many dear friends and colleagues, even Rabbi Percy Selvin Goldberg who conducted my barmitzvah at Manchester Reform Synagogue.
Since that day, the Reform siddur has taken three forms, moving from “thee” and “thou” to inclusive and gender-neutral language. Having been involved in the drafting of this latest edition myself, I feel a huge sense of personal investment.
This is a book that I will hold dear, not just on my desert island, but throughout my life; a source of wisdom and comfort in bad times and in good.