Mishkan T'filah

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Mishkahn T'filah משכן תפלה
Mishkahn T'filah Book Cover.jpg
Mishkan T'Filah Hardcover Edition    
Language English and Hebrew
Genre Prayer Book
Publisher Central Conference of American Rabbis
Publication date
Pages 712 (Shabbat, Weekdays + Festivals Edition)
Preceded by Gates of Prayer, the New Union Prayer Book

Mishkan T'filah—A Reform Siddur is a prayer book prepared for Reform Jewish congregations around the world by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). Mishkan T'filah (משכן תפלה) is Hebrew for "Dwelling Place for Prayer" and the book serves as a successor to the Gates of Prayer, the New Union Prayer Book (GOP), which was released in 1975. In 2015, the CCAR released the complementary Mishkan HaNefesh machzor for the High Holy Days.[1]


Problems with old book[edit]

Gates of Prayer was criticized as being a non-cohesive collection of prayers, resulting in a prayer book that was too large, and for its retention of masculine pronouns. To address these issues, some congregations prepared their own prayer materials (often with edits to neutralize gender) or continued use of the Union Prayer Book.[2]

A project to address these concerns and increase the poeticism of a future prayerbook was initiated in 1981. Israeli poet T. Carmi was brought in to provide guidance on post-biblical Hebrew texts that could be incorporated into the Reform liturgy. The "Carmi Project" generated hundreds of possibilities, many of which would later be integrated into Mishkan T'filah.[2]

Proposals for new design[edit]

A three-year study called "Lay Involvement and Liturgical Change" started in 1985 as part of an effort to better understand the changing spiritual needs of Reform worshipers. Diverse groups of volunteers were asked to keep journals regarding their experiences in prayer services as part of gaining insights into what worked well in the existing GOP prayer book, to prepare standards for evaluating new options and to start preparations for creating a revised siddur. The research found that the themed services touted as a benefit of the GOP did not meet the needs of all worshipers in aiming too narrowly at one group within the congregation and that the traditional responsive readings were found to limit participation. Feedback showed that congregants wanted accurate and meaningful translations of prayers, accompanied by a transliteration and commentaries that would provide additional insights into the text without distracting from it.[2]

Winning design[edit]

The CCAR received 18 submissions in response to requests for proposals to meet the standards specified based on the input gathered. Two proposals were selected, with one from Rabbi Elyse Frishman of the Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, who was able to provide insight on Jewish texts on liturgy and worship, who was named to serve as editor of the new siddur. In Frishman's concept, each pair of pages would feature the Hebrew text with a translation and transliteration on the right page and additional readings on the left from such authors as Yehuda Amichai and Langston Hughes.

This would allow those seeking a more traditional God-centric prayer service to stay on the right side of the book, while others could choose to focus on readings and meditative style poetry on the left. All would conclude with a common chatimah, a one-line conclusion, before moving on to the next page.

In an interview with the Times of Israel, Fishman noted changing religious and political feelings within Reform Jewish communities including an increased emphasis on Social Justice. With the prayer book, one of the greatest challenges was finding "a balance between wanting to embrace anyone and everyone who walks through our doors and making our worship service distinctly Jewish." [3]

Judith Abrams, who submitted a second proposal and who provided expertise in rabbinic source materials, was named as consulting editor, and Rabbi Peter Knobel chaired the editorial committee.[4]


While the increased use of Hebrew shows a trend toward the traditional content of the siddur, Mishkan T'filah's modifications include elimination of references to God in the masculine pronoun "He". Mentions of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are paired with the Matriarchs, Sarah(wife of Abraham), Rebekah (wife of Isaac), and Rachel and Leah (the wives of Jacob). As in traditional Hebrew texts, Mishkan T'filah reads from right cover to left, a format that was available only as an option in Gates of Prayer.[4]

Musical changes included a shift away from certain traditional melodies and an increase in combined English and Hebrew tunes. The book includes many songs from the great Jewish singer Debbie Friedman.

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman characterized Gates of Prayer as characteristic of a service economy, offering many different choices for individual theological preferences; Its multiple service selections could meet each person's need, but only one could be used for a particular service. By contrast, Mishkan T'filah, offers multiple options on the same page, allowing differing perspectives on prayer to be accommodated simultaneously.[5]

Testing and distribution[edit]

Galley proof copies were sent to 300 congregations for three years of field testing, with thousands of recommendations made for improving the original work. By 2006, pre-sales of the new prayer book were over 75,000 copies.[2]

Other Editions[edit]

World Union[edit]

A World Union for Progressive Judaism edition of Mishkan T'filah was developed and published in 2010. It reflects the more traditional approach often taken by English speaking Progressive Jewish communities outside the United States of America.

This edition of Mishkan T'filah is also sensitive to the experiences of Jews living in the Southern Hemisphere (particularly Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) where traditional liturgical seasonal references relating to the Land of Israel are out of step with local weather cycles.

The World Union edition was edited by a team led by Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black from the Leo Baeck Centre for Progressive Judaism, East Kew, Melbourne, Australia.

Travelers Edition[edit]

The Union for Reform Judaism released an edition for those who travel. This compact, paperback version Mishkan T'filah integrates weekday and Shabbat services into an easily transportable volume while still remaining faithful to the style and spirit of Mishkan T'filah. Also includes Festival liturgy. [6]


A version of the book omitting transliterations from Hebrew to English is available and comes in a different color cover.[7] This version is commonly used in religious schools where there is a desire for Bar and Bat Mitzvah students to become comfortable reading from Hebrew characters. The edition still contains most English passages and translations.

Large Print and Braille[edit]

For people with visual impairments, a large print edition of the book was put out. A braille version was also released although its production was delayed slightly after Jewish charity that was originally going to work on the project had a funding shortfall. The braille edition was eventually created by a different organization. [8]

Electronic Supplements[edit]

In recognition of the digital age, CCAR Press has made Mishkan T'filah available for purchase as an ebook. More recently, they released the iT'filah app for iOS and Android devices.[9] For congregations, the Visual T’filah™ computer program was developed to offer a more engaging screen companion in prayer services.[10]

Companion prayer book[edit]

In 2015 the High Holy Days prayer book Mishkan HaNefesh was released; it is intended as a companion to Mishkan T'filah.[11] Mishkan HaNefesh can be translated as "sanctuary of the soul."[11] It includes a version of the High Holy Days prayer Avinu Malkeinu that refers to God as both "Loving Father" and "Compassionate Mother."[11] Other notable changes are replacing a line from the Reform movement’s earlier prayerbook, "Gates of Repentance," that mentioned the joy of a bride and groom specifically, with the line "rejoicing with couples under the chuppah [wedding canopy]", and adding a third, non-gendered option to the way worshippers are called to the Torah, offering “mibeit,” Hebrew for “from the house of,” in addition to the traditional “son of” or “daughter of.”[11]


  1. ^ Press, CCAR. "Mishkan HaNefesh: Machzor for the Days of Awe". www.ccarpress.org. Retrieved 2017-06-20. 
  2. ^ a b c d Stevens, Elliot L. (Summer 2006). "The Prayer Books, They Are A'Changin'" (reprint). Reform Judaism. Retrieved 2009-03-04. 
  3. ^ "New Reform siddur an embrace of movement’s evolution". Jewish Standard. Retrieved 2017-06-20. 
  4. ^ a b Goodstein, Laurie (2007-09-03). "In New Prayer Book, Signs of Broad Change". The New York Times. p. 8. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  5. ^ Unattributed (Summer 2006). "A Conversation with Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman on the Making of Mishkan T’filah—A Reform Siddur, the Movement’s Innovative New Prayer Book" (reprint). Reform Judaism. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  6. ^ CCAR Press (Summer 2009). "Mishkan T'filah for Travelers" (reprint). Reform Judaism. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  7. ^ Press, CCAR. "Mishkan T'filah: A Reform Siddur, non-transliterated
    (Shabbat, Weekdays + Festivals)"
    . www.ccarpress.org. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  8. ^ "Alameda woman’s efforts yield Jewish prayer book in Braille – East Bay Times". Retrieved 2017-06-20. 
  9. ^ "iT'Filah - CCAR". www.ccarnet.org. Retrieved 2017-06-20. 
  10. ^ Greenhaw, Tom. "CCAR: eCommerce Website". www.ccarpress.org. Retrieved 2017-06-20. 
  11. ^ a b c d "‘Gates of Repentance’ replacement advances Reform trends | j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California". Jweekly.com. 2015-03-26. Retrieved 2015-04-14.