The Modern Orthodox Get A New Prayerbook

Yoel Finkelman writes in First Things:

The prayer book includes a prayer for the State of Israel, not as an afterthought or a way to sell more books, but because this siddur celebrates Zionism. Where Artscroll’s commentary cites only those commentators deemed adequately kosher, Sacks unabashedly cites the decidedly un-Orthodox Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (who first used the expression “Creation, Revelation, Redemption” to describe the central themes of Judaism). While Artscroll remains silent about the Talmudic dictum that allows women to lead the grace after meals, Sacks mentions it proudly. Where Sacks includes a ceremony for welcoming a newborn female baby, no such ceremony appears in Artscroll.

Compare the introductions. In both, fear plays a role in religious life and in prayer. For Artscroll, the religious person is fearful of various forces that mount “attacks on his faith.” Prayer provides the “inner strength” to fend off those attacks. For the new Sacks siddur, fear is inherent in the religious experience and in prayer, since one approaches God despite the inadequacies in one’s personality, despite the inadequacy of language, despite the inadequacy of what we can offer God.

According to Artscroll’s introduction, the Jewish liturgy is fixed in an unchanging text because the mystical juxtaposition of words and letters has a profound and inscrutable influence on the supernal worlds. Individuals have little room for self-expression, since they do not understand the mystical and cosmic power of the fixed liturgy.

Shaul writes: I never used artscroll because there’s no sephardic version and because I don’t particularly like the artscroll typeface (actually, I think it’s terrible). Sephardic shuls still largely have a jumble of assorted siddurim for all shapes and sizes, and looking at any one as a broad political statement is kind of a lost cause.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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