March 2016 – Message From Rabbi Arnow

New Old Words: The New Siddur Lev Shalem

This month at Kol Rinah, we have a once-in-a-generation event. It’s kind of a big deal. I am so thrilled that in March 2016, Kol Rinah will be welcoming a new addition to our sacred community, and specifically, to our Shabbat morning experience. We will be introducing a new Shabbat and Festival siddur (prayer book), Siddur Lev Shalem. Siddur Lev Shalem is in the same series as our relatively new machzor (High Holiday prayer book), Machzor Lev Shalem. Based on the fantastic reactions we have had to that new machzor, we have invested in this new siddur.

Siddur Lev Shalem will replace the blue Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, which is now about twenty years old. I have many fond memories and associations with our current siddur, and I’ll miss many things about it. I also remember how much of an improvement it was over the Silverman siddur, which it replaced at the synagogue at which I grew up. I know how much of an upgrade this new siddur will be to the prayer experience we share every Shabbat.

The new siddur follows the same format and layout as the machzor. It features a four-column format with Hebrew and English in the center of the book, and historical/explanatory comments and poetry/inspiration on the margins. The goal is to provide information to better understand the prayers, as well as alternatives, readings and poems to enhance the pray-er’s experience. It also features clearer directions, and much transliteration, to make participating in services easier for those less familiar with the service and Hebrew. Compared to Sim Shalom, which has very little transliteration, and virtually no commentary or explanation, this is an incredible leap forward. There will certainly be a period of adjustment as we acclimate to the new siddur. We’ll have to learn new page numbers, and a new layout. The book will feel different in our hands; the paper will have a different texture. But rest assured: the prayers themselves are the same ones we collectively have been saying our whole lives, and, indeed, for generations. The changes are in translation, gender-neutral God language, and the addition of new liturgy as well as some ancient alternatives for particular prayers. We will have the opportunity to experiment with using some of the old alternatives that are new to us as we learn how best to use the siddur here at Kol Rinah.

It will take some work to learn this new siddur, and we will be studying it together. When we introduce it (we’ll let you know by e-mail the exact date, which depends on shipping, etc.), I will devote some sermon times to studying the siddur, and will be teaching about it in different venues and to different groups throughout the congregation. There will also be opportunities coming soon to sponsor our purchase of these siddurim.

I look forward to using the new Siddur Lev Shalem to allow us to reach higher, to dig deeper, to pray together with you as we, as a community and as individual Jews, strive to create, experience and attune ourselves to moments of holiness in God’s presence.

Rabbi Arnow