Tag Archives: ArtScroll

Shabbat notes, 7/23/11: My Foot in Mouth is cured; More on last week’s Kaddish situation; Daf Yomi on the 7:51 to Penn Station

First, the good news: It seems I have rid myself of my Beth El-induced flareup of Foot in Mouth Disease. I haven’t done it in like two weeks.

More on last week’s Kaddish Yatom quandry: Pesukei and Shacharit were led this morning by a fellow who uses Koren Sacks when he isn’t leading. We had a great chat after services about our mutual love of Koren.

Anyway, I was surprised that he did Ps. 92 during Pesukei. Of course, as we discussed last week, we did it again after the Amidah when we did that whole Kaddish Yatom thing.

I was also amused this morning when I noticed that in the Koren Talpiot siddur, Ps. 92 actually follows the Kaddish Yatom at the end of the service. Which isn’t confusing–it’s just funny.

More from “Orthodox By Design”: I’m still reading “Orthodox By Design: Judaism, Print Politics and The ArtScroll Revolution.” Today, I was reading a bit in which it explains the popularity of Daf Yomi, the practice of studying on page of Talmud every day to complete the entire thing in seven years. And this passage struck me as a description of a wonderful textural element of reality:

One rather famous study circle, led by Rabbi Pesach Lerner, consists of a group of lawyers, accountants, and other professionals who have been meeting daily since the early 1990s on the 7:51 a.m. commuter train from Far Rockaway [outer Queens] to Penn Station in New York City.

That’s all for now. Shabbat Shalom


Shabbat notes, 7/16/11: Saying Kaddish in a weird place; A correction; A joke at ArtScroll’s expense

In this post: an piece of liturgical minutiae, a correction and ArtScroll’s instructions for chickens who are crossing the road.

A piece of liturgical minutiae:

Every week at Beth El, we finish the Amidah, say Kaddish Shalem and then something weird happens–we flip back to the psalm for Shabbat and say the Mourner’s Kaddish. I finally asked Rabbi Roston about it this morning.

Here’s what I learned: Kaddish Yatom’s standard location is at the end of the service, after Aleinu. Nothing special needs to happen to make it appear there–it’s just there. This I already knew. But, I learned, you can also say Kaddish Yatom at any time in the service, but only if you say a psalm immediately before.

As I already knew, each day has its own psalm. Shabbat’s psalm is Ps. 92: “Mizmor shir leyom haShabbat. Tov lehodot la’Adonai etc….” This psalm usually makes its appearance early in the service, somewhere in Birchot Hashachar or Pesukei Dezimrah. For example, in Siddur Sim Shalom, which is the siddur in regular use on Shabbat mornings at Beth El, it appears at the end of Birchot Hashachar, where it follows Kaddish Derabbanan (the one for the thing in SSS that replaces Korbanot) and precedes the first Kaddish Yatom in the service.

What I did not know is that the psalm of the day can appear anywhere in the service. What is important is that it is said, not when in the service it is said. So in SSS–and others–it is placed at the end of Birchot Hashachar to facilitate the first of the two Mourners’ Kaddishes.

At Beth El, despite Ps. 92 and Kaddish Yatom appearing where they do in SSS, we don’t get around to doing them until the end of the Amidah, when we are all invited to turn back to page 72 of SSS for Ps. 92. Then we flip past the rest of the psalms of the day for Kaddish Yatom. The reason is that there is frequently not a minyan yet at the end of Birchot Hashachar at Beth El. To enable people to say Kaddish, we simply relocate the whole shebang to a place later in the service when there is sure to be a minyan.

Which, if the location of the first Kaddish Yatom in the service and the psalm of the day that enables us to say it–though it seems that any old psalm would technically do–is irrelevant, makes fine sense. To a point.

It stops making sense when you realize that there’s no need for two iterations of Kaddish Yatom in the service. So I asked why it’s important to, as Rabbi Roston put it, have a Mourner’s Kaddish “before the Torah service.” She did not know why it’s important to have to version of Mourner’s Kaddish. Though she did state as precedent that this is a standard thing that they teach at JTS and that people frequently tack a second Kaddish Yatom onto the service at the end of a shiva minyan in a similar fashion.

If anyone knows anything about this, I’m eager to hear about it.

A correction:

The interest of Beth El’s congregants in the blog continues to astound me. One pointed out something in need of correction this morning. Well, kind of.

In this post, I quoted a JTA article that said that Beth El had 575 families in 2005 when Rabbi Roston was hired. The point of the article was that this was a glass ceiling-breaking event for female rabbis in the Conservative movement.

The correction (kind of) is that the glass ceiling in this case was the 500 member families mark and that Beth El did not have 575 families in 2005. This guy, a member of the membership committee in those days, said that they never had more than 510 families.

So it’s really more of a correction to JTA.

ArtScroll’s instructions for chickens who are crossing the road:

This joke appears in a book that I’m reading right now called “Orthodox by Design: Judaism, Print Politics, and the ArtScroll Revolution” by Jeremy Stolow.

Stolow begins:

For some, ArtScroll’s voice is anodyne, a helpful and unwavering guide to the perplexed. For others, it is the shrill voice of demagoguery and intolerance to difference. And for others still, Art Scroll’s characteristic tone is an object of humor.

Indeed. He further prefaces the joke by describing it as “a rich parody of the punctilious style of religious instruction associated with ArtScroll books.” Here’s the joke:

Bend once when the chicken goes into the road (bending first at the knees, bending fully as it takes its second step); bend again as it reached the middle of the road (only a half bow0; bend a third time as it nears the other side. If it gets across without being run over, say also a shehecheyanu [a blessing for new and unusual experiences] (p. 358); unless the congregation is also saying brochos [blessings] before and after the shema [the basic prayer in affirmation of the one God], in which case no interruption, even for a brocha, is permitted. No brocha is said in yontef [holy day], rosh chodesh [first day of the month] or during the entire month of nissan [March-April].

Shabbat Shalom.

LimmudPhilly: In which a Sephardic Rabbi answers a bunch of questions

I went to LimmudPhilly and wrote a bunch of posts. Here’s a guide to them.

On Sunday at LimmudPhilly, Rabbi Albert Gabbai did a session on Sephardic Jewry. Unlike a lot of Limmud sessions that have some highly specific point they’re getting at, Gabbai, the rabbi at Sephardic Philly shul Congregation Mikveh Israel (founded 1740!), was just sort of talking a rather tangential fashion about Sephardi Jews. Then he took questions from a rather dumbstruck group of rather Ashkenazi Jews.

Here are my notes, with an emphasis on what he had to say about ritual and liturgy:

  • Who is Albert Gabbai? He’s been the rabbi at CMI for like 20 years. He is of Baghdadi descent (see this for more on Philly’s other Baghdadi rabbi), but he grew up in Cairo. And his mother in law is from Livorno.
  • Azose's siddurim

    Sephardi Siddurim: I inquired about which Seph. siddurim he recommended. He recommended David De Sola Pool’s classic Seph. siddur and current Seatle Seph. cantor Isaac Azose’s siddur. Here’s an article that I haven’t read that compares the two.

  • Syrian ArtScroll whaaaat? He also mentioned that some Syrian Jews went to ArtScroll for a siddur. I said that sounds disastrous. He agreed. He thinks it wasn’t published under the ArtScroll name though. I’m guessing they went to ArtScroll for layout help or something like that. Still. Terrible.
  • Year 68, not 70: According to Seph. tradition, the second Temple was destroyed in the year 68, not the year 70.
  • Ladino is not a language: He was quite adamant that Judeo-Spanish is a language and that Ladino is merely a translation of either Spanish into Hebrew or Hebrew into Spanish–it was unclear which way. He also mentioned Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-French, Judeo-Italian–and of course, Yiddish. He emphasized that all were written in Hebrew characters and then cracked a joke about how American Jews all transliterate Hebrew into English all the time.
  • Seph. Jews arrive at conclusions! He was quite adamant–this became a recurring theme of the session–that Seph. Jews arrive at conclusions and Ashkenazi Jews just talk and talk and discuss and discuss and never settle anything. (So?) In support of this, he mentioned that the major law codes–Shulchan Aruch and Mishneh Torah–are Seph. creations.
  • Seph. Jewish scholars are cooler: Rashi takes midrash even it if makes no sense, he says. Ramban (seph., of course) is more logical. And Ibn Ezra might be called the first modern biblical critic.
  • Seph. Jews study secular stuff: While there are Ashk. yeshivot that don’t study science etc, Seph. Jews all follow the Ramban, who says that you must study science and philosophy.
  • They hang their mezuzah straight: The original tradition was vertical or horizontal. Ashk–who, he pointed out, never like to settle the argument–compromised and hang it at an angle. But Seph. say, “No compromise! Either, or!”
  • He is very punny: While explaining why Seph. Jews eat beans and rice during Passover, he mentions spelt. Someone asks what that is. He says, “Spelt. S-P-E-L-T. There, I just spelt it!”
  • Different legal fiction for lighting candles: I have to say, I think the Sephardim have it right on this one. There is a problem: One cannot light fire on Shabbat. One cannot say a blessing after the act being blessed has been performed. And candles must be lit at the start of Shabbat and the act of lighting them must be blessed. Ashk. Jews work around this by lighting them, then covering their eyes and saying the blessing. Then, they open their eyes and–surprise!–the candles have been lit. Sephardim just light them shortly before Shabbat and announce that it is now Shabbat and begin acting as though it it. As Gabbai pointed out, you can’t delay Shabbat, but you can welcome it into your home early.
  • How many times around the groom? Germans brides go 3 times around the groom. Polish brides go 7 times. Seph. brides don’t go at all. Which is great because it gives some precedent for eschewing that bizarre practice altogether
  • If there are too many reasons, there is no reason: That thing about going around the groom was the first example of Gabbai’s favorite thing: pointing out a minhag with no real reason. “If there are many reasons, he said, there is no reason.” I like this guy.
  • No white for wedding: They don’t wear white for their weddings, they don’t fast before their weddings and they don’t avoid seeing their intended for any arbitrary period before their weddings. He mentioned that there is Talmudic tradition that the bride and groom are cleansed of their sins before the wedding. “You can still have sins forgiven if you don’t wear a white coat!” he said.
  • Tefilin inward: Seph. wrap their tefiling inward instead of outward. Apparently, Lubavitchers do this also. He said they have many Seph. traditions because Kabbalah is of Seph. origin.
  • No yizkor: It started in 1648 after the Chmielnitzky massacre in Europe, so Seph. never picked up the tradition. He wondered to us whether German shuls have it, since the massacre was in Poland. “You have to go to a real Yekke synagogue to find out!” he said.
  • Bride buys groom a talit: The bride buys the groom a new talit for the wedding, though Seph. boys begin wearing their first talit when they’re six. During Sheva Brachot, the bride and groom stand wrapped in the talit together. I think that’s nice.
  • Yahrtzeit: They say Kaddish from the Shabbat preceding the anniversary of the loved one’s death through the day of the anniversary. So if the anniversary is on Tuesday, they say it Shabbat, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and then they stop.
  • No cantors! A Seph. chazan, according to Rabbi Gabbai, has only one job: to pass on the tradition as he has received it. So melodies, he says, don’t change. “Not a cantor!” he emphasizes. Seph. nusach is in a major scale, not a minor one like Ashk. so it’s happier and more uplifting.
  • A very ancient nusach: Some melodies are from Spain, but for some things, such as Az Yashir and Ps. 92, the nusach is pentatonic, which means it’s very ancient. It’s similar to the Greek Orthodox Church music, which purports to be so ancient that it’s from the Temple.
  • No chaos! To avoid chaos, Seph. always roll to Torah to the proper place ahead of time.
  • And no Kabbalat Shabbat either! In the Amsterdam Seph. community, the reaction to the disappointment of Shabbetai Tzvi was to remove Kabbalat Shabbat, by association. But they kept Lecha Dodi!
  • Persians do what? Persian Jews whip each other with scallions during the seder.
  • If you chew it long enough… He said that they use lettuce for the bitter herb. “It you chew it long enough, it gets very bitter.” Whatever. Lettuce is for sissies. Real Jews use magenta horse radish!
  • Lemon juice? He also claimed you can use lemon juice instead of salt water.

Mincha x2: My afternoon adventure

There’s a bunch of photos in this post. If you’re viewing in a reader, I recommend going out to the post to see it properly.

I’m currently staying with some friends in Astoria, Queens. They go to work all day. So I went on an adventure today. And ended up hitting to different minyans for mincha!

You can’t see it here, but if you look up, you can see the spire of the Empire State Building above J. Levine.

My first stop was J. Levine. The store has been family-operated for five generations and has thrived in recent years by diversifying its offerings. The siddur shelves–which I’m know kicking myself for not taking pictures of today–have everything from multiple editions of Mishkan Tefilah to a full line of ArtScroll siddurim.

I happen to know the current Levine-in-Chief, Danny, who acts as conference bookseller during Limmud NY every year.

I was there to get a klaf for my current hosts’ mezuzah, which they hadn’t hung yet–call it a housewarming gift. But while I was there, I couldn’t resist wandering back through the narrow, cluttered store to the siddur shelves. And it took everything I had to resist the urge to buy any.

I noticed one woman–behind the counter–and maybe five or so men scattered throughout the store. I heard one of them walk past me muttering something about starting mincha soon.

Next thing I knew, one guy chant/calls out: “Ashrei! Yoshvei veite… mumble mumble selah mumble mumble mumble.” Ashrei had begun.

Oddly, when I looked up, I saw at least a dozen Orthodox men had materialized. One was shopping, flipping through a children’s book while muttering the words of the prayers to himself! Several of the new arrivals were full-on black hatters.

I got my klaf–the woman behind the counter had not stopped to daven–and got out before they were halfway through the Amidah.

I next made my way up to the Upper West Side to meet up with the Soferet, Jen Taylor-Friedman. Jen has a fun thing lying about that we’ve been to meet up so she can give me for ages. She said she’d be hanging around at Yeshivat Hadar this afternoon so I decided to meet her there. In the end, she couldn’t find the thing to bring it to me.

I arrived a little before she did, just as Mincha was starting! Ethan Tucker, one of the roshei yeshiva, was on his way and said hi to me. I told him I was looking for Jen and he said she hadn’t been in, but that one of the Hadar fellow was about to give a devar and that after that, the yeshiva becomes and open study space and that I was welcome to hang around.

So I decided to hang around for the devar, which, it turned out, was being given by a friend of mine, ASB. Here he is giving the devar:

ASB is the one in the middle, perched on the chair. One of the little heads to ASB’s left is my number one fan, Alex.

Anyway, Jen arrived just as ASB had finished up. Despite not being to find the thing she was gonna bring me, I had a good time checking out her latest project:

In a play on the tradition of a megilah where each column of text begins with hamelech, the king, Jen is creating a megilat Ester where each column begins with the word  hamalkah, the queen!

And now, a few words on the beautiful space that Yeshivat Hadar learns in. They study at the West End Synagogue, a Reconstructionist shul, (though Hadar itself is far from Recon!).

In the photo of ASB giving his devar above, you can see their sanctuary. Apparently, WES used to be a public library, so there are still bookshelves all around, which makes for a nice atmosphere for the yeshiva. There are many more chairs stack at the back, which I assume the yeshiva unstacks at the end of the week when WES is preparing for Shabbat services. The funny thing is seeing the yeshiva fellows sitting around in these chairs, which all have pockets on the back with copies of Kol Haneshama, the Recon. siddur!

There is some great not-stained-but-textured glass at the back of the sanctuary:

The doorway at the far right is at the top of the stair that lead into the sanctuary/yeshiva. I think it’s a really nice space. I’m considering adding WES to my list of places to pop into one week for services.

Limmud NY Notes: Sunday musical Mincha-Maariv with BZ

I went to Limmud NY 2011 and wrote a lot of posts about it. Here’s a guide to them.

Limmud NY was enriched for me this year by the presence of “Musical Mincha-Maariv,” led by Jewschooler, Mah Rabu blogger and former Kol Zimrah/current Segulah leader BZ. Lest anyone think that this service review is nice because I know and like BZ, let me assure that I just really liked the service

Normally, at Limmud NY, there is a good effort made to provide a diverse set of service options for Shabbat evening and morning. After that, beginning with Shabbat Mincha and continuing through the end of the conference, we provide only a “Mechitza service led by men” and a “Traditional-Egalitarian” service option for each prayer time.

BZ, apparently having jumped on the bandwagon too late in the game to offer a Kol Zimrah-style service on Friday night ended up leading a similar Mincha-Maariv in the late afternoon-early evening on Sunday. It was great, not just as a service, but as a time. By that point in the conference, my brain always feels stretched pretty thing and I start feeling overwhelmed. So it was just the right time for a nice, long service with some guitar music.

As with all of my favorite services, there was some chaos. At first, we couldn’t track down siddurim, but I eventually located the bin of siddurim we needed and brought it up to the room. We were mostly using Gates of Prayer (Grey/Gender edition), but I used Koren Talpiot and also spotted one Siddur Eit Ratzon, one Koren Sacks, one RCA ArtScroll, one random little Orthodox siddur and two Birnbaums. Given the size of the crowd, that leaves about seven or eight GOGs in use.

Further chaos came from the fact that the service was moved twice, the second time right before it was set to begin. The place we ended up was in Ballroom C, which is a part of the ballroom at the hotel that can be partitioned off with a movable wall. Unfortunately, it was not partitioned off for much of the service so a lot of racket from hotel staff setting up dinner spilled over.

Rob Scheinberg, a Conservative Rabbi was there. When offered something other than GOG, he said, “When else do I get to use Gates of Prayer?” Caryn Roman, a former boss of mine at Kutz, and I looked at each other and said, “Get to?”

We began with a chant to of the first line of Ashrei, the Shefa Gold version I think. This went on for a while and set a nice mood. Then we read the rest of Ashrei silently to ourselves. We did the last line of Ashrei to a tune I’m not familiar with, but my notes say it’s a Debbie Friedman tune. I can’t recall if BZ said it was or if I was speculating. Oh well. the handout said it was another Debbie tune.

I’m pretty sure we did Chatzi Kaddish to “Lord Prepare Me.” Which I still can’t figure out if I object to. I think I only do if we use the original words. More on why one might object to such a thing here. One thing that I love about BZ’s style is that every time I attend a service he’s leading, he uses something creative for the various Kaddishes (not Yatom, though).

In the repetition of the Amidah, BZ was saying Retzeih and I was jarred to hear him say “lechol korav etc,” a GOGP original (or is it from the Union Prayer Book?) that I haven’t heard in a long time. It brought me back down to Earth and I realized that everyone around me was using GOG. It’s a good example of the fact that as much as I care about a good siddur, a good leader with a good plan can overcome a lackluster siddur.

The repetition of the Amidah proceeded at breakneck Ashekenazi nusach pace, but that ended abruptly when we hit Shalom Rav, which BZ slowed down to a Debbie Friedman tune for. (OK, so the tune isn’t actually by Friedman. More on that in the comments.) The combo was jarring, but good. Also, the pace of the repetition reminded me of the luxurious pace that we had proceeded at so far, odd for Mincha, but not bad.

To begin Maariv, BZ did Vehu Rachum to a tune that I am only familiar with for Barchi Nafshi from Chavurat Lamdeinu and Hadar. He continued this tune into Barchu. This mostly worked, but as usual, I find anything other than the standard Barchu clumsy because where call ends response begins starts to become musically unclear. It is the only misstep of any size I noticed in the service.

Maariv Aravim was ordinary, Ahavat Olam to Friedman’s tune.

We did Ve’ahavta to the Friedman tune, which I’m used to hearing with English words only. BZ, however, did it all in Hebrew, which made things interesting.

Strikingly, I don’t think the tune for Mi Chamocha wasn’t Friedman. Rather, it was Carlebach.

Somewhere around this time, a very funny thing happened. Ethan Tucker, one of the leaders of Yeshivat Hadar, whom I am used to only hearing very nusach-sounding things around, appeared with kids in tow. His wife, Ariella, had been at the service since the beginning. The sight of Tucker singing along to Craig Taubman’s Hashkiveinu, while attempting to get his son to follow long in GOG was one of the more incongruous things I’ve seen at Limmud NY, but part of what makes Limmud NY so unique and special.

Chatzi Kaddish was another novel experience this time–I’m pretty sure it was the gospel song, “Down to the River.” In my head we all sounded like the women who sing it on the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack.

We wrapped up with a few more Debbie Friedman tunes and called it a day. It was good day of Limmud NY and a nice break in the middle for some good davening.

Interestingly, BZ used a handout to avoid the need for announcing page numbers and a few other things. The handout included some notes about how to use the handout, about Friedman and explaining that there would be no stage directions. Because GOG lacks Vehu Rachum at the beginning of Maariv, BZ included that on the sheet as well. It strikes me that Reform shuls could use this technique to remove a lot of the extra talking that tends to bog down Reform services, especially the now-ritualized explanation of how to use Mishkan T’filah that some have adopted.

||||| I give this service FIVE ballpoint pens!

Never a bad time to complain about ArtScroll

There's also this book. I haven't read it yet, but I'm very excited for it.

Here at The Reform Shuckle, I pride myself on always bringing you, my dear readers, the best and latest in not liking ArtScroll.

Today, someone with a blog called “⒜ Ⅎℜℹ℮ℕ∂ﬥⓎ ⓓⓞⓢⓔ ◕∫ ✡” (no, I can’t decipher that either) posted about not liking ArtScroll. She (?) linked to a post of mine, saying, “I really do hate that ArtScroll is under the impression that women need a separate siddur.” Me too, fellow blogosphite, me too.

She also points out a 2007 Jewschool post called “Warning: Artscroll Women’s Siddur,” which includes a lovely lambasting of the ArtScroll women’s siddur by the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance that I had not read before. It’s quite good.

And there’s mention of this, from On the Contrary:

ArtScroll wants to have their cake and eat it, too. They’ve created an entirely new genre, an entirely new custom for women’s prayer, and taken it upon themselves to present complex and disputed issues in a one-sided manner, ignoring age-old customs and halakhic positions, and yet market the thing as though it’s something that your alter bubbedavened from.

Check out the full post about not liking ArtScroll (and about liking Koren, also an important topic around here!)

There hasn’t been anything new at What’s Bothering ArtScroll in ages, but it’s always worth a look–if for the name alone more than anything else!

New Koren, future Korens

My new personal size, softcover Koren Talpiot, with some girl’s Blackberry for size

I just got my new Koren Talpiot Siddur. This edition is new to me, though it was originally published last year. I’ll start by talking about this edition in particular, and continue with some speculations about where Koren’s English offerings seem to be headed.

Baruch She'amar is always my favorite page in a Koren Siddur. Of course, KTS preserves the usual elegant Koren fonts and layout from the original Israeli editions. KTS, however adds English instructions, as you can see at the top right.

The Koren Talpiot Siddur varies from the more common Koren Sacks Siddur (more on KSS from me) in that it provides no commentary and no translation, though the content of the prayers is the same as KSS. The familiar Koren fonts and layout are, of course, intact. Though it doesn’t have commentary or translation, KTS has English introductions, halachic guides to the year and to visiting Israel and so forth–in short, the same appendixes Koren Sacks has. It’s meant for an English-speaking Diaspora audience that is comfortable enough with liturgical Hebrew that it doesn’t need translation, but still wants minimal English instructions. I’m not sure if I quite fall in that camp, but I’m planning a road test of KTS for Friday night, so we’ll see how that goes.

Oh, hey, Koren. You've lost weight.

Because it doesn’t have translations or commentary, it is noticeably slimmer than most American siddurim. The page size of the personal size edition I got is the same as my Koren Sacks, but KTS ends up about twice as slim, making it a perfect size, as far as I’m concerned. It also reminds me of the most notoriously small of the pocket size Israeli Korens. (I mean, it’s not as skinny as those Israelis are, but… this joke is going nowhere.)

However, as you can see in the photo of the spine to the right and in the photo of the cover below, the gold printing has been offset–and not because it looks cool. This is a little disappointing coming Koren, from whom we usually expect excellence in design. I don’t mind it on my copy because it adds character, but it was pretty surprising to see such a production error from Koren.

You can see the sturdy, but flexible cover as well as the mistake with the offset gold printing

KTS has a couple of nice features with the cover that my Koresn Sacks doesn’t have, though I think the more resent copies of Sacks have had these features added. Like a hardcover book, KTS’ cover is slightly taller and wider than the pages themselves. This not only looks nice, but it will add some protection to the pages in a cluttered backpack like mine. The cover is also thicker and feels sturdier. I’m not sure how obvious this is in the picture above, but the cover is flexible, but slightly stiffer than the cover on my Sacks. This is also gonna help this siddur out in my backpack. KTS also has a dark blue ribbon bookmark built in, which is great. (I recently bought some ribbon and went on a rampage making these for some of the my other often-used siddurim so I appreciated that.)

An example of the innovative newspaper-style line that refers you to the appropriate next page

There’s also one more feature that I’ve never seen before. When you read English sections of siddurim that are printed right-to-left, Hebrew-style, you (and by you, I mean me) can get confused about which page is the next page. KTS has, at the bottom of each English introduction page, a little indicator of what the first words are on the page that is meant to be read next. Has anyone seen examples of this before?

Koren is my favorite publisher of Orthodox siddurim–and my favorite of all in terms of visual elegance. It is the outgrowth of Eliyahu Koren’s classic 20th century Hebrew typefaces. The fonts are elegant, and from them, Koren created an elegant line of siddurim, probably the most popular in Israel.

The full line of Koren Sacks Siddur editions. That red one is the Canadian one. Mine is the smallest size.

In the summer of 2009, the Koren Sacks Siddur arrived. (Mine, which you can see around the middle of the banner image I’m currently using at the top of the blog, is looking a little worse for the wear–point is, I like it a lot and it gets a lot of use.) It was a major challenger to the ArtScroll monopoly on Orthodox publishing in America, featuring Koren’s elegant design, and translation and commentary by Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of England (or of Great Britain or of the United Kingdom… or whatever his position actually is).

Man, this ad really got my hopes up. Needless to say, it did not come out this spring. It's now slated for March of 2011.

Next year–I hope, but the date keeps getting pushed back–they’re coming out with the Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur, which will include the commentary of “The Rav” himself, Joseph Soloveitchik. I’m very excited about this. They already have the Kinot HaRav, a Tisha Be’Av siddur with his commentary, though I don’t have it and I haven’t had the chance to flip through one yet.

What’s interesting is how consciously they seem to be positioning themselves to overtake ArtScroll. People–including me–keep saying that they will overtake ArtScroll, but they haven’t yet. ArtScroll has a broad appeal to many streams of Orthodoxy, while Koren is targetting only Modern Orthodox Jews. This much is clear from their special attention paid to luminaries of the center or center-left Modern Orthodox communitie like Sacks and Soloveitchik–especially Soloveitchik.

The plainer cover of the standard Israeli Koren siddur

They’ve also changed their visual style to compete with ArtScroll. In Israel, Koren’s siddurim have remarkably plain covers. Yet, here they’ve settled on a more ornate cover, usually grey-blue with an embossed design, gold details (which they share with some of the Israeli editions) and the block of red in the middle. Though this is the standard, there are variations now, like white with gold (some ArtScroll titles are also available in this style) and leatherbound editions. And the prominently displayed Orthodox Union logo on the spine is no sublte reminder of the official endorsement that ArtScroll either never sought, or never got, despite being common in many, if not most OU shuls. [UPDATE: Apparently, all of the new copies being printed in Israel these days have the fancy cover style too. So never mind that…]

The full English instructions Koren Talpiot Siddur series--now in more colors!

Koren’s English offerings are being billed so far as useful in both Israel and America (and Canda–yes, there’s a Canadian version of the Koren Sacks). They have complete guides to the minute differences in prayer in Israel and in the Diaspora.

ArtScroll, however, has been at it longer and has a wider variety of siddurim and styles. They have siddurim with translation and commentary and transliterations, as well as linear and interlinear versions of everything. Meanwhile, Koren has two different versions of the same linear Hebrew-English siddur with different commentaries, and now the Talpiot, which is Hebrew-only, but includes English instructions and guides. ArtScroll has machzorim, of course, but Koren doesn’t have that yet in English. ArtScroll also offers Sephardi versions of some titles, but Koren is all Ashkenazi in their English titles so far.

But, if the fact that they identify themselves as Ashkenazi on the spine is any indication, Koren has plans to publish other nuschot in English as well. They do have Hebrew editions on nuschot Sephardi, Sefard and Moroccan. (Don’t know about Edot haMizrah, though.) I know that they’re working on adapting Sacks for a Sephardi edition, I’d guess that most of this is farther out on the horizon. They’ll want to gain more penetration in the larger Ashkenazi market in America first.

So we’ll see what happens.

Shir Chadash–liturgical minutiae (13 siddurim present, Nushach Achid, the five ballpoint pen rating system and my first experience with Metsudah)

On Friday night, I was at the first meeting of Shir Chadash, a new egal minyan in Crown Heights. This post is a list of related liturgical minutiae and blog business. If you’re a regular Reform Shuckler, you may enjoy this post. If not, you may just wanna stick to the main post about Shir Chadash.

PEOPLE KNOW ME: For the second time, I was spotted not by name, but by face. A Reform rabbinical student (identify yourself in the comments, if you wish to be identified, new friend) outed himself to me as a fan of The Shuckle. So, hey there. Alex, you may have some competition for number one fan.

FIVE PENS: I’ve decided to institute a rating system for services here at The Shuckle. This is based partially on Jesse Paikin‘s suggestion to me last year that this blog is like a Zagat for minyans and shuls and partially on all that brouhaha from Yom Kippur about my use of pens to take notes during services. So, when I review a service, shul or minyan, I will now use a scale of one to five ballpoint pens to rate the service. The first meeting of Shir Chadash, by the way, got five ballpoint pens!


SIDDURIM: Yeah, you knew this was coming. In the main post, I wrote:

Siddurim present are a combination of what the leader has on hand and what a few others brought with them. I count 13 different editions of 11 different siddurim in use.

Without further ado, here’s the full list:

  • Koren; microscopic black edition (Modern Orthodox Israeli)
  • Koren Sacks; compact American edition (Modern Orthodox Heb-Eng Israeli-American w British commentary)
  • Mishkan T’filah; full-size, hardcover (new mainstream American Reform, the only fully-transliterated siddur presnt, along with the next one on this list)
  • Mishkan T’filah for Travelers (a compact edition of the previous one in this list)
  • Ha’avodah Shebalev; the compact, brown, all-Hebrew edition (Israeli Reform)
  • Hadesh Yameinu (Montreal Reconstructionist, but reads like Conservative with lots of English readings)
  • Rinat Yisrael; full-size, Ashkenazi (Orthodox, Israeli government-sponsored)
  • Sim Shalom; one copy each of the big one and the little one (American Conservative)
  • Metsudah Linear Siddur (Modern Orthodox American–see below for more on this siddur)
  • Siddur Tefilah Lechayalei Tzahal; the tiniest edition of a siddur ever (Israel army-issued Nusach Achid–see below for more on that!)
  • ArtScroll; little brown edition (semi-fascist Orthodox American)
  • ArtScroll; big black Rabbinical Council of America edition (Orthodox American, but approved by the RCA[!])
  • At least one Koren Tanach that was briefly mistaken for a siddur

NUSACH ACHID?: I learned this at Shir Chadash for the first time. Apparently, in the early days of the State of Israel (or right before, the guy who told me wasn’t sure), there was so much excitement about having Jews from all over back in the same place that some people created a new nusach–Nusach Achid. Nusach Achid–as the word achid suggests–was created a unified nusach that took from many different nuschot to create what some hoped would be a single Israel nusach. Needless to say, this didn’t catch on.

However, the army siddur I saw at Shir Chadash siddur–published recently from the looks of it–was printed in Nusach Achid. Our guess was that the army rabbinate believes it’s sometimes the easiest thing to do when you need a minyan on an army base or in the field. It’s also a great example of something that’s a compromise for so many people that no one will use it.

METSUDAH: I brought my Koren Sacks with me to use at Shir Chadash, but ended up using the Metsudah Linear for most of the service. I’ve flipped through one before, but never had the chance to use one. It’s not a particularly pretty siddur, but it’s commentary is great.

Most siddurim with commentary have one or both of two goals–they either want to make the service comprehensible to an unfamiliar or novice reader or they want to provide an exhaustive guide to the laws of prayer. Metsudah does a bit of that, but that doesn’t seem to be its aim. The aim of the commentary appeared to be to give classical sources and commentary throughout. Radak, Rambam, Rashi and all the other usual suspects made appearances.

The layout of the page and the translation, however, is clearly mean to aid novice readers. Rather than going for a graceful translation, Metsudah goes for a translation that matched the Hebrew line-for-line so that one can go back and forth between a direct translation and the Hebrew.

I may have to get one.


A great post from prolific lefty open Orthodox blogger DovBear:

According to the Artscroll commentary, the poem claims that the lulav and esrog are held up as a sign of our victory over Satan. If it were actually in the poem, this would be astounding as it seems like a clear reference to the cross, what it symbolizes, and how its used. But as I say, I don’t think the text supports this reading. So it wasn’t the mideival Jewish poet who l tried to connect his lulav and esrog to the artifacts of the surrounding culture.  It was Artscroll — which is astounding enough, I suppose.

Read the whole post here.

[Edited later on the same day it was posted, to change my description of DovBear, following comments below.]

ArtScroll’s borderline idolatry

I had a discussion a few days ago with someone from the iWorship listserve about how I think ArtScroll is pretty far to the right of most Modern Orthodox Jews. I told him that I think Koren is a much more moderate siddur and that it’s catching on because it is more in line with how more MO Jews think.

I just got the new Expanded ArtScroll Siddur Wasserman Edition. They go on and on about how the typesetting is more modern that old one. I find it just as obnoxious and crammed as the original. I got it because it has some new material in it to supplement the good ol’ stuff and it’s got a new introduction and overview section–and I go nuts for those things.

Anyway, I was just starting to digest it today when I discovered a case in point about the rightward lean of ArtScroll: pages and pages of prayer for holy places in Israel. I know that no one is with me on the Western Wall as idolatry issue, but this includes special prayers to be said at the Wall, Rachel’s tomb, the Cave of the Machpelah and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s tomb.

I don’t think prayer at the graves of the holy dead is mainstream. Unless I’m just fooling myself here. Which is possible. But seriously. Idolatry. I’m just saying.