Koren Sacks Siddur, Hebrew/English Prayerbook
Koren, 1244 pp., $24.95
A first reaction to the deluxe new siddur or prayer book recently issued in a Hebrew-English edition by Koren Publishers is that, at 1,244 handsomely printed, imitation stamped-leather-bound pages, it is a bit hefty to be carried to synagogue on the Sabbath by the Orthodox users for whom it is primarily intended. To be sure, the ArtScroll Siddur, with which it is meant to compete, has only 200 fewer pages and, printed on thicker paper, is as bulky. But the ArtScroll, the standard siddur of most American Orthodox synagogues since its publication in 1989, is already on their shelves. The Koren Siddur must be brought by the congregant—at least until it gains a place on those shelves too, as its publishers clearly hope that it will.
The Koren is large because, like the ArtScroll, it has facing English text and English commentary at the bottom of its pages, both the work of its editor, Great Britain’s distinguished Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks; a spatially generous layout less cluttered than the ArtScroll’s, and a comprehensiveness at least as great. Besides the regular weekday morning, afternoon, and evening services, and their Sabbath and holiday variations, which (with the exception of the long Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgies) are found in any traditional siddur, the Koren includes numerous items that usually are not. Some of these are for holiday-related occasions like bi’ur chametz, the declaring of a house free of unleavened food before Passover, or ushpizin, the welcoming of the biblical patriarchs said by Jewish legend to visit on Sukkot; others belong to life-cycle rituals such as pidyon ha-ben, the redemption of a first-born son, or the confession before death. In addition, the Koren has a lengthy introduction by Sacks, the text of all Torah readings for weekday and holiday mornings, a prayer calendar of the Jewish year, a digest of rules and regulations pertaining to Jewish prayer, and a “Halakhic Guide To Prayer For Visitors To Israel,” where some customs differ from the Diaspora’s. It adds up.
Of course, Jewish liturgy itself has kept adding up over the centuries, continually growing from its earliest origins. These go back, if not as far as is claimed by rabbinic tradition, which ascribes them to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, considerably farther than they are held to by the common misconception that Jewish communal worship is largely a post-Second Temple institution, a response to the abrogation of the priestly sacrifices after the Temple’s destruction by the Romans in 70 C.E. There are passages in the siddur that would seem to support this view, such as this one from the morning service:
You must be logged in to view or post comments.