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Meet Open Siddur contributor

Nili SimhaiNili Simhai

The former director of the Teva Learning Center, Nili Simhai is a leader of the Jewish environmental education movement. She has trained and counseled hundreds of educators in the pedagogy of Jewish environmental education and has put environmental sensibilities and programs squarely in the middle of Jewish educational programming and outreach. In 2009 she was the recipient of the Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education. In addition, she is proud of her role in the creation of Teva’s Shomrei Ḥayyot, Yitziah, and “Bringing It Back to Our Schools” programs, as well as her contribution to the development of several Teva curricula.

Passionate about all of Creation, Nili’s background includes study and work in ecological concerns ranging from wildlife conservation, wetland remediation, and entomology (Ohio State University) to ornithology (International Birdwatching Center in Eilat, Smithsonian Institute) and natural history (Natural History Museum of Cleveland). She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with her husband Yosh and her little boy, Tal.

The Seder of Kavanot for the Feast of Rosh Hashanah according to a Farsi Nusaḥ

Some Pesaḥ פסח (Passover) Selections

  • פסח | The Other Side of the Sea: A Haggadah on Fighting Modern-Day Slavery by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

    פסח | The Other Side of the Sea: A Haggadah on Fighting Modern-Day Slavery by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

    “The wicked child asks: What does this work mean to you? Mah ha’avodah ha’zot lachem” (Exodus 12:26). I think about this question a great deal as a rabbi whose core work involves fighting modern-day slavery. I think about it when I talk to my children about what I do every day, when I call anti-trafficking activists and say, “What can rabbis do to support you?” or when I stand before Jewish audiences and urge them to put their energy behind this critical human rights issue. The answer must go deeper than simply saying, “We were slaves in Egypt once upon a time.” The memory of bitterness does not necessarily inspire action. What inspires me is not slavery but redemption. God could part the Sea of Reeds, but the Israelites could not truly be free until they had liberated themselves, after 40 years in the desert, from slavery. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • A Prayer for the Earth by Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org)

    A Prayer for the Earth by Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org)

    God of all spirit, all directions, all winds You have placed in our hands power unlike any since the world began to overturn the orders of creation. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • פסח | The Plotke Family Haggadah

    פסח | The Plotke Family Haggadah

    A haggadah shared by Michael Plotke that he made for his family many years ago based on the haggadah of the late Rebbe of ḤaBaD, R' Menachem Mendel Schneerson. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • פסח | Elijah’s Journey: A Pesach Seder Supplement for suicide awareness to be read upon opening the door for Elijah

    פסח | Elijah’s Journey: A Pesach Seder Supplement for suicide awareness to be read upon opening the door for Elijah

    Although God often speaks to humanity in the rumble of earthquakes, the roaring of wind and the thunder of storms, God spoke to Elijah, instead, in a still small voice. And, it was the nurturing power of the still small voice that slowly gave Elijah the courage and strength to be able to peek out of his deep abyss. On this night when we welcome Elijah to join our celebration, we acknowledge those who are so pained that they cannot fully celebrate, for joy eludes them. Although we may witness their physical wound with our eyes, we must also find ways to become attuned to their spiritual hurt and their emotional despair. The blood from the wound in their heart may not be visible and the cry in the depth of their throat may not be audible unless we train ourselves to attend to them. But, they are there. Our challenge is see and hear the pain of those whose depression affects their lives. Our response does not have to be bold in order to make a difference. A still small voice can transform a frown into a smile. A caring whisper that says, “I care” can raise a stooped …Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • פסח | Haggadah for Pesaḥ with an English translation by Eve Feinstein

    פסח | Haggadah for Pesaḥ with an English translation by Eve Feinstein

    A tale is told of Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Joshua, Rabbi Elazar son of Azariah, Rabbi Akiva, and Rabbi Tarfon, who held a seder [lit: reclined] in Bnai Brak. They discussed the exodus from Egypt all that night, until their students came and said to them, “Rabbis, the time has come to recite the morning shema.” . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • סדר ספירת העומר | the Order of Counting the Omer in the Spring

    סדר ספירת העומר | the Order of Counting the Omer in the Spring

    Each day between the beginning of Passover and Shavuot gets counted, 49 days in all, 7 weeks of seven days. That makes the omer period a miniature version of the Shmitta and Yovel (Jubilee) cycle of 7 cycles of seven years. Just as that cycle is one of resetting society's clock to align ourselves with freedom and with the needs of the land, this cycle too is a chance to align ourselves with the rhythms of spring and the spiritual freedom represented by the Torah. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • פסח | Kavanah for Returning Our Ḥametz to the Earth by Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org)

    פסח | Kavanah for Returning Our Ḥametz to the Earth by Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org)

    Here's a kavannah for tonight's search for ḥametz or for burning ḥametz tomorrow (with added words), from neohasid.org. It would be great if you could share it with your networks. Ḥag sameaḥ! . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • A Prayer for Candle-lighting by Chaya Kaplan-Lester

    A Prayer for Candle-lighting by Chaya Kaplan-Lester

    Please God Let me light More than flame tonight. More than wax and wick and sliver stick of wood. More than shallow stream of words recited from a pocket book. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • Scaling the Walls of the Labyrinth: Psalms 67 and Ana b’Koaḥ

    Scaling the Walls of the Labyrinth: Psalms 67 and Ana b’Koaḥ

    Psalm 67 is a priestly blessing for all the peoples of the earth to be sustained by the earth's harvest (yevulah), and it is a petition that all humanity recognize the divine nature (Elohim) illuminating the world. Composed of seven verses, the psalm is often visually depicted as a seven branched menorah. There are 49 words in the entire psalm, and in the Nusaḥ ha-ARI z"l there is one word for each day of the Sefirat haOmer. Similarly, the fifth verse has 49 letters and each letter can be used as a focal point for meditating on the meaning of the day in its week in the journey to Shavuot, the festival of weeks (the culmination of the barley harvest), and the festival of oaths (shevuot) in celebration of receiving the Torah. Many of the themes of Psalm 67 are repeated in the prayer Ana b'Koaḥ, which also has 49 words, and which are also used to focus on the meaning of each day on the cyclical and labyrinthine journey towards Shavuot. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • פסח | The Seder’s Innermost Secret — Ḥaroset: Earth & Eros in the Pesaḥ Celebration by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

    פסח | The Seder’s Innermost Secret — Ḥaroset: Earth & Eros in the Pesaḥ Celebration by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

    There it sits on the Seder plate: ḥaroset, a delicious paste of chopped nuts, chopped fruits, spices, and wine. So the question would seem obvious: "Why is there ḥaroset on the Seder plate?" That's the most secret Question at the Seder – so secret nobody even asks it. And it’s got the most secret answer: none. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • ברכת האילנות | The Blessing of Flowering Fruit Trees in the Spring Season

    ברכת האילנות | The Blessing of Flowering Fruit Trees in the Spring Season

    When the spring (Aviv) season arrives, a blessing is traditionally said when one is in view of at least two flowering fruit trees. In the northern hemisphere, it can be said anytime through the end of the month of Nissan (though it can still be said in Iyar). For those who live in the southern hemisphere, the blessing can be said during the month of Tishrei. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • פסח | Preparations for the Pesaḥ Seder by Gabriel Wasserman

    פסח | Preparations for the Pesaḥ Seder by Gabriel Wasserman

    Preparation for the Passover seder, part one (of four) of Gabriel Wasserman's extensive haggadah for Passover. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • פסח | The Pesaḥ Seder: the Feast by Gabriel Wasserman

    פסח | The Pesaḥ Seder: the Feast by Gabriel Wasserman

    The feast of the Passover seder, part four (of four) of Gabriel Wasserman's extensive haggadah for Passover. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • פסח | Two Cups: Elijah and Miriam

    פסח | Two Cups: Elijah and Miriam

    We lift Miriam’s cup, Dancing prophet celebrating the world that is now. And we tell God we are grateful For the water from the earth that was Miriam’s gift, Welcome necessity, On God’s behalf. Miriam announces joy! And teaches us to save ourselves. Miriam, the bringer of mercy, There’s no prayer for her in the haggadah-- So make one up! . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • On the Prayer for Dew (a d’var tefillah by Rachel Barenblat)

    On the Prayer for Dew (a d’var tefillah by Rachel Barenblat)

    Geshem and tal: rain and dew. We pray for each in its season, geshem all winter and tal as summer approaches...not everywhere, necessarily, but in the land of Israel where our prayers have their roots. In a desert climate, water is clearly a gift from God. It's easy for us to forget that, here with all of this rain and snow. But our liturgy reminds us. Through the winter months, during our daily amidah we've prayed "mashiv ha-ruach u-morid ha-gashem" -- You cause the winds to blow and the rains to fall! We only pray for rain during the rainy season, because it is frustrating both to us and to God when we pray for impossibilities. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞

Miscellaneous Liturgy & Related Work in the Open Siddur Archive

  • Dancing with the Moon: innovations in the Kiddush Levana in light of the first moon landing

    Dancing with the Moon: innovations in the Kiddush Levana in light of the first moon landing

    The day after humankind's first landing on the Lunar surface July 20, 1969, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on a poetic and topical innovation to the Kiddush Levana, the Blessing over the Moon, by Israeli Armed Forces' Chief Chaplain General Shlomo Goren in the IDF Siddur. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • Adventures in Ancient Jewish Liturgy: The Ten Commandments and the Sh’ma in the Nash Papyrus

    Adventures in Ancient Jewish Liturgy: The Ten Commandments and the Sh’ma in the Nash Papyrus

    Once upon a time, according to the Mishnah, it was the nusaḥ (liturgical tradition) of the Cohanim in the Bet Hamikdash[ref]Priests of the Temple in Jerusalem[/ref] for the Ten Commandments to be read prior to the Sh'ma. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • Simḥat Bat by Dr. Devora Steinmetz and Rabbi David Silber (1987)

    We name our daughters on their fifteenth day of life. This is based on Vayiqra 12:1-5, which describes the length of a woman's period of impurity after childbirth. If she gives birth to a son, she is impure for seven days; if she gives birth to a daughter, she is impure for fourteen days. The passage seems to connect the baby boy's circumcision on the eighth day to the conclusion of the mother's seven day period of impurity. (Similarly, Vayiqra 22:27 says that a newborn animal must remain with its mother for seven days, and on the eighth day and onward it is acceptable as a sacrificial offering.) It seems, then, that for the first seven days of a little boy's life, and the first fourteen days of a little girl's life, the child and mother are still closely linked, and both remain separate from the larger family and community. Then, on the eighth day of her son's life, and on the fifteenth day of her daughter's life, the mother begins to rejoin her family and community, and the child too becomes incorporated as a member of the family and community. That is why a baby boy's father becomes obligated …Continue Reading. . . ☞

Research, Essays, and Articles on the Open Siddur and Open Source Judaism

  • “Ten Commandments of Jewish Social Networking” (Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles 2010)

    “Ten Commandments of Jewish Social Networking” (Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles 2010)

    “The golden rule here is that when people share Torah,” said Aharon N. Varady, founder and director of the Open Siddur Project, “Torah is increased in the world.” In my interview with Jonah, I explained to him the teaching of the Sfas Emes, the Gerrer Rebbe Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, who taught in his drash on parshat Terumah, the following.[ref]Translation is Rabbi Arthur Green's from The Language of Truth: The Torah Commentary of Sefat Emet (JPS 1998, p.121, copyright all rights reserved, and here quoted through Fair Use.[/ref] The Midrash Tanhuma quotes: "I have given you good lekaḥ (teaching)" (Proverbs 4:2). [Lekaḥ can also refer to something acquired by purchase.] It then offers a parable of two merchants, one who has silk and the other peppers. Once they exchange their goods, each is again deprived of that which the other has. But if there are two scholars, one who has mastered the Order of Seeds and the other who knows the Order of Festivals, once they teach each other, each has both orders. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞
  • Why, davka, an Open Siddur Project by Aharon Varady (PresenTense 2009)

    Why, davka, an Open Siddur Project by Aharon Varady (PresenTense 2009)

    The Open Siddur is an online tool for individuals and groups to craft the siddur they've always wanted. The Open Siddur will provide content (translations, transliterations, art, tfillot, piyutim, and other source texts) from an archive of current and historic nusḥaot (both well-known and obscure) and enable users to adapt, contribute new content, and share the siddurim they've generated. Partnerships with on-demand printers enable users to print beautiful copies of their personally customized siddurim and machzorim. The Open Siddur benefits independent minyanim and trans-denominational communities, pluralistic institutions, teachers of Jewish liturgy, and Jews of all ages evolving their personal use of t'fillah in their own daily practice, both alone and within groups. . . .Continue Reading. . . ☞

Welcome to the Open Siddur Project

"Impressió librorum". Engraving by Phillipus Galle of a drawing by Johannes Stradanus (Theodor Galle, Nova Reperta, Antwerp?, between 1590 and 1612?, No. 4. Madrid. ER/1605 National Library). This image has been significantly modified by Aharon Varady (license: CC-BY-SA).

“Impressió librorum”. Engraving by Phillipus Galle of a drawing by Johannes Stradanus (Theodor Galle, Nova Reperta, Antwerp?, between 1590 and 1612?, No. 4. Madrid. ER/1605 National Library). This image has been significantly modified by Aharon Varady (license: CC-BY-SA).

Imagine a printing press and book arts studio shared by everyone in the world looking to design and craft their own siddur.

The Open Siddur Project is building it, online, on the web: a collaborative digital-to-print publishing application where you can make your own siddur, share your work, and adopt, adapt, and redistribute work shared by others — work intended for creative reuse and inclusion in new siddurim and related works of Jewish spiritual practice.

Imagine a social network focused on publishing built around privacy, collaboration, and a public database and digital library of Jewish liturgy in a format that can easily show historical variations and changes across Jewish traditions, manuscripts, and facsimile editions.

Imagine a collection of text and recordings, freely licensed for creative reuse in every language Jews pray in or have ever prayed. Reimagine your siddur, custom tailored to your practice, replete with your insights and those selected from your friends, family, and the complete corpus of Jewish tradition, and a record of your family’s and community’s minhagim and nusaḥ.

You can help us realize this vision…. ☞ Continue reading

Last updated: 2014-11-7 18:45


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