The earliest artifacts recording Jewish liturgy (or for that matter any Hebrew formulation found in the Torah) are two small silver amulets, discovered in 1979 by Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay. He discovered the amulets in a burial chamber while excavating in Ketef Hinnom, a section of the Hinnom Valley south of Jerusalem’s Old City.
. . . → Read More: Adventures in Ancient Jewish Liturgy: the Birkhat Kohanim
דומיה – Silence לְךָ דֻמִיָּה תְהִלָּה אֱלֹהִים בְּצִיּוֹן וּלְךָ יְשֻׁלַּם נֶדֶר: תהלים פרק ס”ה (ב’)
To You silence is praise, God in Zion, (Psalm 65.2-3) אֵין עוֹמְדִים לְהִתְפַּלֵּל, אֶלָּא מִתּוֹךְ כֹּבֶד רֹאשׁ. חֲסִידִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים הָיוּ שׁוֹהִים שָׁעָה אַחַת – וּמִתְפַּלְלִים, כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּכַוְּנוּ אֶת לִבָּם לַמָּקוֹם. אֲפִלּוּ הַמֶּלֶךְ שׁוֹאֵל בִּשְׁלוֹמוֹ – לֹא יְשִׁיבֶנּוּ; וַאֲפִלּוּ . . . → Read More: Source texts on Jewish Prayer and Spirituality
Rain is important in every society, but particularly so in places like Eretz Yisrael, where rain only falls during a defined portion of the year. It is critical, then, that the “rainy season” in fact be rainy, since no rain can be expected for the remainder of the year. Accordingly, prayers, liturgies, and fast days . . . → Read More: ותן טל ומטר: On December 4th (or 5th) and the Birkat Hashanim
Every year on Yom ha-Atzmaut I feel a certain sense of frustration about its liturgy, and the failure of Religious Zionism to shape the holiday into one that would make a clear and definite religious statement. The “festive” prayer for Yom ha-Atzmaut is a hotchpotch of Yom Kippur, Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat Mevarkhim, and Pesaḥ. One gets a sense that there is an avoidance of hard issues. Even such a simple thing as saying Hallel with a blessing is not yet self-evident, but a subject of constant debate. Every year, there seem to be more leading rabbis, who adopt crypto-Ḥaredi stances, issuing pronunciamentos as to why one must not enter into the doubt of saying a brakha levatala, an unnecessary blessing, in this case. (As I was typing these words, I was interrupted by a phone call from a friend with this very question!) Bimhila mikvodam (no affront to the honor due them intended), but what on earth do they think the Talmud is talking about when it says that “On every occasion that Israel are in distress and then delivered, they are to recite the Hallel” (Pesaḥim 116a), if not the likes of Yom ha-Atzmaut? . . . → Read More: Yom ha’Atzmaut: Theological and Liturgical Reflections on the day and on Al Hanissim
Jacob b. Jehuda of London, the author of that valuable contribution to the literary side of Anglo-Jewish history, the Talmudical compendium Etz Chaim, so providentially rescued and preserved for us, never dreamt, when he noted down, in the year 1287, the Ritual and Agada of the Seder Nights according to English usage, that he was . . . → Read More: The Ritual of the Seder and the Agada of the English Jews Before the Expulsion.
Some rabbinic sourcetexts related to the topic of how to write in your siddur, shared with translations by Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner. . . . → Read More: Annotating Your Siddur — a sourcesheet with suggestions
Last Sukkot 5771 (2011), Efraim Feinstein shared the sourcesheet for his late night shiur (lesson) on copyright in Rabbinic Halakhah (Jewish law). Efraim’s research adds a great deal of important perspective to our work here on the Open Siddur Project. It provides relevant historical context for our work advocating the adoption of free culture principles and free-culture licenses to facilitate sharing (tachlis) within the Jewish world. . . . → Read More: Public policy, technology, and copyright in Halakha: a sourcesheet
We are grateful to Amit Gvaryahu for sharing his sourcesheets for his Siddur class at Yeshivat Hadar’s 90@190 Open Beit Midrash this past summer 5771/2011, and for sharing his translations with a CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported license. . . . → Read More: Siddur Class: Sourcesheets from Amit Gvaryahu’s Shiur on Tefillah
Language is simultaneously a portal and a barrier to prayer. Jews have prayed in Hebrew for millennia, yet our oldest sources also speak of prayer in other languages. Come explore the history of the language of prayer, how our linguistic preferences define what prayer is about, and how we might approach this issue today. . . . → Read More: It’s All Greek To Me–Praying in Languages Other than Hebrew: halakhic discourse with translations
Rabbi Dr. Dalia Marx writes sharing a fascinating paper on feminist innovations in the use of gender in the liturgy of the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism.
In Israel, the Reform movement, which is called the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), dates back to the 1950s, but a serious concern for women’s role . . . → Read More: Feminist Influences on Jewish Liturgy: The Case of Israeli Reform Prayer
Once upon a time, according to the Mishnah, it was the nusaḥ (liturgical tradition) of the Cohanim in the Bet Hamikdash for the Ten Commandments to be read prior to the Sh’ma. Here’s the relevant teaching from Mishnah Tamid (32b in Talmud Bavli Tamid), emphasis mine:
מתני’ אמר להם הממונה ברכו ברכה אחת והם ברכו . . . → Read More: Adventures in Ancient Jewish Liturgy: The Ten Commandments and the Sh’ma in the Nash Papyrus
Given that more than 50% of the Siddur is comprised of text from the תנ׳׳ך (TaNaKh) any project that seeks to rigorously attribute its sources depends on a critical, digital edition of the Masoretic text of the Hebrew bible. And such is the case for our Open Siddur Project. The entire history of the transmission . . . → Read More: A Tale of Two Codexes: The Aleppo and Westminster Leningrad Codex of the תנ׳׳ך
תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת עבודה זרה פרק א ה”א – דף לט טור ג
רב אמר קלנדס אדם הראשון התקינו. כיון דחמא לילייא אריך אמר אי לי שמא שכתוב בו הוא ישופך ראש ואתה תשופנו עקב שמא יבוא לנשכיני ואומר אך חושך ישופיני.
כיון דחמא איממא ארך אמר קלנדס קלון דיאו. ואיתא כמאן דאמ’ בתשרי . . . → Read More: Ḥanukah Sources in Rabbinic Midrash
In our project history, I explain how Rabbi Jacob Freedman’s Polychrome Historical Haggadah was a major inspiration behind my vision for an open siddur project. While researching it’s history I was so pleased to discover that the haggadah Rabbi Freedman managed to self-publish in 1974 to rave reviews, was really only a proof-of-concept for his . . . → Read More: From the Jacob Freedman archives: Color-Coded Prayerbook Devised by Rabbi
Rabbi Ethan Tucker of Mechon Hadar was gracious in sharing the sourcesheet below which he prepared in 2009 to accompany a shiur, an interactive lecture on the spectrum of halakhic opinion concerning changes made in Jewish liturgy. The sourcesheet is also available for download as a PDF and as an ODT (open document file).
משנה . . . → Read More: The Limits of Liturgical Change: selections of halakhic discourse with translations by Rav Ethan Tucker
The Siddur is an aggregate of thousands of years of creatively inspired work. The organization of the material within any one particular siddur–the textual ingredients and arrangements –represents a specific lineage, or nusaḥ, with its own history of development. There are a good number of different lineages some of which are still alive and changing, . . . → Read More: A Historical Map of Jewish Liturgical Diversity
The mark of a particularly valuable dictionary is how long it is still being used years after it’s introduced. Marcus Jastrow’s Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature (1903), Brown-Driver-Brigg’s Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (1906), and James Strong’s Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible . . . → Read More: Testing Our Transliteration Engine with help from James Strong’s Biblical Hebrew Dictionary