The shift is not just about going electronic. It is about how the electronic form of the siddur is allowing for new theological functions. Like religious authority, where digital media can be used to either reinforce traditional forms or open up new landscapes for alternative visions of leadership, the Internet also offers both possibilities regarding the siddur, one of the most precious ritual objects in Judaism. The Open Siddur Project, as its name implies, is aiming to open up previous conceptions of the siddur by shaping and fine-tuning the possibilities of the Internet to make the siddur accessible and personalized for everyone. . . .
All of the individuals mentioned in this chapter—designers, bloggers and innovators—are engaged in a transformative endeavour. The digitization of seminal Jewish texts with the ability to remix, share and annotate them has changed the way in which they are perceived as texts. In the eyes of the Next Jew, these documents are no longer static artifacts to be passively consumed. They are vibrant, dynamic entities that grow with each user’s engagement. This engagement is also continual, ever-evolving and, though personal, also connects the individual to the broader Jewish learning community. In other words, every text is accompanied by a threaded discussion and more Jews are taking part, be it through creating their own religious texts or adding their voice to the emerging “Spoken Torah” of the Jewish blogosphere. Though Jewish community was historically maintained by the work of elites, be they the priests, soferim, or rabbis, the Next Jew no longer relies on scholars sequestered in yeshivas to carry the weight of the tradition. All one needs today is commitment and a stable Wi-Fi connection. . . .
“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. . . .
In January 2010, the Jewish Week published a piece about the Open Siddur Project by Steve Lipman, entitled, “Taking Prayer Into Their Own Hands.” The article is no longer available online at the Jewish Week website or in any online cache. We have archived it here for posterity. . . .
We’re honored to have our project the focus of an article in Tablet. . . .
From the summer of 2009, the first article ever written about our project, the Open Siddur, in the pages of Ha’aretz. By Raphael Ahren. . . .
The following work was published by a Havurah publication in the late 1970s or early 1980s by Rab Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. In it, Rab Zalman presciently describes a digital database of liturgy and liturgy-related work that havurah groups across the world could use to bring together custom designed and crafted works for use in communal prayer. We are grateful to Reb Zalman for bringing this work to our attention. . . .
Religious books like the Bible and scholarly works have traditionally been printed in the manner to which everyone is accustomed. Page after page of type with footnotes or indices taking up a good portion of each sheet has long seemed acceptable. Now, within a year [1972/3], a book is expected to come out which will change not only the basic nature of such books but also indicate sources by color code. Rabbi Jacob Freedman of 68 Calhoun St., Springfield has already produced such a book which he calls “a sample.” A larger book is planned for which “90 per cent of the research is completed,” he said. The book called a “polychrome historical prayerbook” in Hebrew will be titled “Siddur Bays Yosef” in remembrance of Rabbi Freedman’s late father, the Rev. Joseph Freedman. . . .