חננו דעה בינה והשכל, ברוך אתה ה’ שחננת לנו דע קודשך. Grace us with knowledge, understanding, and insight. Blessed are You, HASHEM, for You have graced us with the knowledge of Your holiness. חננו סליחה וכפרה על כל עונותינו ומרידתינו ושפלותינו, ברוך אתה ה’ שסלחת לעונותינו. Grace us with forgiveness and absolution for all . . .
Brakhot v’Hoda’ot (Blessings and Thanksgivings): A Birkon by R’ Hillel Ḥayyim Yisraeli-Lavery. Kiddush, Havdalah and the Birkat Hamazon according to the custom of R’ Saadia Gaon, RaMBaM, and the Vilna Gaon. Zemirot, Piyyutim, and Shirim. Ma’ariv for Weekdays and for after Shabbat. A souvenir for the Bar Mitzvah of Yeshayahu Yisraeli, 19 Sivan 5776 (Shabbat Parshat Shelakh Lekha). Published in the Holy City of Yerushalayim. . . .
The text of the Sefer Yetsirah presented here follows the “experimental exercise” produced by A. Peter Hayman in his Sefer Yeṣira: Edition Translation and Text-Critical Commentary, “Appendix III: The Earliest Recoverable Text of Sefer Yesira” (Mohr Siebeck, 2004). For details on his construction and his review of the available recensions of Sefer Yetsirah, please refer to Hayman’s complete commentary. Numbers in parentheses indicate sections. I have added spaces between sections indicate traditional chapter breaks. Square brackets indicate some doubt as to whether the included wording was present in the earlier form of the text (p.124). . . .
Unlike most plant and bacterial life, we human beings cannot process our own food from the sun, soil, water, and air. And so, as with the other kingdoms of life on Earth, we are dependent on vegetation to live, either directly by consuming plants, or indirectly by predating on other creatures that consume vegetation. Being nourished and seeking nourishment is so basic to us, that our practical desperation for survival undergirds most of our ethics relating to non-human life. But Judaism demands that our human propensity towards predation be circumscribed. Indeed, it is my understanding that the ultimate goal of Torah is to circumscribe and temper our our predatory appetites, and to limit and discipline our predatory behavior. In this way, our predatory instinct may be redeemed as a force for goodness in the world, and we might become a living example to others in how to live in peace and with kindness towards the other lifeforms we share this planet with. In 2010, while working with Nili Simhai and the other Jewish environmental educators at the Teva Learning Center, I began working on a Birkon containing a translation of the birkat hamazon that emphasized the deep ecological wisdom contained within the Rabbinic Jewish tradition. I continued working on it over the next several years adding two additional sections of source texts to illuminate the concept of ḥesronan (lit. absence or lacking) and the mitzvah of lo tashḥit (bal tashḥit). I invite you to include these works into your birkon along with other work that I’ve helped to share through the Open Siddur — especially Perek Shirah and other prayers that express delight in the created world and our role in it, l’ovdah u’lshomrah — to cultivate and preserve this living and magnificent Earth. . . .
As powerful a practice as a standing meditation may be, reciting the familiar words of the Amidah with intention can prove to be a major challenge. The words may become rote, and the davvener may wonder if the ancient formulas are even meaningful to them. In this adaptation of the Amidah, Oren Steinitz treats each B’rakhah as a prompt to remind ourselves what we are praying for and shares his own thoughts as an example. Rabbi Steinitz originally wrote the “Memory Amidah” in 2013, during the Davennen Leadership Training Institute cohort 7, and revised it for sharing here through the Open Siddur Project in 2016. . . .
Bendigamos is a hymn sung after meals according to the custom of Spanish and Portuguese Jews. It has also been traditionally sung by the Jews of Turkish descent. It is similar in meaning to the Birkat Hamazon that is said by all Jews. Bendigamos is said in addition to Birkat Hamazon, either immediately before or immediately after it. The text is in modern Spanish, not Ladino. The prayer was translated by David de Sola Pool. Below is the actual text as well as the translation by de Sola Pool. The melody is one of the best known and loved Spanish and Portuguese melodies, used also for the Song of the Sea (in the Shabbat morning service) and sometimes in “Hallel” (on the first day of the Hebrew month and on festivals). . . .
This is a reconstruction of a sabbath liturgy for the Tefillah of the Amidah, at least in some variant of its public recitation, in Greek and preserved in an early Christian work, the Constitutiones Apostolorum (Apostolic Constitutions), a Christian work compiled around 380 CE in Syria. Several prayers derived from Jewish sources appear in the Apostolic Constitutions and they can be found grouped together and labeled “Greek” or “Hellenistic Syanagogal Works” in collections of apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. Because explicitly Christian references appeared to be added onto a pre-existing text with familiar Jewish or “Old Testament” themes and references, scholars in the late 19th century were already suggesting that as many as 16 of the prayers in the Apostolic Constitutions books 7 and 8 were derived from Jewish prayers. A more modern appraisal was made by Dr. Fiensy and published in Prayers Alleged to Be Jewish (Scholars Press 1985). Based on a careful analysis of the prayers, he concludes that the only prayers which can be identified as Jewish with certainty are those found in sections 33-38 of book 7. . . .
This Psalm is straightforwardly post-exilic (for which see Sefer haWiki) but switches in its narrative perspective between before and after the return from Babylon, between gratitude and longing for return, helped by the profoundly non-linear mechanics of verbal tense and aspect in biblical Hebrew. The Psalmist chooses words associated with joy (s’ḥoq, rinah) that are tinged with other, more complicated emotions. Here’s what came out. . . .
This is a compact siddur for weekday Minḥa according to Nusaḥ Ereṣ Yisrael, as derived from rulings of the Jerusalem Talmud, fragments found in the Cairo Geniza and other historical documents. This siddur also includes Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) and Tefillat HaDerekh (Travelers’ Prayer). Modern additions to the ancient prayers include special verses for Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Liberation Day) and Yom HaAṣmaut (Israeli Independence Day), additions which keep the nusaḥ at once uniquely ancient, yet thoroughly connected to our modern reality here in the Land Of Israel. . . .
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the Shlah from the name of his chief work (Shnei Luḥot HaBrit – The Two Tablets of the Covenant), was a rabbi in Central and Eastern Europe and later Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. This text is an excerpt from his kabbalistic prayer book, Siddur Shaar haShamayim (Gate of Heaven), which deals with the Shma prayer. . . .
The style by which Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l translated Jewish liturgy in English was neither literal nor idiomatic, but highly interpretive and interspersed with his own ḥiddushim (innovations). Showing Reb Zalman’s translation side-by-side with the Jewish liturgy helps to illuminate his understanding of the liturgy — it’s deeper meaning as well as how it might be communicated to a contemporary audience. In the version I have prepared below, I have set the interpretive translation of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l side-by-side with the liturgical Hebrew that may have inspired it. In several places, Reb Zalman’s formulation departs from the traditional Ashkenazi nusaḥ. Where there is no Hebrew, we can more easily observe where Reb Zalman has expanded upon the blessing. Still, my work was not exhaustive and I appreciate any corrections to the nusaḥ (liturgical custom) of the Hebrew that may have inspired Reb Zalman’s interpretation in English. . . .
This Haraḥaman (prayer to the merciful or compassionate One) for the Shmitah or sabbatical year can be added to Birkat Hamazon (blessing after meals) during the whole Shmitah year, in order to remember and open our hearts to the sanctity of the land. Say it right before the Harachaman for Shabbat, since Shmitah is the grand shabbat, and right after the paragraph beginning with Bamarom (a/k/a, Mimarom). . . .
A prayer for the peaceful resolution of Israel’s conflicts with her neighbors and a mutually agreeable end to her dominion over the Palestinians, in Hebrew and in English, appropriate for inserting in the Birkat HaMazon especially on Shabbat and Festivals, or for reciting at any time. . . .
We are asked to give praise to the Lord of all, to express the greatness of the Creator.
Along with all peoples, He gave us both an inclination to do evil and an inclination to do good.
He gave us the ability to choose between malice and compassion, between darkness and light. . . .
Many of our best times are spent eating. Jewish liturgy, however, is very stingy on blessings before eating (focusing much of its energy on blessings after eating). The blessings before food are generic, and except for very specific foods and drinks (such as wine, bread, and matzah), all foods lump into three or four categories (fruit, vegetables, grains, and everything else). As a foodie, I’d like to celebrate each and every distinct taste through the prism of Jewish experience, and thus have tried to compose as many short poems as possible in their honor. . . .
This version of the Aleinu recognizes that all nations play a role in God’s plan for humanity. . . .
Ours is to praise the Master of all; to recognize the greatness of the One who fashioned our beginning. Not as a nation-state, nor as a tribe; but by giving us a particular task, a particular fate: to bow, to bend, to acknowledge the Authority over all authority, the Blessed Holy One, who stretched out the expanse and gathered the substance, filling the farthest emptiness and humbling the heights. This alone is our God, the one true ruler. . . .
May that Great Name, that sacred energy, be shaped and make effective and be acknowledged and be given the right honor and be seen as beautiful and elevating and bring jubilation. Way beyond our input of worshipful song and praise, which we express in this world, As we confirm our agreement and hope by saying AMEN. . . .
Please Lord, Sovereign of Compassion, God, Arbiter of the spirits of all flesh, Parent of Orphans and Judge of widows: God, from the source of Your holiness! May my prayer and the Torah of life that I have learned come before you on account of the soul . . .
Have you read in the Talmud of old,
In the Legends the Rabbins have told
Of the limitless realms of the air,–
Have you read it,–the marvellous story
Of Sandalphon, the Angel of Glory,
Sandalphon, the Angel of Prayer? . . .
This is an English language interpretation of Kaddish, intended to capture the spirit of translations/interpretations that I have seen in various sources and also to capture the sound and rhythm of the Aramaic text, including syllables which, when read simultaneously with the Aramaic, rhyme with the Aramaic. . . .
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 relating to rain (or the lack thereof) played, and continue to play, a prominent role in Jewish tradition. Our tefillot today contain two major references to rain: “hazkarat geshamim” (better known as “mashiv haruaḥ umorid hagashem“) and “she’eilat geshamim“, found in the weekday Amidah in the 9th berakhah, “birkat hashanim“. There, an alternating liturgy was established: during the dry months, we say “v’tein berakhah“, whereas during the rainy season, we say “v’tein tal umatar livrakhah“, an explicit request for the rain to fall. Consensus emerged around the opinion of Rabban Gamliel in Mishnah Ta’anit 1:3 that “she’eilat geshamim” should begin on the 7th of Marḥeshvan (15 days after Shmini Atzeret, the 22nd of Tishrei). This would give pilgrims from as far away as the Euphrates (a 15-day journey) sufficient time to return home in dry weather. This is current practice in Eretz Yisrael to this day. . . .
This is Effron Esseiva’s morning Amidah (standing prayer) for weekdays. Effron writes, “It’s called Shmonei Esrei (18) because it used to have eighteen brakhot (blessings). However, it has an additional brakha to bring it to nineteen. This is my interpretation of the Teissa Esrei (19) with abridged kavvanot (intentions).” . . .
Sh’sh’sh’ma Yisra’el — Listen, You Godwrestlers! Pause from your wrestling and hush’sh’sh To hear — YHWH/ Yahh Hear in the stillness the still silent voice, The silent breathing that intertwines life; YHWH/ Yahh elohenu Breath of life is our God, What unites all the varied forces creating all worlds into one-ness, Each breath unique, And all unified; YHWH / Yahh echad! Yahh is One. Listen, You Godwrestlers! No one people alone owns this Unify-force; YHWH / Yahh is One. . . .
Beginning late last year, I began a project to translate the Birkat Hamazon using Rabbi Simeon Singer’s English translation and the Nusaḥ ha-Ari as the basis for publishing birkonim (or in Yiddish, benchers). The original work was sponsored by the Teva Learning Center and its executive director, Nili Simhai, to be used in birkhonim specifically designed for use during weekdays during Teva’s Fall season. . . .
What the Rabbis taught about teaching and learning was that all Torah study should begin and end with blessings, just as eating does. Often, in liberal Jewish circles today, these blessings are not done. But without them, it is easier for Torah study to feel like a mere academic discussion, devoid of spirit. And where the blessings are said but only by rote, it is easier for Torah study to feel merely antiquarian and automatic. In Jewish-renewal style, how can we bring new kavvanah — spiritual meaning, intention, focus, intensity — to these blessings — and therefore to the process of Torah study itself? . . .
Jews use the Kaddish to mourn the dead, though it has in it only one word — “nechamata,” consolations – which hints at mourning. And this word itself is used in a puzzling way, once we look at it with care. As we will see below, it may be especially appropriate in time of war. The interpretive English translation below may also be appropriate for prayers of mourning and hope in wartime by other spiritual and religious communities. In this version, changes in the traditional last line of the Hebrew text specifically include not only peace for the people Israel (as in the traditional version) but also for the children of Abraham and Hagar through Ishmael (Arabs and Muslims) and for all the life-forms who dwell upon this planet. . . .
When works are printed bearing shemot, any one of the ten divine names sacred to Judaism, they are cared for with love. If a page or bound work bearing shemot falls to the ground it’s a Jewish custom to draw up the page or book and kiss it. Just as loved ones are cared for after they’ve fallen and passed away, when the binding fails and leaves fall from siddurim and other seforim they are collected in boxes and bins and brought for burial, where their holy words can decompose back into the earth from which their constituent elements once grew, and were once harvested to become paper and books, and ink, string, glue. While teaching at the Teva Learning Center last Fall 2010, I collected all our shemot that we had intentionally or unintentionally made on our copy machine, or which we had collected from the itinerant teachers who pass through the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center on so many beautiful weekend shabbatonim. While leafing through the pages, I found one and kept it from the darkness of the genizah. . . .
Tired of people who can’t tell their kiddish (blessings for the Sabbath) from their kaddish (prayer for the dead)? Well, it sets Samuel L. Jackson off too! But he found a way of making a bracha (blessing) and mourning the dead at the same time. Now I can’t vouch for the origins of his nusaḥ (custom) but it sounds very effective! Most people haven’t noticed, the only real part from the Bible is that last section, the first part is actually his own spiel: . . .
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. . . .