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📖 הסדור השלם (אשכנז)‏ | Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem, a bilingual Hebrew-English prayerbook translated and annotated by Paltiel Birnbaum (1949)

https://opensiddur.org/?p=14900 📖 הסדור השלם (אשכנז)‏ | Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem, a bilingual Hebrew-English prayerbook translated and annotated by Paltiel Birnbaum (1949) 2017-01-14 23:00:40 The first edition of the Daily Prayerbook, Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem, compiled and translated by Paltiel Birnbaum (Hebrew Publishing Co. 1949). Text the Open Siddur Project Aharon N. Varady (digital imaging and document preparation) Aharon N. Varady (digital imaging and document preparation) Paltiel Birnbaum (translation) Hebrew Publishing Company https://opensiddur.org/copyright-policy/ Aharon N. Varady (digital imaging and document preparation) https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/ Comprehensive (Kol Bo) Siddurim English Translation North America 58th century A.M. North American Jewry Nusaḥ Ashkenaz 20th century C.E. Needing Transcription Needing Decompilation



Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem (The [Complete] Daily Prayer Book), translated and arranged by Paltiel Birnbaum, was widely used in Orthodox and Conservative synagogues until the late 1980s and remains a favorite prayerbook for many who grew up using it.

The siddur is dedicated to the memory of David Werbelowsky (1878-1937), the son of the founder of the Hebrew Publishing Company, Joseph Werbelowsky.

The Cantors Assembly of America had the segment of the siddur containing the Birkat Hamazon (Blessing after Eating the Meal) published by itself as the bentsher, Rabbotai Nevareḥ (1954). The bentsher included notes to the popular Ashkenazi tune of the birkat hamazon provided by Moshe Nathanson.

This work is in the Public Domain due to the lack of a copyright renewal by the copyright holder listed in the copyright notice (a condition required for works published in the United States between January 1st 1924 and January 1st 1964).

This work was scanned by Aharon Varady for the Open Siddur Project from a volume held in the collection of the HUC Klau Library, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Thank you!) This work is cross-posted to the Internet Archive, as a repository for our transcription efforts.

Scanning this work (making digital images of each page) is the first step in a more comprehensive project of transcribing each prayer and associating it with its translation. You are invited to participate in this collaborative transcription effort! If you would like to take part in the transcription of this work, please join our transcription effort on Wikisource.


In the course of his work on the Siddur, the author has consulted many authorities for guidance. He is deeply grateful to Rabbi Hayyim Heller for his illuminating suggestions.

The writer is equally indebted to Professors Louis Ginzberg, Abraham A. Neuman, Chaim Tchernowitz, Alexander Marx, Solomon Zeitlin, Saul Lieberman, Joseph Reider, Israel Efros, Boaz Cohen, Abraham Heschel and Simon Greenberg for their helpful advice and encouragement.

Grateful thanks are expressed to Doctors Joshua Bloch, Julius H. Greenstone, Solomon Grayzel, Mortimer J. Cohen, William Chomsky and Leon Liebreich for their invaluable aid and general interest.

Mr. Daniel Persky and Mr. Isaac Rivkind deserve special mention for their assistance in various points of Hebrew grammar, lexicography and bibliography.

The author also wishes to thank Messrs. Menahem Menschel, Hyman A. Segal and Alfred Newmark of the Hebrew Publishing Company for all they have done to help in the publication of this prayerbook.



The Siddur is the most popular book in Jewish life. No book so completely unites the dispersed people of Israel. If any single volume can tell us what it means to be a Jew, it is the Siddur which embodies the visions and aspirations, the sorrows and joys of many generations. The whole gamut of Jewish history may be traversed in its pages; it is a mirror that reflects the development of the Jewish spirit throughout the ages. Interwoven into the texture of the prayers are passages from the Bible, the Mishnah, the Talmud and the Zohar. The poetic and philosophic creations of numerous known and unknown authors constitute a considerable part of the Siddur. No other book so thoroughly expresses the creative genius of our people across the centuries.

The Siddur passed through a long process of evolution until it finally emerged as a rich anthology of our literary classics. It abounds in quotations from every book of the Bible; it includes half the Book of Psalms, the entire Song of Songs, and lengthy excerpts from each of the Five Books of Moses. The Ethics of the Fathers and other chapters of the Mishnah have become particularly popular because they form part of the Siddur, which contains also extensive selections from the vast Hebrew literature that was written after the Talmud. Though its language is largely biblical Hebrew, it embodies a great deal of post-biblical diction. Aramaic, too, the common Jewish tongue that once replaced Hebrew for a long period, is prominently featured in prayers like the Kaddish and the Yekum Purkan.

Judaism demands from its adherents a knowledge of the Bible and the traditions based upon it. Many, however, lack the leisure or the aptitude for such study; hence, the Siddur has developed in a way that enables every worshiper to become familiar with the various forms of Jewish learning and religious expression. Since the Siddur is designed for all Jews, individual needs and private interests are often disregarded in the prescribed prayers. These are phrased in plural form and are meant to be the voice of all Israel. The diversified authorship of the Siddur, embracing prophets and psalmists, legalists and poets, proclaims that all Israel has a share in its making. For nearly two thousand years, the Hebrew prayers have helped to keep the Jews alive, saving them from losing their language and their identity.

There is profound truth in the statement that from a man’s prayers we can discover whether he is cultured or not.[1] Tosefta, Berakhoth 1:8: מברכותיו של אדם ניכר אם בור הוא ואם תלמיד חכם הוא.  It is regrettable that the Siddur, over which many generations have brooded and wept, has never been sufficiently appreciated as a vehicle of Jewish knowledge. People have learned to recite it by heart without giving adequate attention to its fine beauty and deep significance. Many have recited Ashre, for instance, three times a day for decades without knowing what it means. In the schools, where the Siddur is used as a text for the study of the mechanics of reading, the pupils are seldom taught to appreciate its contents.

The Siddur cannot be understood correctly unless it is read thoughtfully. Talmudic authorities have invariably laid stress on mental concentration as the chief requirement in praying. Maimonides writes: “Prayer without devotion is not prayer… He whose thoughts are wandering or occupied with other things ought not to pray… Before engaging in prayer, the worshiper ought… to bring himself into a devotional frame of mind, and then he must pray quietly and with feeling, not like one who carries a load, unloads it and departs.”[2] Mishneh Torah, Tefillah 4:16: כיצד היא הכוונה? שיפנה לבו מכל המחשבות… ואחר כך יתפלל בנחת ובתחנונים; ולא יעשה תפלתו כפי שהיה נושא משאוי ומשליכו והולך לו.  Clearly, this is said because by means of the traditional prayers the ideals of Judaism are ever brought afresh to the consciousness of the worshiper.

The sages of Israel constantly emphasized the importance of uniformity in synagogue service. In order to link the people closely together, they reconciled variant forms of prayer and sought to bring them into harmonious union. The well-known Modim d’Rabbanan, a constituent part of the Shemoneh Esreh, is so named because it consists of variant readings reported by a number of talmudic rabbis.[3] Sotah 40a.  The formula “who healest all creatures and doest wonders” is a combination of two readings.[4] Berakhoth 60b.  As a compromise between two competing phrasings, אַהֲבָה רַבָּה is used in the morning service and אַהֲבַת עוֹלָם in the evening service.[5] Tosafoth, Berakhoth 11b.  A similar reconciliation was effected between the versions שִׂים שָׁלוֹם and שָׁלוֹם רָב.[6] Baer, Avodath Yisrael, page 103.  The purpose of all this co-ordination and unification of the prescribed prayers was to prevent the formation of separate religious factions.

The Siddur should never become a source of contention among any segments of our people. One must not fail to realize that the Siddur is a classic similar to the Bible and the Talmud, to which the terms orthodox, conservative or reform do not apply. No one, of course, has ever attempted to prepare a reform edition of the Bible by removing the so-called “objectionable” expressions from the Torah or the Prophets. Editors of the Siddur should not take liberties with the original, eliminating a phrase here and adding one there, each according to his own beliefs. Such a procedure is liable to breed as many different kinds of public worship as there are synagogues and temples. The danger of rising sects is obvious, sects that are likely to weaken still more our harassed people. The ever-increasing modifications in the text of the Siddur are apt to destroy this unique source book of Judaism, designed for old and young, scholars and laymen.


A great many editions of the Siddur have suffered from gross carelessness. In the first place, the Hebrew text has not been adequately provided with punctuation to indicate the logical relation of words to one another. The prayers have therefore remained unclear even to those who have a fair knowledge of Hebrew. Opinions are still divided as to the groupings of the words of one of the most popular prayers, the Kaddish.[7] De Sola Pool, The Kaddish, page 60. 

For no sound reason the pages of the Siddur are broken up by several type sizes which have a confusing effect on the eyes of the reader. Those who learn the contents of the prayers soon discover that the emphasis suggested by the larger type is in most cases no emphasis at all. Why, for instance, should one part of the Shema be made to appear more prominent than the other? Why give the impression that certain psalms or the Ethics of the Fathers are of negligible importance? The variation of type sizes frequently causes mental stumbling and interferes with the proper appreciation of the Siddur. Our school children, generally trained in the reading of the larger type in the Siddur, gradually develop a prejudice against whatever appears in the smaller print; they imagine it as too hard to read or too unimportant to learn.

A cursory glance at the complicated directions, frequently attended by a strange mixture of Hebrew and English characters, will suffice to explain the confusion created in the mind of the average worshiper. These directions have “the New Moon” instead of Rosh Ḥodesh, “Pentecost” instead of Shavuoth, “Tabernacles” instead of Sukkoth, “the Eighth Day of Solemn Assembly and the Rejoicing of the Law” instead of Shemini Atsereth and Simḥath Torah, “the Ten Days of Penitence” instead of between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During the High Holyday period one is misdirected into reciting twenty instead of the prescribed nineteen benedictions of the Shemoneh Esreh. Instructed to add the special paragraph בְּסֵֽפֶר חַיִּים, he is puzzled by the improper arrangement of the text so that he combines two variant formulas and says: “Blessed art thou… Author of peace” and “Blessed art thou… who blessest thy people with peace.” As many as forty-five cumbersome words are employed merely to indicate that שֶׁהֶחֱיָֽנוּ is omitted from the Kiddush on the last two nights of Pesaḥ. The direction is phrased obscurely enough to perplex the reader whenever he recites the Kiddush for festivals. The well-known blessing over cakes and pastry bears a heading of no less than twenty-two words such as “the five species of grain… oats and spelt.” What does it all mean? The answer can be put in one word: confusion. As a result of poor arrangement and inadequate instructions, comparatively few worshipers ever succeed in properly reciting the full Musaf for Ḥol ha-Mo‘ed Sukkoth.

Some translators, unfortunately, have failed in their task of making intelligible the meaning of the prayers. In their carelessness, they have imitated the antiquated versions of the Bible that abound in phrases like “yielded up the ghost” instead of died, and filled the Siddur with a mass of words which convey little meaning to the mind of the modern Jew. The general complaint that “we do not understand what we say” is an indictment against many translations of the Siddur.

“Bible English” has inevitably hindered many from gaining a wholesome appreciation of the Siddur. If translation is to facilitate a proper understanding of the original, it must be freed from archaic forms like this: “Thou sawest the afflictions of our fathers… and heardest their cry… and shewedst signs and wonders.” Unquestionably irritating are expressions such as “he gathereth the outcasts of Israel”; “he hath lifted up a horn for his people”; “as for me, in the abundance of thy lovingkindness will I come into thy house.” To the modern reader, dispersed is undoubtedly better than “outcasts,” and raised the strength more idiomatic than “lifted up a horn.” Since the future tense in Hebrew often denotes repeated acts in the present, the correct form is by thy abundant grace I enter thy house. אֲנִי אָבוֹא simply means I enter. The circumlocution “and as for me,” repeated four times in מַה־טֹּֽבוּ, is not implied in וַאֲנִי.

The fault of some translations is their literalness. Good translators should seek to make the original as clearly understood as possible; they cannot avoid being also interpreters. Words should be translated according to their context. It is decidedly wrong to use invariably the same English word to represent the same Hebrew word. Utterly misleading is a rendering such as “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). The adjective יָקָר in this verse does not mean “precious” but grievous. The verb אָסַף is not restricted to one connotation only and does not always mean “to gather.” Thus, וַאֲסַפְתּוֹ אֶל תּוֹךְ בֵּיתֶֽךָ (Deuteronomy 22:2) signifies you shall take it home, and אֱסֹף יָדֶֽךָ (I Samuel 14:19) means withdraw your hand. Hence, the rendering “he gathered up his feet into the bed” (Genesis 49:33) is more ludicrous than authentic.

Every student of Hebrew knows that בֵּן is not always the equivalent of a son. It frequently denotes age, membership in a definite class, or the possession of some quality. Similarly, אִישׁ and בַּעַל are often used interchangeably to characterize a person. Thus, אִישׁ לָשׁוֹן (Psalm 140:12) means a slanderer, and אִישׁ מִלְחָמָה (Exodus 15:3) a warrior. Hence, the rendering “the Lord is a man of war” is erroneous and nothing short of sacrilegious. “The children of thy covenant” is a mistranslation for thy people of the covenant. The term בַּר מִצְוָה is applied in the Talmud to every adult Israelite in the sense of man of duty and not “son of the commandment.”[8] Baba Metsi‘a 96a.  Similarly, בַּר דַּֽעַת is the counterpart of אִישׁ דַּֽעַת and signifies a sensible man. A telling argument against literalness is the awkward rendering of four Hebrew words (וּגְאָלוֹ מִיַּד חָזָק מִמֶּֽנּוּ): “and redeemed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he” (Jeremiah 31:10), meaning he saved him from a stronger power. This is typical of what has crept into the Siddur’s translation as a result of copying from men unfamiliar with idiomatic Hebrew.

Herder, the famous poet and philosopher of the 18th century, declared that it is worthwhile studying the Hebrew language for ten years in order to read Psalm 104 in the original. This statement is applicable to all biblical poetry, which is highly figurative and does not readily lend itself to translation. “Let his horn be exalted”; “that my glory may sing praise unto thee…” What precisely can these convey to the English reader? The term “horn” in Hebrew frequently signifies strength or dignity. The word “glory” is occasionally used to denote soul.

In examining the translations of the Siddur one encounters expressions like “As for me, may my prayer unto thee be in an acceptable time” instead of I offer my prayer to thee at a time of grace, alluding to the time of public worship.[9] Berakhoth 8a.  “The habitation of thy house,” as redundant as “the tent of my house” (Psalm 132:3), simply means thy abode (אֹֽהֶל בַּֽיִת=מְעוֹן בַּֽיִת). “Answer me in the truth of thy salvation” hardly makes any sense. Proper translation would give answer me with thy saving truth. The word “truth” is often identical with mercy and kindness; for example, “thy kindness and thy truth shall ever preserve me” (Psalm 40:12).

In the opening sentence of the Kedushah one is puzzled by “the mystic utterance,” a mistranslation of שִֽׁיחַ סוֹד.[10] Compare the Sephardic version of the Kedushah.  The reference is of course to the phrase holy, holy, holy, chanted by the assembly of angels in the vision of Isaiah. The word סוֹד occurs here and there in the sense of council, assembly, and has nothing to do with mystery.[11] Genesis 49:6; Psalms 89:8; 111:1; Jeremiah 15:17.  סוֹד שַׂרְפֵי קֹֽדֶשׁ in the Kedushah is the equivalent of סוֹד קְדוֹשִׁים in Psalm 89:8. Similarly, in the Hymn of Glory “the mystic utterance of thy servants” should be corrected to amidst thy servants.

The famous poem Adon Olam celebrates the eternity of God, and yet the initial phrase אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם is invariably translated “Lord of the universe” instead of Eternal Lord. The terms חַגִּים and זְמַנִּים are frequently used synonymously in the sense of festivals, and yet זְמַן חֵרוּתֵֽנוּ is generally rendered “the Season of our Freedom” instead of our Festival of Freedom. גֵּרֵי הַצֶּֽדֶק means the true proselytes, that is, those who have accepted Judaism out of inner conviction; it does not mean “strangers of righteousness” or “proselytes of righteousness.” הַמְּיַחֲדִים בָּתֵּי כְנֵסִיּוֹת signifies who dedicate synagogues, and not “who unite to form synagogues.”[12] Singer, Daily Prayer Book, page 152. 

The oft-repeated “Blessed be the name of his glorious kingdom” is incorrectly translated. Equally incorrect is “Blessed be his name, whose glorious kingdom” or “Blessed be his glorious kingdom.” His glorious Majesty—God himself—is here the object of praise, and not his kingdom. The response בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ, which was used in the Temple in place of Amen,[13] Ta‘anith 16b.  is the equivalent of the Kaddish response יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ (“may his great name be blessed”).[14] Compare Daniel 2:20. Targum Yerushalmi (Deuteronomy 6:4) interchanges the two formulas.  שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ connotes His Majesty the King, a circumlocution for the name of God and similar to שֵׁם כְּבוֹדוֹ (Psalm 72:19).

Translators have rendered the Modim passage variously: “We give thanks unto thee, for thou art… the God of our fathers for ever and ever”; “We acknowledge thee that thou art the Lord our God to all eternity and God of our fathers”; “We thankfully acknowledge thee… our fathers’ God to all eternity.” Closer inspection shows that this sentence is based on Psalm 79:13 and should read: We ever thank thee, who art the Lord our God and the God of our fathers. Unaware that the phrase “evening, morning and noon” refers to the three daily services, they have construed it as if it were a dangling modifier of another phrase. Correctly translated, the third sentence of Modim ought to read: In every generation we will thank thee… evening, morning and noon. Others apparently thought that the original text was in need of some repair, so they paraphrased it: “We thank thee… for the wonderful gifts which thou dost dispense unto us morning, noon, and night.”

There are translators who indulge in periphrastic and verbose locutions like “in the flowering of thy saving power gives life”; “even as in the prophet’s vision the choir of holy Seraphim in triple consecration call with sweet word one unto another.” A good translation ought to be authentic and free from deceptions. One must not read into the original what is not there. No new poetry should be introduced into the Siddur presumably as the translation of the Hebrew text. The meaning ought to be preserved as close to to the original as possible. The poem “Rock of Ages,” for example, is certainly not a translation of the familiar Ḥanukkah hymn Ma‘oz Tsur.

The Siddur contains prayer-poems which should be annotated but not translated. Such are the הוֹשַׁעְנוֹת, replete with historical and midrashic allusions and constructed in an involved poetic fashion. They comprise many intricate acrostics and a variety of Hebrew synonyms which, if translated, are likely to create a wrong impression and confuse the reader. One of these prayer-poems is composed of an interesting alphabetic list of twenty-two Hebrew synonyms for the Temple; another presents an alphabetic description of Israel’s qualities; a third enumerates types of locusts and destructive forces of nature mentioned in the Bible. It may well be said that the editions that have included the available English translation of the Hoshanoth have not been enhanced by it. The Hoshanoth can be appreciated only in the Hebrew.


The present edition of the complete Siddur abides by the wise counsel of Rabbi Judah of Regensburg, who wrote in the twelfth century: “He who copies a prayerbook… ought to copy every recurrent passage to the end, thereby dispensing with the worshiper’s need of searching for it…”[15] Sefer Ḥasidim, 881.  In this volume each of the services is arranged as a completely integrated unit so that the worshiper is not called upon to search from page to page and to commute from reference to reference. The directions are explicit, brief and to the point. The traditional text is left intact, carefully vocalized, and divided into sentences and clauses by the use of modern punctuation marks.

Festival services such as Tal and Geshem, Akdamuth and Hoshanoth, have been included in this edition in view of the fact that copies of the special prayerbooks for Pesaḥ, Shavuoth and Sukkoth are not always available in sufficient numbers. On the other hand, portions of the High Holyday services have not been made part of this edition. Their inclusion is unwise and even misleading; because of their wide range and variety, the prayers recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are properly situated in the Maḥzor and should not be embodied in the regular daily Siddur.

Obvious errors found in current editions of the Siddur have been removed. Instead of לְכָל, the variant וְכָל has been adopted as the correct reading in the fifth verse of Yigdal.[16] The curious statement in the Jewish Encyclopedia that the poet devoted eight years to improving and perfecting the excellent poem Yigdal is based on a misunderstanding of a Hebrew passage quoted by S. D. Luzzatto (see my article in ספר השנה ליהודי אמריקה, 1946, page 335).  This verse is the poetic counterpart of Maimonides’ fifth principle that the Creator is the only one to whom it is proper to address our prayers; hence, it is wrong to translate here: “To every creature he teacheth his greatness and his sovereignty.” Through the change of a single character (וְכָל in place of לְכָל), the fifth verse of Yigdal corresponds exactly to the fifth principle of faith formulated by Maimonides: Every creature must declare his greatness and his kingship; that is, everyone must pray to God.

In the Baraitha of Rabbi Ishmael, enumerating the thirteen principles upon which the talmudic exposition of the Bible is based, the ninth principle as well as the tenth contains the word אַחֵר and not אֶחָד. The correct reading is found on the first page of Sifra and in some rare Siddurim, thus: כל דבר שהיה בכלל ויצא מן הכלל לטעון טען אחר שהוא כענינו… כל דבר שהיה בכלל ויצא מן הכלל לטעון טען אחר שלא כענינו.

לְעֵֽלָא לְעֵֽלָא, the phrase used in the Kaddish during the High Holyday period, is a reproduction of the Targum on מַֽעְלָה מָֽעְלָה (Deuteronomy 28:43). Though it means higher and higher, it is analogous to all adverbs which are repeated without the use of a conjunction for the purpose of intensification and emphasis; examples: מְאֹד מְאֹד, מַֽטָּה מַֽטָּה, מְעַט מְעַט, סָבִיב סָבִיב. In none of these instances does the Targum add the letter ו as a conjunction.

The phrasing וּלְעוֹלָם לֹא נֵבוֹשׁ כִּי בְךָ בָּטָֽחְנוּ in the Shemoneh Esreh corresponds to בְּךָ חָסִֽיתִי, אַל אֵבוֹשָׁה לְעוֹלָם in Psalm 71:1. It means may we never come to shame, for in thee we trust. This reading has been adopted here on the basis of Maḥzor Vitry (page 67) and the Sephardic editions. Additional support for this reading is offered by the expression שֶׁלֹּא נֵבוֹשׁ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד in the grace recited after meals.

In the prayer וּבָא לְצִיּוֹן, the correct reading הוּא יִפְתַּח לִבֵּֽנוּ… לַעֲשׂוֹת רְצוֹנוֹ (“may he open our heart… to do his will”) is found in the Spanish Siddur. The reading וְלַעֲשׂוֹת (“and to do”) is the result of a dittography; that is, the last letter of the preceding word has been erroneously repeated.

In the Zemiroth, or Sabbath Hymns, the following necessary emendations have been made. In Yah Ribbon, the phrase שְׁפַר קָדָמַי לְהַחֲוָיָה, is borrowed from Daniel 3:32 and signifies it is my pleasure to declare. The variants קֳדָמָךְ לְהַחֲוָיָא, and שַׁפִּיר קֳדָמָךְ are without basis. עַד אָֽנָה תּוֹגְיוּן נֶֽפֶשׁ (“how long will you torment a soul”) is taken from Job 19:2. The author of בָּרוּךְ אֵל עֶלְיוֹן undeniably employed תּוֹגְיוּן as a verb, exactly as in the biblical phrase, and did not coin a new noun תּוּגְיוֹן.

In the grace, the phrase הָנִֽיחַ לָֽנוּ has been corrected to הָֽנַח לָֽנוּ, a reading based on several texts, including those of Saadyah Gaon and of Maimonides.[17] Baer, Avodath Yisrael (page 557), quotes the correct reading from Saadyah Gaon, Maimonides and others, but decides against it because he misreads הַנַּח in place of הָֽנַח.  The use of הָנִֽיחַ as an imperative in the singular is an obvious error.

Rabbi Jacob Emden of the 18th century called attention to a printer’s error in the case of the parenthetical clause, “Our God and God of our fathers, be pleased with our rest,” inserted in the passage וְהַשִּׁיאֵֽנוּ on festivals occurring on a Sabbath. Only the two words רְצֵה בִמְנוּחָתֵֽנוּ (“be pleased with our rest”) directly apply to the Sabbath; the address to God applies to the remainder of the passage as well and should not be inserted within parentheses.

Every effort has been exerted to make the new translation of the Siddur readily intelligible to the modern reader. Wherever necessary, an interpretive phrase has been inserted within square brackets, so that the student may apprehend the thought immediately. No pronouns have been capitalized, because the frequent use of capitals makes for confusion. The example of English Bibles has been followed in this respect. The pronouns thou and thee have been retained where they are addressed to God, since they convey a more reverent feeling than the common you. The diction has not been allowed to reach the level of everyday English in view of the exalted literary tone of the Siddur.

The following parallel columns will illustrate the difference between the old English translation and the new. The extracts for comparison are taken from the grace after meals.


Blessed art thou… who sustainest the whole world with goodness, kindness and mercy. Thou givest food to all creatures.Blessed art thou… who feedest the whole world with thy goodness, with grace, with loving kindness and tender mercy; thou givest food to all flesh.
Through thy abundant goodness we have never yet been in want; may we never be in want of sustenance for thy great name’s sake. Thou sustainest all, doest good to all, and providest food for all…Through thy great goodness food hath never failed us; O may it not fail us for ever and ever for thy great name’s sake, since thou nourishest and sustainest all beings, and doest good unto all, and…
We thank thee… for having given a lovely and spacious land to our fathers as a heritage… for thy covenant… for the life, grace and kindness thou hast bestowed on us; and for the sustenance thou grantest us continuously.We thank thee… because thou didst give as an heritage unto our fathers a desirable, good and ample land… as well as for thy covenant… the life, grace and loving kindness which thou hast vouchsafed unto us, and for the food wherewith thou dost constantly feed and sustain us on every day, in every season, at every hour.
May the Merciful One bless… their entire family and all that is theirs. May he bless all alike with a perfect blessing even as our forefathers… were blessed in every way.May the All-merciful bless… them, their household, their seed and all that is theirs, us also and all that is ours, as our fathers… were blessed each with his own comprehensive blessing; even thus may he bless all of us together.

Here and there new interpretations have been given to biblical passages. The usual translation of Song of Songs 5:8, for example, is not satisfactory. It reads: “If you find my beloved, what will ye tell him? that I am love-sick.” This has been corrected to read: If you find my beloved, do not tell him that I am love-sick. Thus, the word מַה has been rendered in the sense of not. In the Arabic, the same particle is constantly used as a negative. Similarly, מַה תָּעִֽירוּ וּמַה תְּעוֹרְרוּ אֶת הָאַהֲבָה, being the exact counterpart of אִם תָּעִֽירוּ וְאִם תְּעוֹרְרוּ אֶת הָאַהֲבָה (Song of Songs 2:7; 8:4) is here translated: Do not stir up, do not rouse love; that is, it must come spontaneously.

Where a given verse is quoted for homiletical purposes, the entire passage would lack coherence should that verse be translated literally. For instance, the phrase לְמַֽעַן צִדְקוֹ (Isaiah 42:21) literally refers to God’s righteousness, but in a Mishnah passage it is taken as an allusion to the potential righteousness of Israel. Hence, the biblical verse cited by Rabbi Ḥananya ben Akashya has been translated here: “The Lord was pleased, for the sake of [Israel’s] righteousness, to render the Torah great and glorious” (page 484).

The benedictions are phrased essentially in biblical style. “Blessed art thou, O Lord” is a phrase borrowed from Psalm 119:12, while “King of the universe” is taken from Jeremiah 10:10. Since the verb ברך originally connotes to bend the knees, that is, to worship (Psalm 95:6), it would certainly be better to translate בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה worshiped art thou; but this would be too much of a deviation from the long established “blessed art thou.” Abrupt transitions from the second person to the third person occur in the benedictions as in all biblical poetry. English syntax, on the other hand, does not tolerate such transitions. For this reason, the benedictions must be rendered consistently in the second person.

A running commentary has been provided in the present edition of the Siddur to explain various points of interest. Without accompanying illustrations even the best and most lucid translation cannot make clear, for example, the well-known tannaitic passage that lists the thirteen principles upon which the talmudiec interpretation of the Bible is based. Included in the Siddur in order to complete the daily minimum of study required of every Jew, they are on the lips of countless worshipers. Yet very few have learned precisely what these important principles are, because the old translation is too obscurely worded for the student to make out its meaning.

Designed for laymen, the footnotes are written in non-technical style and contain no abbreviations. To save space they include references only to original sources which do not bear long titles. Great authorities like Amram Gaon, Saadyah Gaon, Rashi, Maimonides and their works on the Siddur are mentioned only on rare occasions. The footnotes embody illuminating information derived from a wide range of commentaries and works of scholars like Abrahams, Baer, Berliner, Dembitz, Elbogen, Finkelstein, Friedlander, Ginzberg, Heidenheim, Idelsohn, Pool, and Yaavets. Each note begins with a Hebrew catchword, and is so worded that anyone can readily find the explanation he seeks.

The biblical references at the bottom of the English pages serve to indicate the central source of whatever has gone into the composition of the Siddur. The biblical phrases and expressions woven into the texture of the liturgical poems are indicated in the notes which, at the same time, contain biographical sketches of the authors.

It is hoped that a better and more widely disseminated understanding of our religious resources will result from this edition. It remains only to emphasize that such an inspiring book as the Siddur does not become the real possession of a person unless its contents are impressed upon his mind and influence his everyday life.

January, 1949.



1Tosefta, Berakhoth 1:8: מברכותיו של אדם ניכר אם בור הוא ואם תלמיד חכם הוא.
2Mishneh Torah, Tefillah 4:16: כיצד היא הכוונה? שיפנה לבו מכל המחשבות… ואחר כך יתפלל בנחת ובתחנונים; ולא יעשה תפלתו כפי שהיה נושא משאוי ומשליכו והולך לו.
3Sotah 40a.
4Berakhoth 60b.
5Tosafoth, Berakhoth 11b.
6Baer, Avodath Yisrael, page 103.
7De Sola Pool, The Kaddish, page 60.
8Baba Metsi‘a 96a.
9Berakhoth 8a.
10Compare the Sephardic version of the Kedushah.
11Genesis 49:6; Psalms 89:8; 111:1; Jeremiah 15:17.
12Singer, Daily Prayer Book, page 152.
13Ta‘anith 16b.
14Compare Daniel 2:20. Targum Yerushalmi (Deuteronomy 6:4) interchanges the two formulas.
15Sefer Ḥasidim, 881.
16The curious statement in the Jewish Encyclopedia that the poet devoted eight years to improving and perfecting the excellent poem Yigdal is based on a misunderstanding of a Hebrew passage quoted by S. D. Luzzatto (see my article in ספר השנה ליהודי אמריקה, 1946, page 335).
17Baer, Avodath Yisrael (page 557), quotes the correct reading from Saadyah Gaon, Maimonides and others, but decides against it because he misreads הַנַּח in place of הָֽנַח.



3 comments to 📖 הסדור השלם (אשכנז)‏ | Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem, a bilingual Hebrew-English prayerbook translated and annotated by Paltiel Birnbaum (1949)

  • Aharon, your scan allowed me to compare the original edition to the more commonly found 1977 reprint.
    Here are the details (first written as comments to your Facebook post on October 19, 2016):

    1. The bulk of the siddur, from pages 3-4 (Birkhot ha-Shahar) through pages 789-790 (Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel) seem to be identical. I found no evidence of any text that was changed or even newly typeset. I haven’t checked every single page, but the rule seems to have been that the pages were simply copied as they were. However, this rule is not fully true at the very beginning of the siddur, nor at its very end (as follows).

    2. On the main title page, the original היברו פובלישינג קומפני was changed to בית ההוצאה העברי in the 1977 edition.

    3. At the very beginning of the siddur, after the table of contents and before the introduction by the editor and translator (Birnbaum), there is a page for acknowledgements in the original edition. This page is missing in the 1977 reprint (perhaps because it thanks a number of scholars who were associated with JTS).

    4. Birnbaum’s introduction is significantly longer in the 1977 reprint than in the 1949 edition (xxxiii pages versus xxiii pages). The difference seems to be that in the later introduction there are four sections, and in the original one there were only three. Section II of the newer introduction, which is about the meaning and history of Jewish prayer, seems to be what has been added, because the other three sections of the original introduction don’t seem to have been changed (they appear as sections I, III, and IV in the 1977 edition). The entire introduction was newly typeset in the 1977 edition in order to accommodate the new material.

    5. After the introduction, there is an additional title page in the 1977 edition (“DAILY PRAYER BOOK, HA-SIDDUR HA-SHALEM”). This is followed by “שחרית לילדים / Morning Prayer for Children” on pages 1-2, as in the original edition. However, in the original edition there is some blank space left after the English text on the bottom of page 2, and in the 1977 reprint that space has been filled by an informative note which reads as follows: “תורה תהי אמונתי brings to mind the prayer quoted in the Talmud (Berakhoth 16b) to the effect that we be favored with making the Torah our occupation: יהי רצון מלפניך שתהא תורתך אומנותנו. However, the reading אֱמוּנָתִי (my trust), instead of אֻמָּנוּתִי (my occupation), is well-established in the morning prayer for children and should not be changed.”

    6. As mentioned above (1), the very end of Birnbaum’s siddur in its original 1949 edition was with pages 789-790 (Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel). But in the 1977 reprint supplementary material was added after this on unnumbered pages. The first page is in Hebrew, and contains the songs “Yerushalayim” (מעל פסגת הר הצופים…) and Ha-Tikvah. The facing English page is the first of five that contain devotional material in English on the following topics: Israel, Prayer and Devotion, Eight Degrees of Charity, Brotherhood, Rules of Conduct. The final unnumbered page at the back of the siddur contains a transliteration of the Mourners’ Kaddish.

  • Avatar photo Seth (Avi) Kadish

    The Hebrew text of this Birnbaum Siddur (1949) has been fully transcribed at Hebrew Wikisource:
    Others are welcome to complete the transcription of the English text (which might be an excellent basis for an updated English translation of the Siddur) here:
    Best wishes to all for health and comfort.
    Shabbat shalom

  • by Yosef Lindell
    (JTA) — When a local Orthodox synagogue asked me to lead Yom Kippur prayers six years ago, one aspect of the request stood out: Was I comfortable using the “High Holyday Prayer Book” translated and edited by Philip Birnbaum?
    The archaic spelling of “Holyday” is a tipoff to the book’s longevity. First published in 1951 by the Hebrew Publishing Company, this Hebrew-English prayer book, or machzor, has been used by multiple generations of worshippers in Orthodox and, to a lesser extent, Conservative synagogues. It is the prayer book I used as a child; my earliest High Holidays memories include counting the number of pages in the Birnbaum machzor until services would end.
    In the ensuing years, a bounty of new translations has appeared, with modern typefaces, helpful commentary, user-friendly language and supplemental readings meant to “open doors” into prayer for the uninitiated or easily distracted.
    Yet come Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I will lead the services from a Birnbaum covered in brown paper and penciled notations of what to say and what to skip. Remarkably, 70 years after its publication, the Birnbaum Machzor is still here, outlasting its publisher, author and even its own copyright. On the occasion of its anniversary, we ought to consider its remarkable longevity and what its future might hold.
    Philip (or Paltiel in Hebrew) Birnbaum immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1923 at the age of 19. While teaching Hebrew school in Birmingham, Alabama, he obtained an undergraduate education at the Southern Baptist-affiliated Howard College (now Samford University). After moving to the East Coast, he received his doctorate in Jewish history from Dropsie College in Philadelphia in 1942.
    Throughout his career, Birnbaum forged connections with rabbis and academics affiliated with both the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Orthodox Yeshiva University. In 1944, the Hebrew Publishing Company — a fixture on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that printed everything from prayer books to greeting cards to Yiddish translations of Jules Verne — published his abridged version of “Mishneh Torah,” Maimonides’ seminal code of Jewish law. Given the success of the volume, the company’s president asked Birnbaum to translate the siddur, or daily prayer book.
    Birnbaum’s edition of the siddur, first published in 1949, outsold every other English translation and turned Birnbaum into a household name among Orthodox synagogue-goers. His 1951 machzor had a similar trajectory, rapidly becoming a High Holidays mainstay. In the 1960s, Birnbaum’s publisher reported that he saw the machzor on the shelf in faraway Hong Kong and Tokyo.
    A few years ago, when my grandfather gave me a small 1903 machzor that had been in the family, I began to understand the appeal of the Birnbaum machzor. The 1903 prayer book, with the unwieldy name “Form of Prayers for the Day of Atonement,” is hardly usable. It includes a hodgepodge of Hebrew and Yiddish instructions and inconsistently sized texts that sometimes lack vowels. Its head-scratching English rendition of the “Song of Glory” (Shir HaKavod or Anim Zemirot) begins, “Sweet hymns I will sing, and songs will I indite, for unto thee my soul panteth.”
    To make matters worse, it sent me flipping frantically back and forth searching for the next prayer to say.
    Birnbaum’s introduction to his translation speaks directly to my experience with the 1903 machzor and its ilk.
    “The worshipper is not called upon to search from page to page and to commute from reference to reference,” he wrote about his own work. Birnbaum lamented the “gross carelessness” of earlier machzorim that included pages “broken up by several type sizes which have a confusing effect on the eyes of the reader” and translations that were “a vast jungle of words from which a clear idea only rarely emerges.”
    Not all of Birnbaum’s predecessors were guilty of these faults. The 1904 British machzor translated by Arthur Davis and Herbert Adler, which also was used in the United States, was well-organized and exquisitely translated. Yet it came in three hefty volumes and still suffered from a generous dose of what Birnbaum derided as “Bible English.” To a lesser extent, these archaisms also plagued the one-volume machzor published by Morris Silverman in 1939 and which for decades was the official machzor of the Conservative movement.
    The Birnbaum machzor took hold because it outshone its competition, but its staying power can be explained by simple economics. Once a synagogue purchased copies for its congregants, switching to a different book was an expensive proposition. Further, the machzor is used only a few times a year, so it wears out at a fraction of the rate of a Shabbat prayer book or synagogue Bible.
    Also, unlike much of its competition, the one-volume Birnbaum machzor includes the services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. While the ArtScroll daily siddur, published in 1984 by Mesorah Publications, quickly replaced the Birnbaum siddur in a vast number of Orthodox congregations, the ArtScroll machzor, with separate volumes for Rosh Hashanah (1985) and Yom Kippur (1986), did not meet with quite the same success. I suspect that a number of congregations could not justify the expense of purchasing so many new books when their Birnbaums were holding up just fine.
    Indeed, when Dr. Birnbaum died in 1988, heralded in The New York Times as “the most obscure bestselling author,” his machzor was still going strong. The Hebrew Publishing Company continued to reprint it into the mid-1990s. The publisher ceased to exist sometime around the turn of the 21st century and the machzor’s copyright was not renewed. It is now in the public domain and can be perused online. What other book enjoys such widespread popularity 25 years after going out of print?
    Yet without much chance of being reprinted, the machzor’s reign may at last be drawing to a close. Birnbaum’s frequent use of “thee” and “thou” sounds archaic and off-putting. Rabbi David Wolkenfeld of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel in Chicago put it well when he wrote in 2016 that the Birnbaum prayer books “were state of the art when they were first published and have been sanctified by the prayers of three generations of worshippers,” but the translation “now appears stilted.” And unlike more recent translations, “there is virtually no commentary that might help the novice or veteran worshipper find deeper meaning in the unfamiliar holiday prayers.”
    Extensive commentary and contemporary readings for the “novice or veteran worshiper” are a signature of newer translations like “Mahzor Lev Shalem(2010), which has replaced Birnbaum, Silverman and the 1972 Jules Harlow machzor in Conservative synagogues within the past few years. The Orthodox Koren Publishers at last released a one-volume machzor in 2018, with commentary by the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. I suspect many Orthodox holdouts will abandon the Birnbaum for the Koren sooner or later. Some have already begun.
    But although congregants may of course opt to bring a different machzor, there’s been no official change yet at the synagogue where I will again lead the services this year.
    “For nearly two thousand years,” Birnbaum wrote in the machzor’s introduction, “the Hebrew prayers have helped to keep the Jews alive, saving them from losing their language and identity.”
    Indeed, on the Days of Judgment, when we contemplate a turbulent past and an uncertain future, the prayer book is a stable text to which we can attach our hopes, dreams and aspirations. But the prayers are also complex and confusing, even to the initiated. For 70 years — indeed, for a lifetime — the Birnbaum machzor has been a sure-footed guide.
    And that’s perhaps another reason why it has lasted as long as it has. When everything around us is changing so rapidly, we often find solace in those things that stay the same. Just as there are certain tunes we associate with the Days of Awe, there are also certain books. For many, the Birnbaum machzor has long been among them.
    So this year, I will take comfort in the venerable book whose tearstained pages have weathered tragedy, war and illness as I pray for the people of this fractured world to be inscribed in the Book of Life.
    The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.

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