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The Koren Siddur

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The Koren Siddur

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The Koren Siddur
With Introduction, Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks
Koren Publishers Jerusalem, 2009, 1244 pages.
ISBN: 978-965-301-067-3

Reviewed by Israel Drazin - June 26, 2009

Most Jews read the siddur, a Hebrew word meaning "order," implying the order of prayers, with little or no comprehension of what they are reading. They are no different than Christians and Muslim. All fail to fulfill the purpose of prayer. The Hebrew word for prayer is tefillah, which is based on a root that means "to judge oneself." Prayer in Judaism is more than a petition, the basic meaning of the Latin and Greek word upon which "prayer" is based. It is a time of reflection, of inner judgment, of considering change and improvement.

The siddur is an anthology of widely divergent ideas that were composed by Jews – and non-Jews in some instances, like the ma tovu ohalekha prayer that is at the beginning of the siddur - with different ideologies over a long period of time. The siddur contains pieces from the Bible, such as Psalms, and poems written in the sixteenth century by mystics, such as the prayer welcoming the Sabbath called in Hebrew lecha dodi. By incorporating such a wide spectrum of views, the rational and the mystical, old and relatively new, Jews are capable, if they understand the prayers, to reflect on what is being said, the history of their religion, the concerns of its adherents, see if and how the prayers relate to their lives, and ask themselves whether the prayer they are reading can help them develop themselves and improve society.

Does the new Koren Siddur improve upon these matters and aid Jews in better understanding what they are reading?

The answer is an emphatic "yes." Indeed this is one of the primary purposes of the new siddur. It aids Jews in acquiring all of the above-mentioned benefits by its manner of presentation, its translations and its commentaries. The following innovations of this new siddur are a small sample of how this siddur enhances its users’ period of prayer and their understanding of Judaism.

These are just some of the many innovations introduced in the Koren Siddur. Synagogues should replace their current prayer books and give their parishioners this magnificent volume.


Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of seventeen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides. The Orthodox Union (OU) and Yeshiva University publish weekly chapters of Drazin and Wagner's book Let's Study Onkelos on www.ou.org/torah and on www.yutorah@yutorah.org. His website is http://booksnthoughts.com.

The views expressed in this review/article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Eye.
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