In the Sidur Nusah Eretz Yisrael that I presently own there are many additions of later liturgy (Lecha Dodi, Shalom Aleichem, etc.) and/or Bavli liturgy. I was wondering whether the siddur you will be publishing will have later material as well or be fairly closely confined to the original Nusach EY?
1. Our aim is not to produce a sidur that contains only those t’philoth mentioned explicitly by Hazal. Our aim is to produce a sidur based on NEY that on the one hand is practical (i.e. can be used in most minyanim) and user-friendly, but on the other hand distinguishes between that which is hova (obligatory) and that which is r’shuth (optional). This distinction – which will be achieved by varying font sizes etc. – is crucial for a number of reasons.
2. Praying to HASHEM is for all Jews. Most sidurim are not. They present an immense amount of material but fail to make plain what a Jew is Halakhically required to say. This applies both to an individual and to a minyan.
3. Most people can set aside 30 minutes in the morning in order to begin the day properly: to recite some words of Tora and communicate with HASHEM. If people are told to recite everything from page 1 to page 153 in those 30 minutes, they will; they will simply race through it without reflection, turning davening into a mad rush. Let’s be honest: that is what transpires in most schuls. If, on the other hand, you tell the same people that they must recite just 30 pages, they will; the result will be something much more reasonable, beneficial and Halakhically correct.
4. Regarding L’kha Dodhi: I do not advocate ‘Tora archeology’, i.e. slavishly trying to recreate ancient realities, shunning all that has evolved and developed over the centuries. The fact that a prayer was authored in the 16th century is far from being a problem; it is an indication that the Jewish people is spiritually alive, vibrant and creative. Jews have always composed liturgical texts and always will be’H. What is needed is a balanced and intelligent evaluation of where we are and where we need to be going. L’kha Dodhi is a beautiful piyutt; the problem is that several stanzas describe a reality that is, B’H, a thing of the past. For example: מִקְדַּשׁ מֶלֶךְ עִיר מְלוּכָה. קוּמִי צְאִי מִתּוֹךְ הַהֲפֵכָה. רַב לָךְ שֶׁבֶת בְּעֵמֶק הַבָּכָא. וְהוּא יַחֲמוֹל עָלַיִךְ חֶמְלָה.. So too: לֹא תֵבוֹשִׁי וְלֹא תִכָּלְמִי. מַה תִּשְׁתּוֹחֲחִי וּמַה תֶּהֱמִי. בָּךְ יֶחֱסוּ עֲנִיֵּי עַמִּי. וְנִבְנְתָה עִיר עַל תִּלָּהּ. When R. Sh’lomo AlQabess z’l wrote these lines they accurately described the reality of a helpless and hapless people, persecuted, at the mercy of its enemies, with no control over its destiny. This is not our present reality. What we need is an alternate text. In general we need poets and authors. Tora culture must continue to develop and thrive. We are able today in Eress Yisrael to discern an awakening of Tora thought and culture.
5. A similar problem exists regarding Ya Ribon that is sung by many on Shabath. The words וְאַפֵּיק יַת עַמָּךְ מִגּוֹ גָּלוּתָא are inappropriate. Recently, at my own table, I have replaced these words with וארם קרנא דעמך לעיני עממיא. These are just few examples; our liturgy is full of such issues.
6. The act of mindlessly parroting such prayers in our present reality of non-Galuth but not yet G’ula, no matter how beautiful, is insidiously pernicious; it conditions Jews to think and act as if we are still living in Galuth, reinforcing the passivity, the abdication of responsibility and the divorce from reality which are some of the essential elements of Galuth-mode Judaism.
7. Regarding Shalom ‘Alekhem: HaRav Ya’abess z’l (see Sidur Beth Ya’aqov) pointed out many problems regarding this song (singing to angels, expressions that do not make sense, etc.). It is based on a literal understanding of an Agadic statement (TB Shabath 119b) which I view as misguided. It is, by the way, a very recent addition to the sidur. I find the song strange and perturbing, and have not sung it for about 30 years. I do not intend to include it in the NEY sidur.
Rabbi David Bar-Hayim
05 December 2010