I am thrilled that Beth El Synagogue through the generosity of the Fellman Family has purchased the brand new Siddur Lev Shalem. The new Siddur, which I hope you will get your hands on soon, will be at the center of our synagogue prayer life for many years to come.
The Siddur is our guidebook when it comes to prayer, it is also the thing we come in contact with the most when we are at the synagogue; it has to be accessible and the Lev Shalem meets that need. The Siddur is also a tool that allows us as Jews the ability to interact with each other and with God. As you begin to get accustomed to the new text you will notice a number of meaningful changes.
You will notice that the Siddur Lev Shalem follows the layout of the Machzor Lev Shalem which Beth El has been using for the past 5 High Holy Day Seasons. On the right side of the text you will find explanations of the prayer being recited. Why do we say this prayer, who wrote it and what does this prayer mean to us as Jews living in 2016? The commentary will allow you to get lost in prayer, and will help you find your way back out. The Siddur becomes its own teaching tool. On the left side of the page you will find modern day poetry and prose that will encourage a deeper and more personal connection with prayer. These more modern readings give our tradition a more modern look and feel, while retaining its holiness. One of the many readings I have found to be meaningful is entitled “Prayer in Place of Mourner’s Kaddish When a Minyan Is Not Present”. This prayer, while respectful of tradition and our need for a minyan understands the need of an individual to say kaddish for a loved one.
As it has become our custom on Neilah to pass before the Ark to say personal prayers, it is customary that when the Ark is open on Shabbat that we offer silent personal prayers as well. When writing the Siddur the editors took this into consideration and added a number of prayers and meditations to help those looking to put their thoughts, prayers and desires into words.
The Siddur also includes an expanded set of misheberakhim, public prayers that we recite as a congregation for same sex couples marking a life cycle event, on the adoption of a child, traveling to Israel or for becoming grandparents. These additional prayers speak to the community of Jews that we welcome inside our doors on a daily basis. Not only should we, as a congregation be open, so too should our prayer book.
Lastly, the prayer book while meant for synagogue use, is built to be used at home. No longer are the home rituals for Shabbat placed towards the end of the Siddur, they now book end the Shabbat evening service at the very beginning of the text. In addition, there are new readings and explanations that will support even greater home observance.
The Siddur Lev Shalem is a major step in reaching more Jews and making our rich tradition come alive for a new generation.