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Initial Impressions: Koren Mesorat Harav Siddur

October 24, 2011

SoloveitchikIn the mail today I received a number of interesting books, DVDs, and CDs, which will take me sometime to read and comment on.  One item which was widely anticipated on a number of blogs is the Koren Mesorat Harav Siddur (Jewish prayer book according to the teacher [Joseph Soloveitchik].)  (Here is an advertisement for the new prayer book and here is an excerpt.)

This siddur adopts the basic structure of the standard Koren Siddur (Jewish prayer book), and that standard edition is well described here and here.  The dimensions and design are nearly identical except that Mesorat Harav Siddur is slightly thicker.  (Standard prayerbook:  49 pages front material, 1244 pages main text; Mesorat Harav:  85 pages front material, 1304 pages main text.)

The main difference is that the Mesorat Harav omits the essay by Jonathan Sacks (“Understanding Jewish Prayer”) and the commentary by Jonathan Sacks.  Instead it includes an essay by Aharon Lichtenstein (“Prayer in the Teachings of Rav Soloveitchik”), a different essay by Jonathan Sacks (“Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik on Jewish Faith and Prayer”), an essay by Julius Berman (“The Rav:  A Personal Reminiscence”), front matter from the editor (Arnold Lustiger), general editor (Menachem Genack), and publisher (Matthew Miller), a list and explanation of Soloveitchik’s prayer customs (“Hanhagot Harav” – literally “spiritual teachings of the teacher [Soloveitchik]”), a summary of the shiurim (lectures) given by Soloveitchik on the legal aspects of prayer (“Reshimot”), and annotation primarily on spiritual aspects of prayer based on the teachings of Soloveitchik.

I haveo only skimmed this new material, but it is clearly less voluminous than the annotations in the Soloveitchik machzorim (prayer books for the Jewish New Year and Day of Repentance).  On the other hand, Soloveitchik had a special interest in teaching about those holidays, so there may be more source material to draw on. 

A brief comparison of this siddur (Jewish prayer book) with the standard Koren siddur or the ArtScroll siddur indicates that this Soloveitchik siddur is designed for those experienced with the basics of Jewish liturgy and underlying philosophy and laws – it is not a good choice for beginners.  But on the other hand, it seems that the Soloveitchik siddur has more to teach for those with basic knowledge of prayer.  Someone who has already studied a Koren or Artscroll siddur will still find much useful information in the Soloveitchik siddur.

I hope to be able to post a longer review sometime in the future.

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