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A siddur is a Hebrew term that can be written as סדור. Siddurim or סדורים is the plural term for Siddur. This is the prayer book of the Jewish people that contains the different set of orders of several daily prayers. The Hebrew term Siddur derived from the Hebrew root word, which is ס־ד־ר, which means “order” in English transliteration.
The History of Siddur
You can read at the book of Deuteronomy verse 6:4 et seq and in the Priestly Blessing Numbers 6:24-26 written in the Hebrew Bible that the earliest portion of the prayer book of Jewish people is first known as the Shema Yisrael or “Hear O Israel” when translated in English language. At first, the Jewish prayer book contains 18 sets of blessings, which now became 19 sets is being called as the Hebrew term Amida, which means standing prayer or the Shemoneh Esreh. These sets of prayer blessings have been inscribed during the Ezra time in the Great Assembly when the Biblical time will nearly end.
The word Shemoneh Esreh, which means “eighteen,” is considered as the historical anachronism, since these days, the 18 prayer blessings turn into 19. The standardization of the Jewish prayer book happened during the near end of the Secon Temple located in the Holy Land. Though during that time, the order and the wordings of the Jewish prayer book are not yet precise and fixed. The wording and order of the Jewish prayer book will always depend upon the country to country. Many modern researchers also believed that there are some parts that you can found in Amidah, which derived from the Hebrew apocryphal that is written by Ben Sira.
As you can read in the book of Talmud, after a couple of days when the destruction of the Holy Temple in the Holy Land happened, there was the time of the development of the more formal version of the Amidah. The rabbinical council located in Yavne also adopted it, Rabban Gamaliel II and his fellows were ruling that. However, the wordings of the Amidah are still not accurate and precise. But the order such as the closing and opening lines and the general ideas were already fixed during that time. Almost half of the general wordings were still left to an individual reading the Jewish prayer book. It remained unfixed until several centuries had passed when the Jewish prayer book began to have the proper and precise wording. During the Middle Ages Era, the wordings and the order of the Jewish prayer book were nearly fixed. After that, the form and the wordings of the Jewish prayer book remain the same until this generation.
During the year of 1486, Soncino started to print the siddur pages in Italy, and the year of 1865, the Jewish prayer book was first distributed in the mass. During the year 1538, the Jewish prayer book began to appear in vernacular cities. In the year of 1738, the English transliteration of the Jewish prayer book was published by Gamaliel ben Pedahzur, which is an author who writes for the pseudonym. He released the English version of the Jewish prayer book in the land of London. And during the year of 1837, the different English translation of the book of Siddur was published and released in the United States.
Creating the Jewish Prayer Book
The writings that you can read from the Hebrew Bible including the Neviím or the Prophets and the five books of Moses play a big role in the prayer services. Through this basis, lots of Jewish sages added several prayers time after time and some hymns for special feasts purposes.
The pre-existing laws of the Jewish people about their prayer book were written by Rav Amram Gaon of Sura in Babylon during the 850 CE. After almost half of the century, Rav Saadia Gaon that is also living in Sura of Babylon also writes the Jewish prayer book that is written in the Arabic language. And the Jewish prayer book written by Rav Saadia Gaon became the basis of Simcha ben Samuel on writing the Machzor Vitry, during the 11th century in the city of France, which is also based the different ideas of Rashi, his teacher. Another version of the prayer blessings written in the Jewish prayer book was the work of Maimonides about the laws of the prayers inscribed on his work namely, Mishneh Torah. His basis is all about the Yemenite liturgy and other related writings. From this day up to the present, all the Jewish prayer books have the same contents, wordings, and orders.
There two different versions of the Jewish prayer book with the Ashkenazi language were some of the Seligna Baer during the 19th century and the Shabbetai Sofer during the 16th century; the siddurim also appeared and published that reflects the views of Vilna Gaon and Jacob Emden.
The Different Rites of Jewish People
There are many different versions of the rites of Jewish people such as the Sephardic, which includes Mizrachim, Portuguese and Spanish. The Teimani or also called as the Yemenite, the Ashkenazic, Chasidic that was divided into Eastern-European, European, Polish and German rites, Romaniote, and Italkim. Or the Bene Roma that includes Greek which expands into Turkey, Southern Italian Peninsula and Crimea, as well as the Cochin-, Ethiopian-, Mountain Jewish, Georgian, Bukharian, Kurdish and Persian-Jewish liturgies. Some of these rites have a wider range of differences with each other through the wordings used in writing the prayers. For example, some Hassidic prayer books and the Oriental Sephardic prayer books stated “חננו מאתך חכמה בינה ודעת” which is translated in English language as the “Graciously bestow upon us from Your wisdom or the hochmah, understanding the binah and having some knowledge about daaf,” in connection with those names to the Kabbalistic sefirot.
While the Western Sephardic, Nusach Ashkenaz and the other Hassidic versions of the Jewish prayer book remain the old wordings and order saying, “חננו מאתך דעה בינה והשכל” which is translated in the English language as “Graciously bestow upon us from Your knowledge, understanding, and reason.” There are some situations, that the preparation order of the Amidah is widely different, which reflect differen kabbalistic and halakhic formula that some of the previous researchers based in assembling the siddurim, and also the locakes, customs and the minhagin.
There are some forms of the rite of Sephardi that are considered as the kabbalistic that is overtly written, varying upon the length of the kabbalostic rituals by Isaac Luria. This might be because the Tetragrammaton is usually appeared with some depending vowel points under the unpronounced but meditated upon Hebrew letters. The different names of the Lord God were also printed on the Jewish prayer book which has the Hebrew letter of ה that can be read as hei at the nend of the Tetragrammation. There are some versions that the psalm that is connected to the preparation for the Amidah was also printed at the very edge of the menorah, and the reciter would mediate and will remain on his shape while reciting some psalms that were written by King David.
The rite of the Ashkenazi is very common when compared to the ceremony of Sephardi that is being distributed in the United States. The Nusach Ahkenaz rite also consists of the several kabbalistic elements including the allusions and axrostics of the sefirot, which is “To You, God, is the greatness (or gedullah,) and the might (or gevurah) and the glory (or Tiferet,) Netzach, longevity and many more. These kabbalistic elements cannot be seen easily unless the reader is initiated already. You can also notice that even though different traditions avoid the usage of the Anim Zemiroth poem during the Sabbath holiday for fear that the readers will not appreciate the holiness of the Jewish prayer book because of the Shabbat frequency. Many congregations of Ashkenazi commonly sing the said poem before ending the Shabbat Musaf services with the use of the psalm used for the everyday life of many people. The ark will open for the entire duration of singing the poem.
The Hasidim is considered as the ethnical Ashkenazi that commonly uses the liturgies with some degrees that will vary upon the influences of the Sephardic rite. It also includes the Nusach Ari and the Nusach Sefard, for the Jewish people to follow the right order of the prayers in the Book of Siddur that was written by Rabbi Isaac Luria that is commonly known as the Holy Lion or the Ari HaKadosh. Although Rabbi Isaac Luria was born as an Ashkenazi person, he gets some elements of the Sephardi and other traditions related to the Sephardi rite, since he thinks that following the Halacha and Kabbalah will lead him to the good fate. He did not use to print and the Jewish prayer book, but he transferred all of his usages to his learners and readers through the oral meditation and interpretations.
There are lots of siddurim that contain some form from the Sephardic rite with the touch of the things used by Ari has also been published, through the help of the Ashkenazim interest in Kabbalah, Hasidim usage and the other Sephardic communities. In the year of 1803, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi also compile different authoritative Jewish prayer book that he gets from the 60 Jewish prayers books he had been checked as the requirements for the Kabbalah, Jewish law and with the Hebrew grammar, and this is the ever famous Nusach Ari in these days that was used by the Lubavitcher Hasidim. All of the Nusach Ari stated that this is a type of an encompassing nusach that is only permitted to use only by the Jewish people, no matter what is his or her identity or tribe. This is the opinion that was derived from the Maggid of Mezeritch.
The piyyutim is determining each of the mahzorim that you can find in every rite or also called as hymns that were written by different authors, which are commonly known as the payyetanim. Some of the most popular writers are known in the name of Yose ben Yoseh who were believed during the 6th century and is commonly known because of his Yom Kippur compositions and the Eleazar Kalir, and who is the founder of the style known as the payyetanic that happened during the 7th century. There is also the Spanish school which is known as the Saadia Gaon that consists Joseph ibn Abitur who died in the year of 970, Isaac Luria, Moses ben Nahman or also known as the Nahmanides, Juda ha-Levi, Abraham ibn Ezra, Moses ibn Ezra., Isaac Gayyath and ibn Gabirol. During the situation of the Nusach HaAri, almost half of the piyyutim High Holidays are not present; the older High Holiday piyyutim is absent during the Sephardic rite, wherein the Nusach HaAri is being based, and his followers also vanished the piyyutim that was created by the Spanish school.
Complete and Weekday Siddurim
Some Jewish prayer books only contain the prayers that were being recited during weekdays, but ethere are other Jewish prayer books that contain the prayers that can be recited during the Sabbath holidays and weekdays. But almost all of the Jewish prayer books include the prayer that can only be recited during the Sabbath holiday, weekdays and the three different Biblical feasts, such as the Pesach or the Passover celebration, the Shavuot or the feast of weeks, and the Sukkot or the festival of the Tabernacles. The complete Jewish prayer books are commonly known as the Siddur Shalem, which means the “complete siddur.”
Variations and Durations on Holidays
• During the Tisha b’Av which is a special and essential Jewish prayer book, which contains the different verses that were written in the Book of Lamentations, and the Haftarah and the reading of the Hebrew Bible during that time, and the special mournful piyyutim or the Kinot during that day. Kinot is also the traditional name for the Jewish prayer book. According to Jewish history, each year the Jewish people pray and hope for the comeback of the Messiah and will build the Holy Temple again for the third time. Thus the Tisha b’Av will not occur again. And after that, many Jewish traditions store their Jewish prayer book in a geniz or the area for burial that contains the sacred verses and texts.
• There are lots of liturgical additions and variations to the Jewish prayer book for the “Days of Awe,” which is commonly known as the Yamim Noraim, the Jewish High Holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Through this, a special Jewish prayer book was created that is only meant for these kinds of occasions that is known as the machzor or the mahzor. The machzor consists of the basic liturgies and lots of the verses of piyyutim and the several liturgical poems. Sometimes, the Hebrew word mahzor is also being used during the Jewish prayer books that are meant for the three pilgrim feasts, the Sukkot, Shavuot and the Pesach.
Uses of the Jewish Prayer Book
During the synagogue services, the Jewish people read the different special prayers that were written in the Jewish prayer book that is also known as the siddur. The Jewish book of the common prayers is the religious thing that is very close in the heart of every life of a Jewish individual.
Through the help of the Jewish prayer book, it will instruct all the Jewish people about the synagogue services they will do, give them a hint on which special prayer they need to recite for every service they will do, how to respond and stand to them. The book of Siddur is considered as the instrument for the worship of the synagogue services. The book of common prayers has the different prayers that you will use for your everyday life, for the Shabbat holiday and the different High Holidays and Festivals.
The book of Siddur also permits the Jewish people to recite their everyday prayers to meet the right spirit. Jews need to make themselves prepared and acquired for the accurate and precise frame of their mind. Through this, the Jewish people will collect several scriptural verses or the psalms that will occur at the beginning of the Siddur celebration. These are also called as the Verses or the Song or the Pesukeh deZimrah.
It is very important to recite the prayers that glued the Jewish people together to their faith, and these prayers are the things that were being shared in most synagogue services. The most loved and beautiful prayers can only be seen in the Torah or the Hebrew Bible, from the religious poems, from the great rabbis, and in some other times that happened in the Holy Temple of the Holy Land.
The common prayers written in the book of prayer by the Jewish people are constantly changing because every generation of the Jews adds their prayers, but the fundamentals of the synagogue services will remain the same. The book of prayers by the Jewish people is relevant in each generation because its fundamentals will never change. The book of Siddur is open-minded as always, which is different from the Talmud and the Hebrew Bible. Through staying open to the additional special prayers, the Siddur meets the needs of the Jewish people that are also constantly changing. The book of Siddur also contains different dimensions that were considered as infinity that will always fit perfectly to all the spiritual needs of the Jews.
The Book of Siddur gives the stimulus and the inspiration that every Jewish needs for them to pray all together for the sake of their community. It also offers them the ideal forms of thoughts and expressions, and also help them to stay focus on the vague aspirations and yearnings that they might not consider or understand sometimes. Each prayer is written in the book of Siddur also remind the Jewish people about their feelings, hopes and needs to their fellows, whom they must include to their prayers always.
A Jewish prayer book is not just all about a prayer book. The book of Siddur is the source of the Jewish religion that they will treasure the most. This is also considered as the source that will give the Jewish people the full record about the things that they will do to make their relationship with the Lord God stronger.
Different people have different religions and faiths, but let us keep in our mind that despite all of our differences, our Creator is only one, which is the Lord God. Without Him, all of us will be nothing. All we need is to respect all of our differences to live a happy and joyful life that is full of the words of God.