Halkin on Koren

Hillel Halkin, author of the new biography of Yehuda Halevi, has a new review of one of this blog’s favorite sidurim, the Koren Sacks sidur in the new Jewish Review of Books.

Mostly, the review is a long rambling meditation on Halkin’s opinions and assessments of the structure of liturgy, while barely touching on this edition of the sidur. He can’t even bring himself to mention the typeface and only briefly mentions the brilliant design of the sidur.

And he has this to say about Musaf:

There is a logic in the absence of the musaf in Mishkan T’filah. We are beyond all that now, so why mention it?

There is a logic in the emended musaf of Siddur Sim Shalom, too. Our forefathers did what they did and we are not ashamed of it, but it would be absurd to want to do it ourselves. Let us therefore mention it—in the past tense.

There is only tradition in the musaf of the Koren Siddur. All but the more hallucinatory Orthodox Jews know that the Temple will not be rebuilt in historical time and that animals will not again be slaughtered in it. And the great majority of them, if honest, would admit to being thankful that this is so.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again because it’s an important topic to me in liturgy: The history of sacrifice is important. As much as I’m not a big fan of Sim Shalom, I take their approach over the other two here.

The issue with MT’s approach is that it ignores the historical background, the justification for prayer. Prayer replaces sacrifice, with the Amidah at its core. Therefore, for every time that sacrifice would have occurred when the Temple stood, there ought to be an Amidah. There was an additional sacrifice on Shabbat. Likewise, there must be an additional Amidah on Shabbat. It lends to the coherence of the system, which is important.

Why is it important? Because coherence is better than incoherence.

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8 Responses to Halkin on Koren

  1. ML February 24, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    Prayer replaces sacrifice, with the Amidah at its core.

    There was prayer concurrent to sacrifice and more importantly, there was prayer prior to sacrifice.

    To say that we pray the Amidah 3 times a day (morning, afternoon and night) is just one opinion as to why we pray three times daily. And it’s not the most compelling one either.

    I finally got a Koren and was not as thrilled with it as you are. I don’t use it much so I’ve never grown accustomed to the Hebrew and English being on opposite pages of all my other siddurim.

    I’ll take my history in non-fiction and my liturgy in the siddur.

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 25, 2010 at 10:00 am #

      There was personal, unstructured prayer prior to sacrifice. But there wasn’t the sort of structured, spoken and written liturgy that makes up the bulk of Jewish prayer today.

      And I think it’s damn compelling and that the existence of musaf basically proves the point.

      What about Koren failed to excited you, by the way?

      • ML March 4, 2010 at 9:43 am #

        Sorry for the late response. Life gets in the way of getting on the computer sometimes. It’s usually for the best.

        Anyway, the biggest reason Koren “failed to excite” me was that my expectations were sky high for the siddur based upon online reviews and glowing raves about it. It just wasn’t the magical, final-version-ever type of siddur I was expecting. It’s nice. I like the typeface, but it didn’t immediately grab me as something special.

        The layout is also different than every other English/Hebrew siddur I use. I’m used to having the Hebrew on the right and English on the left and it kind of threw me off.

        And since I don’t daven in any communities that use it, and I’m adverse to using a different siddur than the one being used by everyone else. (For example, when I’m at a conservative service, I use Sim Shalom. Not because I love it, it’s alright, but because the service is being conducted with that siddur and everyone else is using it.) My guess is that I’ll mostly use the Koren academically, but not for actual prayer.

  2. Rich February 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    I often make stew for Shabbat Dinner.

    I take the meat, and sear in the pan. I reserve it, and add flour mingled with olive oil (Extra Virgin – i.e. the first pressing). Then I deglaze the pan with a nice red wine. It really smells good.

    I think its cool that the instructions for the Musaf offering is so similar to making a roux base for stew.

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 26, 2010 at 8:47 am #

      One rabbi I know used to jokingly refer to sacrifice as God’s weekly bbq.

  3. Reb Yudel February 26, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Incoherence is better than crazy messianism. In the past generation, Temple nostalgia has grown to dangerous proportions in the Orthodox community. Given the choice, I’ll take the Reform rejection over the Orthodox tradition.

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

      I’d rather take neither extreme and go for Conservative-style remembrance.

  4. ML March 4, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    Sim Shalom goes beyond remembrance.