A while ago, I reviewed a new bencher called Yedid Nefesh, by blogger Rabbi Josh Cahan. I’ll be referencing that review in this one. Full disclosure: a regular Jewschool contributor is an associate editor of this bencher.
When I reviewed Yedid Nefesh, I wrote:
You could pretty easily divide the world of benchers into two categories. On the one hand, there are totally perfunctory versions that exist as a mere vehicle for what their editors consider a fixed collection of blessings and prayers and a smattering of songs. On the other hand, there are a few benchers that are not mere vehicles for your embossed name and the date of your wedding, bris, bar mitzvah, or whatever. These are generally more liberal in their attitude toward the content and tend to contain some amount of commentary. Yedid Nefesh, a new bencher from Joshua Cahan, a rabbi coming out of the Conservative tradition, falls into the latter category.
If Yedid Nefesh, with its neither-here-nor-there approach to the imahot, is Conservative, L’chu N’ran’nah is Reform. Which is not to say it has anything to do with the URJ. Rather, it comes out of what I would call a Reform intellectual background; it’s Reform without the movement.
Each page on LN has three columns: translation, Hebrew and transliteration, parallel to each other, in the style of Siddur Eit Ratzon and Siddur Chaveirim Kol Yisrael. The layout is fine and clean on most pages, but lapses into florid title pages.
It’s bigger than many benchers, but not overly so. It is slightly awkward to use because of its longways page orientation, but a certain width is required for the layout, which I like, so I’ll forgive the width.
The songs section is robust, bigger than Yedid Nefesh’s.
I love that Birkat Hamazon is clearly separated into its four constituent sections, showing users of LN that BH is designed and has a coherent order to it, something that is unfortunately lost on most.
Both benchers have abbreviated versions of BH, with LN’s running shorter. Differences in substance are negligible. LN, however, includes a variety of other, very brief BH options, including the tiny Aramaic one from Brachot 40b–a personal favorite of mine. It’s also got a woo-woo one by Shefa Gold that I’m not a huge fan of and a few others.
Over all, it’s nice. The biggest drawback I see is that there is slightly less commentary than I’d like. It looks like a little bit less than YN, but I’m willing to forgive that because of its otherwise good three-column layout.