I’ve griped about Mishkan T’filah on this blog for a long time now. The ongoing comment thread (which is great fun, by the way–sorry I’ve been busy and away from it for a few days) at my post about selecting a siddur for your Hillel, has convinced me that I need to state my basic problem with MT more plainly. I’ve written a lot about this siddur, but I don’t that I’ve ever stated my problem at its simplest. So here we go:
All siddurim take positions, sometimes arbitrary, sometimes intentionally. Siddurim are serious things, with important meanings. To approach them arbitrarily, either in using them or creating them, is not good for the Jews. It is not bad for a siddur to take a unique theological position. It is bad for one to take a wishy-washy position or conflicting positions. Mishkan T’filah seems to be chock-full of arbitrary choices and conflicting positions. The structure and order of Jewish prayer is a work of genius. Good siddurim know that and approach structure with reverence. MT does not.
Just as strongly as I believe that the ArtScroll siddur is a bad thing, I believe that MT is a bad thing. I honestly believe, as totally angering as this may be for some, that people who like it are ill-informed. It is a bad creation cover-to-cover. It is not a siddur, but an ill-executed attempt to bring some definition to a movement of Jews. If MT is any indication, this movement defies definition at every turn.