The best/worst siddur in my collection is Nehalel beShabbat. Rather self-triumphantly, Nehalel beShabbat throws a Modern Orthodox/religious right-wing Zionist outlook into a blender with a bunch of glossy stock photos from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and comes up with a uniquely loopy result..
I am like 80% sure that more marketing drivel has been written about this siddur than any other in the brief and glorious history of siddur marketing drivel. It is the tackiest siddur in my collection (worse than the garish tourist siddurim from Israel I inherited from my grandparents, which have their own genuine vintage charm). Of all the Jewish crap I own, this siddur comes by far the closest to some sort of Jewish Kinkade-ist¹ movement.
Despite Because of all this, it has the honor of being one my favorite siddurim in my collection.
Nehalel repeatedly shoves down your throat a tale of how the Jewish people were saved from post-Holocaust oblivion by the redemptive powers of the State of Israel by pairing actual, honest-to-God images of the Holocaust with prayers about divine redemption.²
Here’s the part where it suggests that you should be praying for the conversion of these Hindus and whatever those people on the facing page are. (Shinto?)
Nehalel beShabbat also comes with a few displays of liturgical jingoism. If you accept the whole photo-based premise of this siddur, the ultimate logical conclusion is this image of prayerful Israeli soldiers facing this “Entreaty for Soldiers of the IDF.”
Shame they’re all white/Mizrachi dudes…
In other news: It’s a sturdy mid-sized volume volume (but pretty heavy because of all the glossy photo paper) and it’s typeset nicely.
Been a while since I did any night blogging about siddurim. Feels good.
¹ Jerry Saltz perfectly captures my thoughts on Nehalel beShabbat in his final assessment of the work of Thomas Kinkade: “Kinkade’s paintings are worthless schmaltz…. However, I’d love to see a museum mount a small show of Kinkade’s work. I would like the art world and the wider world to argue about him in public, out in the open. Kinkade once said his goal was to ‘make people happy.'”
² Eliyahu Fink: “Another quirk is that almost all the liturgy about the Exodus and redemption is reinterpreted to refer to the Holocaust and the State of Israel through photos. In other words, as you are reading about our bondage in Egypt you see Holocaust photos. And as you read about the redemption and ancient entry to the Land of Canaan, you see Zionist pioneers in the modern Israel. Non-Zionists might find this disconcerting. But I would hope that it could subversively influence skeptics about Israel to see the parallels and perhaps embrace the State of Israel more fully.” … *shudder* … Fink also points out another bizarre choice of photo in Nehalel: “poseach es yadecha umasbia l’chol chai ratzon is illustrated…. [With] third world children with hungry eyes and smiling faces on this page. It’s disconcerting…. There is tremendous hunger in third world countries. It is ironic at best to be using these photos for this verse.”