When my Rabbi mentioned a new Shabbat Siddur “with pictures” over Rosh Hashanah, my interest was immediately piqued. As a somewhat regular attendee at Shabbat and Yom Tov service, and as an occasional Shaliach Tzibur and stand-in when our Chazzan is away, I am familiar with the liturgy and attuned to the influence the Siddur can have on my approach to prayer. I regularly use half a dozen different Siddurim, and was curious about this new concept. While I was attracted by the promise that it is traditional in scope and content, I was also a bit skeptical of the role the pictures might play in distracting from the “business” of davening.
The Nahalel Siddur, devised (his word) by Michael Haruni, is published by Nevarech (Jerusalem). It is meant to be used on Shabbat, with the usual additions to allow its use on Chol Hamoed, Rosh Chodesh, and various other days that coincide with Shabbat; it is not a holiday Machzor, and not designed for use on the Shalosh Regalim. It is nearly traditional in its liturgy, although there are some concessions to egalitarian worship (for example, the morning Berachot offer modern versions for women). I also found myself surprised by the inclusion of some prayers that I was not familiar with, such as, “An Entreaty for IDF Soldiers in Captivity (Prayer recited as long as any IDF soldiers are held in hostile captivity).” The Hebrew and English fonts are serviceable, and the liberal use of color in the texts is quite helpful. It is printed on durable paper that gives it a nice feel. On these merits alone, the Nehalel Siddur is a worthwhile contribution.
Upon hearing about this Siddur, however, my skepticism was stoked by two overriding questions. First, would the Siddur be practical to use for davening, or would the pictures be so distracting and intrusive that it would function better as a coffee table book rather than as an instrument of prayer? Second, how would the inclusion of pictures effect the experience of for davening? The layout of the Nehalel Siddur immediately allayed both of these concerns. The pictures were chosen to exemplify a line in the text of a prayer; there is an additional visual link through the highlighting of the line of text in English and Hebrew to help the user make the intended connection. The pictures (all still life photographs or pictures of people or animals) are tastefully chosen, artistic, and almost unfailingly relevant. They are not Read the rest of this entry »