A Siddur to Send Spirits Soaring

July 28, 2013

by Joanne PalmerNehalel

It’s funny, the way the human desire for novelty often is at war with the desire for the comfortingly familiar.

When it comes to the Shabbat siddur — the Sabbath prayer book — usually the need for familiarity wins.

Liturgy, of course, does not change as much as it gradually grows, as if it were a luminescent pearl, in many parts of the Jewish world. How, why, if, and how much it should or does change is a question for theologians, philosophers, linguists, and historians.

But the way the book looks — that’s a different matter.

Typefaces and layouts change as technology changes; at the very least, they become larger, clearer, and more easily readable. Translations change as language changes.

Nehalel be Shabbat, a new Hebrew-English Israeli production, is something else again. It’s an illustrated Shabbat siddur; it combines the absolutely familiar — the liturgy — with photography that illuminates those words, highlighting phrases as surely as if with a spotlight.

The liturgy is straightforward Ashkenazi Orthodox, meaning the text is not the one used by chasidim, Sefardim, the Mizrachi, or the more liberal streams.

Each page of Nehalel includes text in Hebrew and English; most pages have photographs, as well. On each page that has a photo, the text the art illustrates directly is printed in a color — most of the rest of the text is black or white — that makes it jump. Most of the photos are in color; some of the historic ones are stark in black and white.

The idea admittedly could be cheesy, or at best juvenile; instead, the photos have been chosen and matched with text in ways that are smart, insightful, deeply moving, and at times profound. One of the early morning blessings, the one translated here as thanks to the God “who engineers the stride of man,” is alone on a two-page spread. One of those pages shares the text with a silhouetted picture of a diaper-clad toddler, arms bent and taut, taking an early, shaky step; the facing page is of an astronaut leaving footprints on the moon, its surface at his feet and reflected on the glass of his helmet.

Much of the liturgy calls for photographs of created glories — of the earth from afar, of canyons and forests and planted fields and mountains and sunsets. Those photos are lovely, at times surprising in their beauty. Some are of people — mostly people dressed in ways that identify them as Jewish or in Israel, but at other times, in the more universalistic prayers, people who might be Jewish, but just as likely are not.

Other photos are wrenching. Read the rest of this entry »


A Review of Siddur Nehalel BeShabbat

March 21, 2013

by Sue Epstein, Voices MagazineNehalel

We all have our siddurim, but Nehalel beShabbat (Nusach Ashkenaz. Published by Nevarech. English translation by Michael Haruni, distributed by Urim & Ktav, January 2013, $29.95) is the new siddur on the block and you’re going to want it when you see it. A modern, yet strictly traditional siddur, it is modeled on the beautiful Nevarech bencher. The traditional Hebrew text is set in very readable print, the translations  and  the photographs juxtaposed with the text gives great meaning to it and to the stark awareness of the spirituality to Zionism.

This is not simply a siddur filled with pretty pictures.  To give you an example, the bracha, “ברןך אתה …המכין מצעדי גבר” is translated “You are blessed, Hashem our God… who engineers the stride of man. The accompanying photographs directing you to the meaning of the prayer are those of a
Read the rest of this entry »


Praise for the Nehalel Siddur

March 17, 2013

From Jewish Moms:Nehalel

“Wow, look at this, isn’t this AMAZING?” This sentence was repeated over and over in the Weisberg home this past Shabbat as my daughters and I oohed and aahed over this unprecedented and stunning new siddur– with inspiring photos interspersed throughout the words of prayer in order to add deeper meaning and understanding to our prayers. An amazing present, I think, for yourself or for a simcha. Check out this link to check out some breathtaking page samples.


On Siddur Nehalel

March 4, 2013

NehalelRabbi Jeffrey Saks talks with Michael Haruni, developer, translator and photographer of the new Siddur Nehalel about his conception for the integration of text and image to create a tool for kavvana.

Click here for the full MP3. 


A Review of the Nehalel Siddur

February 24, 2013

Nehalelby Zvi Grumet

When the Nevarech bencher first appeared in 1999, it attracted attention. The notion of integrating full-page color photographs with the text of birkat hamazon caught people’s eyes. The beauty of the photographs, and he fact that they brought images of Eretz Yisrael into the birkat hamazon (perhaps redirecting the attention of that prayer to al ha-aretz hatovah), was, to many, irresistible.

As the common saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Since 1999, a number of other photographically rich birkhonim have hit the market, including the Toby Birkon (by The Toby Press) and the Praise the Land of Israel Birkon (by Koren). At a recent wedding it became clear just how far the genre had penetrated the psyche, when the family of the groom put together their own, personalized, photographic birkhon which they distributed to their guests.

In 2011, Koren moved beyond the birkhon, publishing the Koren Shabbat Evening Siddur. This slim volume is built on the foundations of the Koren Sacks Siddur, with the elegant translation and commentary of Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. It adds comments from a number of younger rabbinical figures as well as an entire section it calls “œLimmud Shabbat.” The innovation here is not so much in the selection of texts, most of which already appear in many siddurim (KeGavna, from the Sefardic tradition, Bameh Madlikin, from the Ashkenazic tradition, and Shir Hashirim, often recited by Oriental Jews), but in their classification as texts to study rather than to recite. This presentation is not only true to the origins of those texts in the siddur, but is probably linked to the siddur’s target audience: œtraditional and progressive minyanim in many contexts, from standard denominational to experimental services, from community service to Birthright trips, from classroom settings to weekend retreats (from promotional materials provided by the publisher).

Although the text of this siddur is clearly Orthodox, it seems to be designed for an audience seeking not to discharge of their religious obligation on Friday night but to Read the rest of this entry »


NEW RELEASE: Siddur Nehalel BeShabbat

February 4, 2013

NehalelModeled on the Nevarech bencher that pioneered the juxtaposition of prayers and photographs portraying their meanings, the new Nehalel Siddur brings liturgy to life in full color. The siddur includes the full traditional text, a foreword by Rabbi Daniel Landes, an introduction by Rabbi Dr. Zvi Grumet, an elegant new English translation by Michael Haruni, and over 600 pages of vibrant color photos on high quality paper.

A Kaleidoscopic Spiritual Experience

From the cosmos and nature to destruction and human struggle, the images in Nehalel Siddur tie-in various themes. The photos are partly contemporary and partly historical; partly of the natural order, partly of human reality; partly from the holy land of Israel, partly from a much wider panorama. Many are drawn from various archives – some documenting the dark times in Europe, others showing the triumphs of modern Zionism.

The result is a work that makes the themes of the liturgy conspicuous to us as we pray – with a visual force that possibly no siddur has achieved before.

Shabbat Siddur Hebrew/English Prayerbook – Ashkenaz
Published by Nevarech
Hardcover, 650 pages (plus 30 pages of front matter), includes full color photographs throughout
ISBN 13: 978-965-555-657-5
publication: 2013

Siddur Nehalel BeShabbat is a special gift item for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, graduations, birthdays, and more. Nehalel is suitable both for those familiar with Jewish prayer and newcomers looking for an exciting introduction to the liturgy.

Order today! The Nehalel Siddur is available now for ordering here, or at your local quality bookstore in the coming month.


Praise for A Window to the Siddur

November 6, 2012

A Window to the Siddur

A unique concept in teaching has been introduced in

A Window to the Siddur by Rabbi Dr. Walter Orenstein

Urim Publications, 300 pp.

“The philosophical and halakhic concepts are introduced in a dialogue between a husband and wife…What a wonderful way to absorb knowledge.”
Rabbi Meir Bilitsky: Dean, Yeshiva Har Torah

“Walter Orenstein has hit on an ingenious idea which makes his book palatable to the layperson.  It is in dialogue format telling the story of a husband and wife who are learning the themes of the Siddur together.”
Shoshana Horowitz: AJL Review

“…the dialogue style of discussion makes it dramatic and fascinating…a very worthwhile contribution.”
Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkin: Jewish Book Review


Retaining prayer’s spirituality

December 31, 2010

by Rabbi Azriel C. Fellner

Scholarly books about prayer, in fact, many books about prayer and praying, often, ironically, dull the spirit and deaden the heart. All too often, the abstract language or the academic tone distances the reader from the prayer, and destroys, in the process, the meaning and the power that originally inspired the prayer or transformed it into an emotional experience.
Thus, when a book comes along that not only uses the scholarly apparatus with skill but also retains and even revives, in some instances, the life of the prayer itself, this book is worthy of great praise.
Rabbi Barry Fruendel’s book, Why We Pray What We Pray, is an examination of six prayers: the Kriyat Sh’ma, the reading of the Sh’ma, a core prayer recited daily; the Nishmat prayer, which adorns the beginning of the Shabbat and holiday liturgy; Birkat Hachodesh, the prayer for the new moon; the controversies surrounding the Shir Hakavod, also known by the first words of the poem Anim Zemirot; the Aleinu; and the Kaddish in all its forms and varieties.
Freundel, rabbi of the Orthodox Kesher Israel in D.C. (disclosure: My brother is a congregant), begins his examination of each of these prayers by determining its earliest iterations, found either in the Bible, the Midrash, the mystical literature or the personal pleas of rabbis and teachers. Read the rest of this entry »