Has Modern Orthodoxy Finally Gotten the Prayer Book It Needs?

For many years, the standard prayer book to be found in American Orthodox synagogues was the bilingual one produced by the ArtScroll publishing house in 1984. More recently, it has faced competition from several editions by the Israel-based Koren press, the most popular of which features the translation and commentary of the former British chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks. The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA)—the main organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis in the U.S.—last year added another siddur to the mix. In his review, Yosef Lindell compares it to its competitors: 

The RCA siddur has no overarching literary thesis about prayer, [unlike the Koren editions]. Its commentary, like [that provided by] ArtScroll, is an anthology drawing on disparate ideas and sources. But it’s a remarkable anthology, with far more discussion than Koren and far more diversity than ArtScroll. The breadth of whom it quotes is unparalleled: [the 20th-century master exegete] Neḥamah Leibowitz might be cited in one paragraph and [the 19th-century ḥasidic rabbi] Levi Yitzḥak of Berditchev in the next. The ideas of [such highly traditional rabbis as] Moses Feinstein and Eliyahu Dessler share space with the thoughts of [contemporary] Tanakh teachers with more modern literary sensibilities, like Rabbi Yitzḥak Et-Shalom, and academics like Shai Secunda. It does not shy away from the conclusions of academic scholarship, particularly when discussing the origins of prayers. Rather, it strikes a good balance between the traditional and the academic, the old and the new.

I must [also] mention the more than 100 pages of essays on prayer in the back of the siddur written by various leaders in the Modern Orthodox community and beyond, covering issues of history, halakhah, and kavannah [the inward state appropriate to prayer]. Not every essay . . . is remarkable; one standout is Rabbi Daniel Feldman’s guide to the interpersonal laws of prayer: if we know precisely under which circumstances it is appropriate to interrupt the recitation of the liturgy to say “amen,” but can’t speak civilly to a synagogue official, perhaps we’ve missed the point of prayer. So too, Rabbi Shalom Carmy’s short meditation on how the foreignness and visceral nature of animal sacrifice can unlock a deeper understanding of prayer is thought-provoking.

As for the translation of the prayers into English, Lindell compares it favorably with those of ArtScroll, but finds it inferior to Rabbi Sacks’s. The RCA prayer book also stands out in its enthusiastic liturgical embrace of religious Zionism, and its efforts to take into consideration both male and female users.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: American Judaism, Jewish liturgy, Modern Orthodoxy, Religion & Zionism, Siddur

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas