We received a new edition of the daily Jewish prayer book, The Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur, A Hebrew/English Prayer Book with Commentary by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. We ordered it back in February for $21. It is currently shipping for $31.
And in making initial judgements about this edition and others that we have seen recently, we started to reflect as follows.
What is your preference? Intimidating, opaque and complex? Or inviting, transparent and simple?
That's easy, you say. The second group of characteristics is more appealing. Perhaps.
In the domain of religion, especially a religion that traces its most recent roots back to Europe, it sometimes is the case that the former group prevails.
Yes, some serious religious leaders believe that for their faith system to have authority and respect it must project an aura of complexity, not simplicity. To bolster the faith against challenges, they say, it is better that its beliefs and practices be opaque, rather than transparent. And to keep the followers in line, it is necessary to be intimidating, rather than inviting.
Prayer books ought by logic to be projections of the religious value systems they represent. And so it comes as no surprise that some foster the traits of complexity, opacity and intimidation by adding another overlay of such commentary and introductions to the already challenging core compositions of the daily liturgy.
There is nothing wrong with one style and right with another. It's just important that we describe what we see. Others may see something different. Others may prefer something else.