Jewish Week: Why Not Write Your Own Siddur? Tzvee: Been There, Done That

Write your own Siddur? Been there and done that!

Just how do you think the Siddur came to be? Just what do you think is in the standard Jewish prayer book?

We find embedded in it the individual custom prayer books of at least six different people, six kinds to Jews, six classic archetypes of personality and individuality.

Diversity and customization is already there on the surface and all you need to do is look for it.

So many years, generations, have gone by without a single compelling discourse on the structure and meaning of the Siddur, the Jewish prayer book, not one book that has brought the compilation of Jewish worship alive as the paradigmatic genetic container of the multiple facets of Jewish religious identity.

So of course, it makes sense that Jews would now be lining up to write their own Siddurs. They don't know what is in the one they already have.

It's a great tragedy. One we are working to address by writing about the deep archetypal meanings and messages encoded in our canonical prayers.

Everyone else is lining up to rewrite the liturgy -- because it has failed them.

No, we say stop. You have failed to see that the Siddur has grandeur and depth and magnificence, and yes, many dimensions of personality.

It is not one humble Jew talking to one majestic God.

It is many voices and angles of numerous Jewish personality  archetypes speaking to a single but complex and composite present deity.

It is already a custom prayer book - been there and done that!

Stay tuned -- we have some more to say about it.

Jewish Week summarizes the current rush to replace the synagogue liturgy.


Aharonium said...

Just to be clear, since perhaps it wasn't in the Jewish Week article, the Open Siddur Project is not engaged in any project to "rewrite the Jewish liturgy." Rather, we are creating a free digital library of source texts comprising all the historic nushaot, and creating a free and open source we application where these texts can be accessed. Seeing that most of the hiddushim innovated in the last 90 years are locked up by copyright, the Open Siddur Project is also a resource where someone can contribute and share commentaries, translations, and other supplementary texts in as many languages as Jews speak. Really there is no easy way for people to create a new custom made siddur inexpensively without the invention of such a resource. We hope that someone will cherish the Open Siddur Project who would like to see piyyutim (liturgical poetry) in their siddur that are only seen in the Cairo genizah fragments, or see variations in prayer between nushaot between Nusah Ashkenaz and Sefardi next to one another, or include a new piyyut shared by a friend.

To learn about our project from the source, please visit our website: http://opensiddur.net

Tzvee Zahavy said...

I think the looseleaf binder was invented 100 years ago. What is your value add to that?

Aharonium said...

Setting aside the obvious opportunities to share data and collaborate with others over a network, there are obvious advantages for anyone working with a vast library of source texts.

Remixing digital text and graphics with audio and video is simply not possible using the old binder, scissors and rubber glue method of siddur making. Free culture licensing offers a framework for contributing new digital content in a way facilitating remixing of new and old work.

By maintaining all of the data of all the variations of the siddur in a database, we can maintain attributions and other important metadata. Having the data formatted in XML in an open standard allows our data to be easily shared with other open source projects.

But perhaps I'm not understanding the question as you posed it...

Tzvee Zahavy said...

the questioning is meant to elicit from you more details of what you offer and examples of how people are using it... since it is not self-evident that putting stuff on the internet adds any serious real value to the world, you do have to make the case.

Efraim said...

The Open Siddur is currently at too early of a stage of development to show how it is being used. So, I'm going to outline some examples (obviously not the only ones!) of how people might use it:

- A couple is planning a wedding and wants to make an individualized wedding bentcher. They go to the Open Siddur website, choose their texts and the order they want them, add art, and select an on-demand printer. They share their bentcher in the database.

- Later, another couple wants a similar bentcher, but in a slightly different order and with some additional z'mirot. They go to the Open Siddur website and use the same bentcher as a template for their own. They share theirs in the database too, allowing others to do the same.

- A synagogue has a unique set of customs. They use the existing texts in the database and modify the texts and instruction sets to conform to their customs. They print a new siddur.

- An educator wants to share knowledge about the Jewish liturgy. She adds comments linking text in the siddur to informational essays, allowing anyone to learn from them and print them in their own siddurim.