HOLY SIDDURIM, BATMAN!

In breaking news from the “lets create a siddur” world, there are two new siddurim that I’ve learned of that are entering the fold. Naturally, I’m intrigued. Let’s take a quick look at them!

1. Kehilat Sha’ar Zahav, a synagogue in San Francisco for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual Jews,” is releasing a siddur to address the unique needs of their community. Cool! I’m a fan of personalized prayer, especially when it unites a community. Full disclousure: I have not seen the siddur; however being somewhat enamoured with liturgy and understanding its makeup, I think it’s fair to talk about what I’ve learned so far. Let’s dive right in! Problem: the siddur includes (among other things which I have not yet learned of) blessings to recite upon getting a sex change, and after having random anonymous gay sex. Okay.

Setting aside my own thoughts on sex changes and random, anonymous sex (gay, or otherwise), this seems to be just a little bit contradictory doesn’t it? How does one reconcile a blessing for a sex change with a blessing extoling God for creating one in the image of God? And random sex? I’m just not going to touch that one. Seems to be pretty un-Jewish to me. The siddur also reportedly has added Jacob’s concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah, to the Avot v’Imahot. Not knowing anything about the theological reasonings for this one, I will wait to comment until I learn more.

2. “It’s a functional prayerbook and graphic novel, rolled into one!” Who could ask for more? Rabbi Benjamin Sharff has released the Comic Book Siddur – a children’s siddur in which “a minyan of muscular super heroes… fight their way to the bima to do an aliya.” My intitial reaction to this was that this is a great way to get kids interested in the siddur. And I stil think that. While a siddur and a comic book might seem to be a little diametrically opposed, ultimately, on paper, a siddur is just a book with words. If the book gets people interested in the words, then fantastic!

My only issue with this project: As I clicked through the website, I did notice that it claims to include “all of the prayers for a complete Saturday Morning Shabbat Service.” Okay. Let’s break this one down. “All” + “the prayers” + “complete” = just a little bit of confusion. It’s pretty clear that this siddur is modelled on the structure of the CCAR’s Gates of Prayer, yet it’s not identified as a Reform siddur. So are all of the prayers inclouded for a complete Shabbat service? For a Reform serice… sure! For somebody else’s service… maybe! Careful with the marketing terminology, rabbis!

Creating new siddurim is a risky business. It represents a statement of paramount theological and philosophical importance. And it’s printed on paper and bound in a book, no less! I’m looking forward to getting copies of these new siddurim, and will certainly have more to comment on when I get them.

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5 thoughts on “HOLY SIDDURIM, BATMAN!

  1. Josh Fixler says:

    1) Awesome post

    2) Comic book sidur? Count me in!

    3) I don’t know if I tell you this often, but your blog kicks tuchas.

    4) Happy belated birthday, again. I hope the festivities were wonderful

  2. I quite agree with you on the first siddur, especial your last paragraph. It all seems un-Jewish to me and rather silly. In the long run it will only make people more confused and possible more anti-gay.

  3. Glad you like the Comic Book Siddur! I’m Howard Salmon, the artist and primary author. If you buy it online, I’ll sell it to you for the best price you can find online (plus shipping); There are some pirates out there knocking off copies of my book, but accept no imitations! Call me directly at (520) 203-6803 (US), or email me at hsalmon@howardalmon.com. I’ll also give you discounts for bulk orders and for credit card purchases. But direct from the source!

  4. By the way, and to add to the discussion, the reason that I didn’t specify that the Comic Book Siddur was philosophically from the Reform perspective is primary because of the issue of imagery. When I was first imagining this book, I wondered if it would be okay to include pictures of superheroes alongside hebrew text, given the prohibition of graven imagery. My rabbi, however, assures me that imagery is fine, since is used as a study aid; the drawings are not intended to be worshipped (as, say, a golden calf). However, conservative and orthodox folks may still have an issue this this approach to the siddur (but that may change, given other inroads that pop culture has made into orthodox judaism). As an artist, this issue has always troubled me, until I discovered the Synagogue at Dura Europos, which is an covered with murals illustrating the stories of the Bible. I hope I haven’t written too much here…!

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