Breakthrough: The Enhanced Siddur

The new Tehillat Hashem Siddur with English Translation, Directions, Notes and Illustrations has just arrived hot off the press * This monumental work clearly delineates the correct procedure followed during davening, including pertinent Chabad customs. * In this exclusive interview, Beis Moshiach talked with the staff at Otsar Sifrei Lubavitch about the many improvements introduced in this siddur.


Don’t we already have a translated Tehillat Hashem Siddur?


More than twenty years have passed since Rabbi Nissan Mangel finished his translation of the Tehillat Hashem Siddur, a trailblazing work that met with worldwide acclaim. It was an entirely new translation, one that included such abstruse texts as the Shabbos z’miros (hymns), the Pasach Eliyahu prayer recited on Friday afternoons, and other previously untranslated sections. Thus, it came as no surprise that the siddur remained a bestseller for many, many years.


However, as time progressed, people began noticing that certain helpful enhancements were missing from the siddur. Though the English translation remained helpful to anyone familiar with the language, many directions and guides were sorely lacking. Shluchim in particular remained greatly frustrated by the limited help the siddur offered.


Why Shluchim?


In recent years, Chabad Houses have mushroomed in virtually every corner of the globe. Some have minyanim every day, but most have minyanim only on Shabbos and the Yomim Tovim. Many of the people attending these services just recently began davening from a Siddur; for some, this is the very first time they are davening! Now imagine the following scenario:


It is Shabbos morning at the local Chabad House. Thirty people – mostly those who have only recently become closer to Yiddishkeit – assemble for Shacharis. The shliach announces where the services begin – but then each person remains on their own. They don’t know when to sit or stand; they don’t know about holding the tzitzis during Baruch Sh’Amar; they have no idea that they need to bow the head during Barchu. Similarly, they don’t know which responses are permitted during various stages of the prayer, or which are prohibited.


All this is further complicated during the Amida. Congregants do not know precisely where or how to bow, how to take the three steps, etc.


Then it is time for the Torah reading. The Ark is opened, but the congregation does not know the proper procedure for this time. Those honored with aliyos are similarly perplexed regarding the exact behavior they should follow. The list goes on and on.


Obviously, some Chabad Houses have very friendly and helpful people who assist the newcomers through the services, but, generally speaking, many congregants are left to fend on their own. The shliach is normally busy with other responsibilities – sometimes he is the chazzan or the baal koreh – and has neither manpower nor time to stand near each and every congregant and help them through the prayers.


The above scenario is very real. It happens on a weekly basis in many Chabad Houses around the globe. We have heard stories of people coming to a Chabad House and participate in the services, only to comment: "The atmosphere was wonderful, but call me back when you get a siddur I can use." Frustrated shluchim now face two options: either they use only the Tehillat Hashem Siddur and continue experiencing their weekly dose of aggravation, or they purchase siddurim from non-Chassidic printing houses – not with the Chabad Nusach, but replete with guides and directions that are a great boon for the novice. Understandably, many shluchim have opted for the latter choice. They simply have no other choice.


Now, however, after years of research and hard work, an alternative is available. The Tehillat Hashem Siddur now has guides, notes and directions to help people through every part of the prayer service. Obviously, many of our own can also benefit greatly from this siddur. We all have our questions about various laws pertaining to the davening – questions we may be embarrassed to ask others about – and this siddur addresses them all.


What kind of guides and directions are in this siddur?


The directions and instructions accompany every phase of davening, right from the very start of the siddur – the section of Modeh Ani. The user has detailed notes explaining exactly how to recite the Modeh Ani, how to perform the washing of neggel vasser whilst still in bed, etc. These instructions continue throughout the entire siddur. It’s like having a "friendly rabbi" at your side, always ready to assist you.


Every page states clearly whether to stand, or if it is permissible to sit. Before every section of davening, there is a list of permitted responses, i.e., when it is permissible to answer amen, or the responses for the aliyos, etc. Moreover, the directions are printed on a shaded background, to ensure that the reader understands what parts of the text are the actual translation of the prayers, and what texts are merely there to guide and assist. The siddur is printed on special off-white paper, which reduces eyestrain. All these enhancements have made the siddur extremely "user friendly."


Then there are special sections in the back of the siddur. A completely new compilation of "Notes and Halachos" covers over sixty pages, bringing Chassidic insight into many sections of the davening. Perusing this section really brings an appreciation into the light of Chassidus and how it elucidates and brightens the prayers. Many halachos and Chabad customs are explained – how to make an eruv tavshilin, our custom not to sleep or decorate the sukka, and so on.


There is also a section containing Transliterations. Many congregations sing part of the davening communally, and those unfamiliar with the Hebrew language have always felt conspicuously out of place. Now, however, they can just turn to the back of the siddur and sing along with everyone else. The Kiddush for Shabbos and Yom Tov has also been transliterated. Similarly, the blessings over the Shabbos candles and the blessing for kindling the Chanuka candles were also transliterated.


What else have you added?


Another significant addition is the Prayer Guide for Special Days. This is particularly invaluable for those who, for whatever reason, cannot make it to shul for Shabbos, Yom Tov, or fast days. Stranded at home, these people have no idea where to say what parts of the davening, or what to include on these special occasions. Thanks to this guide, these people now have clear directions, enabling them to complete the prayers as though they were following along with the congregation in shul.


Also, there is a widespread custom to recite a verse from Torah at the end of the Amida. This verse should begin and end with the same Hebrew letters as the name of the person. Many siddurim print a list of common Jewish names and their corresponding Torah verses. We have included such a list at the back of the siddur, complete with English translation.


Another exciting addition is the superb illustrations by the talented artist, Shmuel Graybar. These pictures illustrate in great detail the Chabad way of donning the tallis, the t’fillin, and how to shake the lulav.


This sounds like an incredible amount of work…


It was! A team of researchers, headed by Rabbi Chaim Miller (of "Chabad Encyclopedia" fame), shliach in Leeds, England, studied and explored all the various directions and Chabad customs associated with the siddur. This was reviewed by a panel of Chabad Rabbanim, most notably Rabbi Y. Schwei, a member of the Crown Heights Beis Din. A team of editors then tackled the material, condensing and editing until everything could fit into the siddur.


Despite the sheer volume of new material, we made every effort to keep the original page layout. The Rebbe placed great emphasis on keeping the original look of a seifer, even when adding text or typesetting the material anew. In rare instances, when the many additional notes made it impossible to retain the original page layout, the page was divided evenly into two.


In summation, how do you see this as a step toward the Geula?


This siddur is a great leap forward in the dissemination of the teachings of Chassidus. Not only will many people read and appreciate the Chassidic commentary at the back of the siddur, but now a larger segment of Jews can daven with Nusach Chabad. As is well-known, this is the nusach of the Alter Rebbe, which he composed according to the mystical intentions of the Arizal, and after consulting with sixty different versions of siddurim.


Additionally, the Maggid explains that this nusach corresponds to the "thirteenth Heavenly gate," the portal through which all t’fillos can pass. May our t’fillos for Moshiach be answered speedily!



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