People often express stronger feelings about the congregational worship books that they use routinely, such as hymnals and prayer books, than they do about versions of scriptures. Though many lay people leave debates over the latter to professionals, they willingly voice strong opinions about any changes to the former. Thus the news that American Reform Judaism is introducing a new prayer book, Mishkan T'filah: A Reform Siddur, next month provides an opportunity to think about the emotions that become attached to familiar ritual books.
The NY Times article about it (thanks to my colleague, Gail Hamner, for pointing it out) provides a convenient summary of the history of Reform siddurs (prayer books) in America. The new siddur is notable for offering four versions of every prayer: in Hebrew or Aramaic, in English translation, a contemporary poetic equivalent and a theological interpretation. It also provides two short commentaries: one "historical or practical," the other "spiritual."
The new siddur has been under development for twenty years, so its appearance can hardly come as a surprise. It will be interesting, though, to see to what extent the different options it provides actually get used.
Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)