Siddur Nehalel beShabbat – Book Review

I received Siddur Nehalel beShabbat in the mail last Wednesday. A quick glance through the siddur told me that this is something special.

I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the Nevarech Bencher. I’ve always found it difficult to use and the pictures distracting.

Despite that I decided to take the plunge with the siddur. I would use Siddur Nehalel beShabbat for all of my Shabbat tefillot. I wanted a fresh experience, so I set it aside until Mincha on Friday afternoon.

I wanted to really find out what it is like to use. What would I like? What would I hate? What’s included? What’s missing? I decided the best way to discover the truth was by using the siddur without preconditions.

What’s Good

The Siddur Nehalel beShabbat starts where it should with candle lighting and Mincha for Erev Shabbat.

Several things impressed me right away. The Hebrew font is clean and clear. The text includes symbols indicating sheva na, kamatz katan, and when the main accent is not on the last syllable.

The font color is very well chosen to show up on the different backgrounds. Only once or twice did the photograph even partially obscure any text.

The photographs are not just cute illustrations. Each photo is meant to illustrate an idea expressed in the text. The relevant text is highlighted for clarity.

Michael Haruni, the translator and driving force behind Siddur Nehalel beShabbat, discusses various issues presented by using photographs in a special introduction to this siddur.

…we are all too aware of the difficulty of focusing on what our prayer is about. All too often we become lulled into reflexively uttering word sequences, without thought of their meanings. …

The juxtaposing of photographs that portray the meanings of the texts can help us deal with this problem.

Of course, just because there are photos to help you understand a text doesn’t mean that all of your problems with tefillah will go away. A well-chosen photo may help kavanah. But the photo may not go far enough. It can still be necessary to use your own imagination to reach the depth of a concept.

Here is an example of the photographs used in this siddur. This is a panorama of the Jerusalem skyline taken shortly after sunset. It is used to illustrate the line “thrill them with the rebuilding of Yerushalayim” from the Friday night zemirot.

View of Jerusalem at night from Gilo.

View of Jerusalem at night from Gilo.

I only wish that my scanned image really did it justice.

A great feature of this siddur are some useful appendices:

  1. Readings for special shabbats
  2. All of the Psalms that appear in the siddur
  3. Days when Av Harachamim and Tzidkatecha are omitted
  4. Transliterated Kaddish

I especially like that the publisher did not force every line in the Hebrew and English to stretch across the page. This gives each page a more open feel.

An added special touch of the Siddur Nehalel beShabbat is the place holder ribbon. This is very useful with such a large book.

Readership

It’s tempting to say that the Siddur Nehalel beShabbat is for everyone who wants to deepen their davening experience.

However, that’s really not true.

I can think of several groups who will not want to use this siddur.

1. If you think the photos will distract you too much, then this is not the best siddur for you. However, don’t dismiss the siddur just because of the photographs. I found that they aren’t so distracting.

If you find the photos too distracting to use the siddur for davening, you may still find it useful as a tool to prepare for Shabbat davening.

2. Some of the photographs in the siddur show images of women. I don’t think that these photos present any tzeniut issues, but some will find any photo of a girl or woman unacceptable.

3. There are many photos depicting Jewish life in WWII and the founding of the modern State of Israel. The authors clearly view these historical events as pointing towards the redemption of the Jewish people and humanity as a whole. Some will object to this viewpoint.

How to Use This Book

This is a siddur. Daven from it.

But it’s more than a siddur.

Use it to inspire you. Use it to learn some of the meanings that rest beneath the surface of our teffilah.

What’s Missing

Though I like Siddur Nehalel beShabbat a lot, it’s not perfect.

It’s heavy. Almost 2 1/2 pounds. It is probably too heavy for some folks to use on a regular basis.

Shockingly, I can’t find the beracha “al hamichiya” in the siddur.

Granted, it’s possible to go through Shabbat without needing to say “al hamichiya.” However, if you’ve made the day kiddush on wine and cake, you would conclude kiddush with that beracha. It’s also the beracha generally said after havdalah.

On a related note, Birkat HaMazon is only included after the Friday night zemirot. That makes sense.

However, it would have been good the end of the zemirot for second and third meals to include a page reference to Birkat HaMazon.

I admit that my next point is a picky one, but it did make me pause:

The Shabbat morning Pesukei Dezimrah begins with a photo of the sun low on the horizon over Jerusalem. Beautiful.

Until you look closely. It’s the setting sun, not the rising sun. Come on, guys. You couldn’t find a sunrise photo?

What I Would Like

As I mentioned above, this book is heavy.

I would love a Hebrew only version. That could significantly lower the weight.

The publisher plans to produce a yom tov machzor, Nehalel beRegalim. I hope they decide to publish separate volumes for Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

I think a one-volume machzor would be too heavy and bulky.

My Verdict

If you love the Nevarech bencher, then I’m sure you’ll want to buy and use Nehalel beShabbat.

Even if you’re like me and not a fan of the bencher, you owe it to yourself to check out the siddur. It could change your davening experience.

Siddur Nehalel beShabbat, nusach Ashkenaz. Published by Nevarech.
English translation by Michael Haruni.
Foreword by Rabbi Daniel Landes and Introduction by Rabbi Dr. Zvi Grumet.

Disclosure: I was given a review copy of Siddur Nehalel beShabbat by the publisher.

What’s Next?

Don’t just sit there! Go buy the Siddur Nehalel beShabbat!

Like what you read?
If so, sign up for more, and get a FREE COPY of my eBook, How to Learn Chumash with Rashi! Just enter your first name and email below:
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 6 comments
Ruti Eastman

Here’s another nit-picky point, but one that increasingly matters to me. Can you tell me if the harachamans for the State of Israel and for the soldiers are listed in the Birkat Hamazon? I have oodles of benchers and siddurim around the house — talk about affluence, b”H! — that don’t include these requests. So I’m focusing only on adding those that do, such as the Koren Sacks Siddur (now available in English in Nusach Sfard, btw…).

Reply
    Shlomo Skinner

    Yup, you got ‘em there on page 150. Also on that page is a picture of a ship docking at Haifa in 1945 full of survivors from Europe.

    Reply
Batya

This  post is included in Shiloh Musings: Pre-Purim Havel Havelim #399 (Could it Really be #399?).  Please see the others, comment and share, thanks.

Reply

Leave a Reply: