By Carol Levithan
There is growing excitement about the publication of Siddur Lev Shalem for Shabbat and Festivals, now in the final stages of editing with publication anticipated for late Fall 2015. Why a new siddur? The answer: Mahzor Lev Shalem that has gone through five printings and sold over 320,000 copies since publication in 2009. The four column format, with historical and explanatory material in the first column, next to the Hebrew, and poetry, kavanot and inspirational readings in the fourth column, next to the English, has transformed the experience of being in synagogue for the High Holidays.
While the immediate success of the mahzor quickly led to creating the Siddur Lev Shalem, committee, Rabbi Ed Feld, chair of both prayer book committees, observes there were also compelling reasons to create a new Conservative siddur. “You can’t describe God as ‘awesome’ anymore,” is his persuasive way of illustrating how language changes and why “each generation needs its own translation,” as reflected in the carefully crafted literal translation in both the mahzor and siddur that allows the reader to choose how to relate to the text. Commentary elucidating the text has also become an integral feature in prayer books; even in siddurim recently published in Israel for native Hebrew speakers.
Siddur Lev Shalem, joining the mahzor on the bookshelf of sacred texts, represents the essence of the Conservative movement, combining historical wisdom with spiritual searching and, as one rabbi put it, “Lev Shalem stretches us in two directions: both towards the Tradition and towards the contemporary. It includes all the prayers and psalms familiar from previous Conservative siddurim and makes them more accessible with clear instructions and explanations, extensive transliteration as well as more literal and poetic. The siddur also serves as an anthology, offering a wide array of readings such as alternative versions of prayers from the Italian rite, dating back to the first millennium in the land of Israel. The full range of Jewish historical and cultural experience is on these pages, inviting daveners to see themselves as links in an unbreakable chain of North African, Italian, Sephardic, Middle Eastern and Ashkenazi Jews whose prayers are included, some of them for the first time in centuries.
This siddur is also a book for our time, stretching us towards the contemporary. An expanded collection of mi sheberakhim that includes wording appropriate for gay couples marks life-cycle occasions celebrated in the synagogue – naming a baby girl, adoption, becoming grandparents, marking a birthday or anniversary, traveling to Israel. There is a prayer to be recited by mourners or those observing a yahrzeit when no minyan is present that includes a communal response, acknowledging the need for support when Kaddish cannot be said. Since the opening of the ark has historically been a time for personal prayer, the siddur includes meditations and private prayers to supplement the traditional Zohar reading. The siddur’s unique “fourth column” offers poems and an extraordinary array of other material that can be read, sung or recited responsively, drawn from the vast treasure house of Jewish writing ranging from the Bible, Talmud and rabbinic midrash to the Rambam, Rav Nahman, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Mordecai Kaplan, Ismar Schorsch and modern poets such as Zelda, Marge Piercy, Marcia Falk, Yehuda Amichai and many, many more.
The ancient practice of reciting Song of Songs (still observed in Sefardi synagogues) offers an alternative for beginning the Friday evening service and along with other poetry provides opportunities to teach and sing exquisite melodies from our rich musical tradition. For each festival there is a reading from or related to the megillah for that holiday, poems that speak to the unique quality of remembering loved ones in that season and a meditation “In Memory of a Parent who was Hurtful”, that will resonate deeply for those unable to recite the traditional Yizkor prayer for a parent.
To inspire and support greater home observance, Siddur Lev Shalem begins with a text on Preparing for Shabbat followed by an expanded section for candle lighting with poetry, new meditations, readings and kavannot as well as traditional blessings. A Shabbat BaBayit section ideal for guests includes all home rituals, table songs (transliterated!), Havdalah and explanations of Shabbat rituals. Siddur Sim Shalom is a book for shul and home, certain to nurture the tradition of owning prayer books and passing them on to the next generation.
Siddur Lev Shalem for Shabbat and Festivals Committee
Rabbi Edward Feld, Senior Editor
Rabbi Jan Uhrbach, Associate Editor
Rabbi David Ackerman
Cantor Joanna Dulkin
Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz
Rabbi Cantor Lilly Kaufman
Rabbi Alan Lettofsky
Rabbi Rob Scheinberg
Our order has arrived! Question: Is there a study version of Siddur Lev Shalem? Thank you for your time. - Liz, at Rutland Jewish Center in Rutland VT.