The Siddur in the Chain of Tradition

By Rabbi Sharon Litwin

Why have your own personal Siddur, or prayerbook? Most of the time when we pray, we use the Siddurim that are in the congregation. We grab one as we walk in, maybe check out the inscription or dedication on the inside cover and open to whatever page the congregation is up to when we enter the sanctuary. But, actually Jewish tradition is that sometimes people pray alone. Of course, you may know that it is a Mitzvah to pray every day, three times a day, but that might not be your personal tradition. Sometimes though, in the quiet of our own rooms, or homes, we find comfort or solace or hope in the words of the Siddur, and it is wonderful that we can pull it right off our own shelves or out of our own drawers.

Every year, the Kitah Gimel students are given their own Siddurim as they complete their first year of formal Hebrew education at Blanche Bayar Religious School. Their parents decorated beautiful covers for them and they will get their Siddurim on May 22 at 10:30 a.m. (Please feel free to join us!). I also asked the parents to write a short inscription that we will put in the back cover of each Siddur based on the following questions:

1. What were you feeling when your child began to study Hebrew?
2. How do you hope that Hebrew and/or prayer will be important to your child?
3. What hopes or expectations do you have for your child’s Jewish education?
4. What hopes or expectations do you have for your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah?
5. What words of praise or love might you give to encourage your child to continue to live a Jewish life after becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

We understand that the words of the Siddur are the national aspirations, hopes, desires, laments, dreams, declarations of faith, and historical connections of the Jewish people. We have been reciting the same prayers for thousands of generations and they are as much a part of our story as the words of the Torah. Giving our students their own personal Siddurim, links them in the chain of this tradition and hopefully will guide them and help them find comfort as they grow in their connection to Hebrew and Judaism over their years as students in our community.

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