GoalsThe goal of this small work is very simple ? to provide a companion to the Shabbat evening and morning services. There are many excellent siddurim with modern translations, and the Shabbat Siddur Companion is intended to be used alongside these, but most certainly not to replace them. In fact, all of the prayers in the Companion are cross-referenced to their location in two popular regular siddurim ? the ArtScroll siddur, which is commonly found in all English-speaking countries, and the New Singer's siddur, which is popular in Commonwealth countries, particularly in England.
There is, of course, no substitute for a complete siddur, especially as our prayer services were formulated by the prophets and sages of Israel, who understood man's capabilities and innermost yearnings via-a-vis his relationship with G-d. The structure and breadth of the service is sacrosanct, and we interfere with it at our peril ? for both legally and conceptually we undermine the lofty goals of Jewish prayer by so doing.
Nonetheless, there are many people who find themselves unable to "get into" Jewish prayer, despite modern advances in presentation and translation. Many sit like spectators in the synagogue, unable to participate in the services, and sadly many others are put off from attending at all. The Shabbat Siddur Companion is a small contribution to improving this situation, for it is hoped that it will serve as a basic introduction to participatory synagogue attendance and hence as a lead into the majestic world of Jewish prayer. It is the author's fervent hope that the Companion, when used in conjunction with a traditional siddur, will bring alive the ideas and practices of the synagogue services and enable a significant number of those who do not pray to become gradually enthused by and involved in the ancient art of tefillah.
Content and UsageThe Shabbat Siddur Companion comprises the main parts of each of the Friday Night and Shabbat Morning prayer services with the original text of the selected segments. Each selection is accompanied by a new translation and relevant footnotes. The translation is not absolutely literal, but instead is designed to convey the ideas of the Hebrew original in a readable and relevant form. The author makes no apologies for any inconsistencies in the translation ? the choice of English usage is based on the need to preserve the key ideas in the text at hand, rather than a slavish adherence to particular style.
In addition to these features, a new concept has been introduced. This was designed by Mr. Phillip Leigh, the instigator of the whole project. For each selection (and for longer prayers, two or more per selection) there are a few English words adjacent to the Hebrew text. These words encapsulate, as best as possible, the core meaning of the prayer or segment thereof. Ideally, one should read the Hebrew original text, or its English translation. However, this brief encapsulation enables the beginner to gain a taste of the prayer itself prior to the stage at which he or she is able or sufficiently committed to read it in its entirety. These few words can be read, considered or savoured. This will, in time, lead to a greater involvement in the original prayer and generate a desire in the reader to participate more fully.
It should be emphasised once again that these tools are intended as an introduction to traditional Jewish prayer and are not a substitute for it. The goal for every praying Jew is to read the original prayers in the context of a traditional prayer service. A great deal of time and effort has been put into designing the page format such that both the Hebrew text and the encapsulation are clearly readable.
It is intended that the reader will graduate from considering the encapsulation to reading the prayer from the Companion and eventually move on to a regular siddur. It is anticipated that it will take the reader of the Companion approximately the same time to consider the encapsulation and read the English translation as it takes for the original prayer to be said in the synagogue. Hence the reader will keep pace with the synagogue service. Deeper insight can be gained by longer consideration of the brief ideas in the encapsulation or by reading the accompanying footnotes.
Explanatory ServicesMany modern synagogues run an "explanatory service" simultaneously with the regular synagogue services. This takes the form of an abbreviated service with explanations, audience participation and discussions, the goal of which is to educate the participants in the art of Jewish prayer. By attending a number of such sessions, they are prepared to engage in a regular service with a far greater level of understanding and enthusiasm than before. In reality, the "explanatory service" is a class about prayer rather than a formal halachic service. As such, the Shabbat Siddur Companion is a most suitable text to use during these services. It may be used to facilitate easy entry to the traditional services, for once familiarity with the Companion is developed in the "explanatory service", it can be used in the traditional setting until the reader gains sufficient confidence to rely entirely on a regular siddur.