Warning: This review I’m about to dive into is going to be way more intense (read: more nitpicky) than just about any book review you’ve ever read. That’s just the breaks, kid. A prayerbook isn’t like any other book. For one thing, some people read it every day of their lives. For another, it’s a book that a lot of people already know by heart — or, at least, many parts of it. That’s why choosing a prayerbook is no small matter…and the introduction of a new prayerbook into the narrow market is really an open invitation to get intense and micro-detail-oriented.
(This begs the question, why use a prayerbook in the first place? As one of the subjects of our film series says, It’s not like God doesn’t already know what we’re going to say when we pray. But prayer is as much for us as it is for God — maybe even more so. It’s to connect us with something higher, or something transcendent. And even when you know what you’re going to say, it still helps to have a script. It’s like acting, except what you’re saying is true.)
That’s one of the concerns that Rabbi Sir Dr. Jonathan Sacks, the translator and elucidator of the new Koren Sacks Siddur, addressed. The siddur (official site here) is not a radical reworking of the Jewish prayerbook in the traditional sense of the word — but, in everything from its design to its politics, the Koren Sacks Siddur puts its money on the table and shows its hand…and it’s a solid one.
The red-and-gray cover has a cool, retro look, a bit like a stylish car manual and a bit like a volume from the Library at Alexandria. The Hebrew quote on the cover, “Know before whom you stand,” is both intimidating and thrilling — Oh yeah, we’re supposed to be praying to GOD.
The interior has a cool font, more stylized than the squared-off letters in most prayerbooks. These are probably closer to the look of the original stone-cut letters than those in other prayerbooks — a daled looks like a daled, and not at all like a resh. (I haven’t actually studied this, but I would warrant that the reason that the masses might resist the Koren font is that, visually, it’s less similar to English.) In any case, the font might not be everybody’s thing, but it’s mine.