Encyclopedia > Siddur

  Article Content


The siddur is the prayerbook used by Jews the world over, containing a set order of daily prayers. There is a separate entry on the prayers that appear in the siddur, and when they are said. This entry discusses how some of these prayers evolved, and how the siddur as we know it today has developed.

Table of contents
1 Variations and additions on holidays
2 History of Jewish liturgy
3 Different Jewish rites

Complete versus weekday siddurim

Some siddurim have only prayers for weekdays; others have prayers for weekdays and Shabbat (the Sabbath). Many have prayers for weekdays, Shabbat, and the three Biblical festivals, Sukkot (the feast of Tabernacles), Shavuot (the feast of weeks) and Pesach (Passover). The latter are referred to as a Siddur Shalem (complete siddur).

Variations and additions on holidays

There are many additional liturgical variations and additions to the siddur for the Yamim Noraim (The Days of Awe; High Holy Days, i.e. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur). As such, a special siddur has developed for just this period, known as a machzor (also: mahzor). A machzor contains not only the basic liturgy, but also many piyutim, Hebrew liturgical poems.

History of Jewish liturgy

The earliest parts of Jewish prayer are the "Shema Yisrael" (Hear O Israel) (Deut. Vi. 4) and the set of 19 blessings called the Shemoneh Esreh or the Amidah (Hebrew, "Standing Prayer".)

The name Shemonah Esreh, literally "eighteen," is a historical anachronism, since it now contains nineteen blessings. It was only near the end of the Second Temple period that the 18 prayers of the weekday Amidah became standardized. Even at this time their precise wording and order was not yet fixed, and varied from local to local. Many scholars now believe that parts of the Amidah came from the Hebrew apocryphal work Ben Sirah.

According to the Talmud, soon after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem a formal version of the Amidah was adopted at a rabbinical council in Jabneh, under the leadership of Rabban Gamaliel II and his colleagues. However, the precise wording was still left open. The order, general ideas, opening and closing lines were fixed. Most of the wording was left to the individual reader. It was not until several centuries later that the prayers began to be formally fixed. By the middle-ages the texts of the prayers were nearly fixed, and in the form that they are still used today.

A separate article on the Amidah exists.

Readings from the Torah (five books of Moses) and the Prophets form part of the prayer services. To this framework were fitted, from time to time, various prayers, and, for festivals especially, numerous hymns. The earliest existing codification of the prayerbook is the Siddur (order) drawn up by Amram Gaon of Sura about 850. Half a century later the famous Gaon Saadiah Gaon, also of Sura, issued his Siddur, in which the rubrical matter is in Arabic.

Different Jewish rites

There are differences between the Sephardic (Spanish), Ashkenazic (German-Polish), Roman (Greek and South Italian) liturgies. The Mahzor of each rite is distinguished by hymns (piyyutim) composed by authors (payyetanim) of the district. The most important writers are Yoseh ben Yoseh, probably in the 6th century, chiefly known for his compositions for the day of Atonement, Elazar Qalir, the founder of the payyetanic style, perhaps in the 7th century, Saadiah, and the Spanish school consisting of Joseph ibn Abitur (died in 970), ibn Gabirol, Isaac Gayyath, Moses ibn Ezra, Abraham ibn Ezra and Judah ha-Levi, Moses ben Nahman (Nahmanides), and Isaac Luria.

Also see: Judaism, Prayer, Jewish services


Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History, Ismar Elbogen[?], Jewish Publication Society[?], 1993. This is the most thorough academic study of the Jewish liturgy ever written. Originally published in German in 1913, and updated in a number of Hebrew editions, the latest edition has been translated into English by Raymond P. Scheindlin. This work covers the entire range of Jewish liturgical development, beginning with the early cornerstones of the siddur; through the evolution of the medieval piyyut tradition; to modern prayerbook reform in Germany and the United States.

Kavvana: Directing the Heart in Jewish Prayer, Seth Kaddish, Jason Aronson Inc. 1997.

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer Macy Nulman, Jason Aronson Inc. ,1993. Provides in one volume information on every prayer recited in the Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions. Arranged alphabetically by prayer, this book includes information on the prayers, their composers and development, the laws and customs surrounding them, and their place in the service.

The Artscroll Siddur, Ed. Nosson Scherman, Mesorah Publications. One of the most popular Orthodox prayerbooks.

To Pray as a Jew, Hayim Halevy Donin, Basic Books. Written by a modern Orthodox rabbi, this is a classic exposition of the siddur used by Jews in all denominations.

Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, Reuven Hammer, The Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

"Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals" Ed. Leonard S. Cahan, The Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

"Siddur Sim Shalom" Ed. Jules Harlow[?], The Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

See also: Amram, Eleazar Kalir, Jewish services, Siddur of Saadia Gaon

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
List of intelligence agencies

... Executive (SOE in World War Two) United States Air Intelligence Agency[?] (AIA) Army Security Agency[?] (ASA) Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Defens ...

This page was created in 38.8 ms