Or Chadash Siddur (1989): From the Preface

Tamid Echad / Always and Forever one.  There is a unity that extends throughout creation.

Our teacher, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Shlita launched the Jewish Renewal Movement in line with this ancient principle of unity among creation.

Reb Zalman:

“Often, when people begin conversations and they want to say ‘Our community does Judaism like this,’ and others say, ‘Ours does it like that.  Ours is different,’ and I want to say, ‘No.  Tamid Echad / Always and forever one.’ …  This oneness goes through history and it goes through Klal Yisroel / all the God wrestlers with whom we feel we share. [It goes through our connection to other religions too,] and the commonality also extends beyond human beings:  We share with the birds, we share with the mammals, [with] the chimpanzees (who [have been shown to be able to] learn how to speak to each other in American Sign Language and then pass it on to the next generation).  And when I watch the geese and the little goslings down at the lake, they also connect me with the oneness of it all.”  [From Reb Zalman, “Renewal is not Judaism-lite“, 1998]

There is an attitude in many communities, (and into which, I’m sure, each of us may sometimes lapse), which says, “We think our way is better than others’ ways.  We prefer ours.  We do not agree with the others and the way they do things.”

In 1989, Reb Zalman took aim at this way of thinking and wrote a wonderful text to encourage detractors to the Or Chadash Siddur to look with a right kind of understanding and attitude.  It was included as a Preface in the Siddur which was first published that year by ALEPH–Alliance for Jewish Renewal, (then called P’nai Or.)

Here is a freely rendered English translation from Reb Zalman’s original Rabbinic-style Hebrew.  The text was targeted at Orthodox Rabbonim and skeptics everywhere.

(NOTE: A link to the original Hebrew text is included here.
Introduction and Translation by Gabbai Seth Fishman BLOG Editor):

For Intolerance Regarding New Practices In Prayer

It is the responsibility of leadership in every generation to remove stumbling blocks from paths provided for seekers of Hashem.  The needs of the faith community have dramatically changed.  In our generation, many of the paths to Heaven that used to work very well in the past, don’t work any more.  Why is that?  For several reasons:

  1. The holy souls who perished in the Holocaust didn’t have their prayers answered by God.  How can we expect that God will listen to our prayers, especially if those who were more observant than we were killed?
  2. Great changes have come about in life principles we hold dear, in our ways of thinking, in the ways we see reality and in the qualities of our existence.

At this time, after having found ourselves in such a great crisis, new ways of understanding have emerged.  When the young people who were exposed to meditation, to Zen, to Buddhism, to Hinduism, to Sufism, to drugs and to psychological introspections came to Jewish leaders looking for a home in our Yeshivot and our houses of prayer, we told them to just be satisfied with our Jewish professionals, Cantors and Rabbis but, this has not worked for them.

Woman’s worth and value, her place in Yiddishkeit and all that is nurtured through feminine awareness has risen from its previously suppressed levels. The Holy Shechinah is found among her daughters who honor her.  And many Kabbalah teachings that have elevated her but were previously hidden from sight, have found good interpreters who explain these ideas and open up the fountains and sources to the world at large, so that women and men seeking Judaism can quench a thirst in their souls for woman’s voice, thereby allowing those souls to begin to shine for them.

Orthodox outreach going on from before the Holocaust led many people onto a path of return but some of these, while having been touched by those looking to restore the Orthodoxy of days gone by, did not find a home for themselves among the Haredim.  These people also have spiritual needs and they have put these yearnings toward finding spiritual and ethical ways to live and to repair society, although they did not become Orthodox.  They are busying themselves with the needs of the community and helping to strengthen education, health and healing sciences.  They are doing good works and we can be proud of them in the context of their non-Haredi lives and make a spritual home for them.

The metaphors in liturgy which have come from days of yore no longer inspire to the same degree.  Many are turned off by imagery of lording over, ruling, and judging.  Our relationship with God and the imagery used during prayer needs to be broadened to allow more individuals to relate in ways that are meaningful for them, e.g. Friend, Lover, Merciful Mother, Splendorous Nature, Creator who is Love, and God who loves His / Her creatures.  We feel empowered and we have taken the responsibility to show our people how to shape their God imagery in accordance with their hearts, thereby fulfilling the requirement to build God’s kingdom each year with God’s encouragement.  Consequently, huge changes in our times must lead to corresponding changes in traditional ways of addressing God, thereby shining a light on the new paths and thereby bringing healing to the world caused by conflicts between outlook and the practices that come from the past in our institutions.

Therefore we are setting out to make an effort to find a way forward, something which will bring a new positive way, drawing on practices that have already come about in gatherings of Jews who have been pioneering new ways having drawn from our heritage, and the legacy of all Israel.  We hope to be welcomed by seekers, men, women, mystics, the spiritually hungry and thirsty, Jews and non-Jews who are looking for Yirat Hashem / holy awe.  In particular we are dealing with tefillah and prayers and so we have gathered of the treasures that are already out there and chosen the best so that we could present it to our community.  May all that are hungry and needy come and partake in our Siddur.

Pay attention and don’t just judge by what your eyes tell you that this is different.  As our tradition teaches, moshiach will not judge by the evidence of his eyes only.  Enter into the kind of davvening, try it out, and have that dialogue between yourself and your soul regarding what you’ve found.  You will notice some light in the new ways that our lips pray to God.  And when you consider and look further, you will observe that even those things that you might not like were also based on some very good foundations.  There’s a real continuity and there is more to our having connected to the tradition than to our having disconnected from it.

We have taken a practice of davvening in a circle which is in line with Chasidic tradition.

Anyone who is satisfied with conventional prayer, who feels the energy through sounding out the words in the siddur, who feels closeness to God using standard melodies, this Siddur is not meant for him or her and may their prayers be answered, there is no bad feelings about this.

Indeed, may blessings come to all who busy themselves with the needs of the faith community in every land, Amen.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

3 Responses to “Or Chadash Siddur (1989): From the Preface”

  1. For Intolerance Regarding New Practices In Prayer « The Open Siddur Project Says:

    […] P’nai Or Siddur (1989) by the P’nai Or Siddur Committee headed by Rabbi Leila Berner and Reb Zalman (the Spiritual Chair of the committee), and made available digitally by the Reb Zalman Legacy Project here. The translation of Reb Zalman’s essay was made by Gabbai Seth Fishman, editor of the RZLP website, and approved by Reb Zalman. We are grateful to Gabbai Seth for sharing his translation, likewise, and for bringing it to our attention. […]

  2. Esther Marcus Says:

    Where can i buy a copy of the Or Chadash Siddur 1989 siddur?

  3. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    Shalom Esther Marcus:
    It does not seem to be available anywhere. It is logged in a few libraries.
    We used it to davven at P’nai Or in Philadelphia when Reb Zalman lived here, between 1989 and 1995. They gave a copy out to every person who signed up to be at the P’nai Or Kallah in 1989 and 1991. It is a loose leaf binder, the idea being that it should be easy to update as people brought new inspirations.

    They had symbols they pioneered to add choreography to prayers, though we never used those at Pnai or. They also gave a four set cassette tape with music and the tapes were cross referenced to the pages in the siddur.

    The tapes were wonderful and I used to listen to them a lot in the 90’s.

    At P’nai Or, we only used perhaps 10 % of it because there were just certain things we were in the habit of doing, e.g. Shefa Gold’s “the morning will arise of us” and Geela Rayzel’s “By the shores of the red red sea”.

    There was also lots of alternatives for people who didn’t want to say the standard formula, baruch ata adonay eloheinu melech haolom: e.g. at brucha ya sh’khina chei haolamim and the like.

    There was a big section for opening the spirit, kavvanah, torah study for the torah brakhot. It was nice, but even nicer was the community and the occasional appearance of Reb Zalman, to lead or teach. Davvening in his presence off and on for six years was a real blessing. One time, he took me aside in the children’s room and asked me if I would davven so he could hear me. He gave me some pointers. The best was to hear him davven his own personal amidah each time to be in his presence. He’s taught that the best thing is to be with a davvener so you can learn how to davven. He learned from his rebbe, Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch and I learned from him.

    Brachot,
    Gabbai Seth

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