Every Jew knows the siddur, but few really study it in depth. This prayer book has a definite structure that has evolved over the centuries. Multiple authors and scribes have contributed to its content. Paul H. Vishney, an Orthodox rabbi, has written this guide based on the curriculum for a class he taught at his synagogue. He bases his work on the Daily Prayer Book by Philip Birnbaum and the Complete Artscroll Siddur by Rabbi Nosson Scherman. Rabbi Vishney provides a history of the siddur and an explanation of the brachot. He then examines the daily prayers (Birchot Hashacher, Sh’ma, Psukei D’zimra, Amida, etc.), Sabbath prayers, Torah reading, and special prayers for Rosh Chodesh and counting the Omer. He also looks at Kiddush, Havdalah, and Birkat Hamazon. He explains the history and structure of each prayer and adds interesting lore and details in sidebars. A glossary and bibliography provide further information. Although the author provides an Orthodox perspective, anyone with a serious interest in the siddur and Jewish prayer will learn a great deal from this book. Gloss., index, notes.
Barbara M. Bibel is a librarian at the Oakland Public Library in Oakland, CA; and at Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA.