It was a sunny late morning in California and 11-year-old Shlomo and his teacher were sitting side by side reviewing papers together during a recess at Los Angeles’s Cheder Menachem. In their hands were sample pages of a new siddur, and each one sat engrossed.
“I never realized how much there is to davening and how much I never understood,” explains Shlomo, one of the many students from around the world to view a sample of Tzivos Hashem’s new Weiss Edition Siddur, with explanatory English translation. “If I wasn’t going to receive it through the Chayolei Tzivos Hashem program, I would have asked my parents to buy one for me.”
More than 5,000 children in over 40 schools are having the same experience this week as they begin to use the new siddur in school.
Released just as the summer began, the Weiss Siddur was created as a collaboration between Tzivos Hashem and Merkos Publications, and aims to open the door to the rich meaning of the prayers that are said by so many, and understood by so few. Sponsored and spearheaded by Rabbi Moshe and Ruti Weiss, Shluchim to Sherman Oaks, California, the innovative project seeks to remedy what for so long has been seen by many as an unattainable ideal: understanding davening.
“Pirush hamilos is crucial for davening,” says Rabbi Weiss. “Davening becomes an entirely new experience when you know exactly what you are saying.”
Created not as a research tool but as an active davening companion, the color-coded Siddur includes phrase-by-phrase explanation, a brief summary of tefillos, and hundreds of alternate explanations of select phrases based on chassidus.
The almost 700 page Siddur was researched and designed over three years, carefully taking into account the critique and advice of mechanchim, rabbonim, and lay people. The feedback, when reviewed by students and teachers alike in the last few months, has been very gratifying.
“When we sent out samples this past year the response we received was amazing; the children were just thrilled.” says Rabbi Shimmy Weinbaum, director of Chayolei Tzivos Hashem. “And now, Boruch Hashem, over 5,000 children, will be receiving this masterpiece.” That includes 932 yaldei hashluchim who participate in the Merkos run MyShliach program, a project of Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky and Merkos suite 302.
Levi S., a student in Chicago commented to this reporter that “During davening we do many things, but I never really understood their significance and why they are done. This siddur has many of the reasons behind the minhagim as well. I really like that!”
“I love to read the interesting appendices explaining things such as the history of tefillah, how it evolved into what it is today, and what davening means in Chassidus Chabad,” exclaimed Chaya from Pittsburgh.
Children, however, are not the only ones who will be able to appreciate the beautiful new Siddur.
“It was written and designed with children in mind,” explains Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson, Executive Director of Tzivos Hashem, “but countless people of all ages have conveyed that the siddur has immensely changed their davening.”
While the new Weiss Siddur includes only weekday and Rosh Chodesh davening, a Shabbos and Yom Tov edition is almost completed, to be published in the near future.