A siddur (Hebrew: סִדּוּר [siˈduʁ], ['sɪdəʁ]; plural siddurim סִדּוּרִים, [siduˈʁim]) is the Ashkenazi term for a Jewish prayer book, containing a set order of daily prayers. The word siddur comes from the Hebrew root ס־ד־ר meaning 'order'.
The earliest parts of Jewish prayer book are the Shema Yisrael ("Hear O Israel") (Deuteronomy 6:4 et seq), and the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), which are in the Torah. A set of eighteen (currently nineteen) blessings called the Shemoneh Esreh or the Amidah (Hebrew, "standing [prayer]"), is traditionally ascribed to the Great Assembly in the time of Ezra, at the end of the Biblical period.
The name Shemoneh 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 eighteen prayers of the weekday Amidah became standardized. Even at that time their precise wording and order was not yet fixed, and varied from locale to locale. Many modern scholars[who?] believe that parts of the Amidah came from the Hebrew apocryphal work Ben Sira.
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 Yavne, 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 in which they are still used today.
The siddur was printed by Soncino in Italy as early as 1486, though a siddur was first mass-distributed only in 1865. The siddur began appearing in the vernacular as early as 1538. The first English translation was published in London in 1738 by an author writing under the pseudonym Gamaliel ben Pedahzur; a different translation was released in the United States in 1837.
Readings from the Torah (five books of Moses) and the Nevi'im ("Prophets") form part of the prayer services. To this framework various Jewish sages added, from time to time, various prayers, and, for festivals especially, numerous hymns.
The earliest existing codification of the prayerbook was drawn up by Amram Gaon of Sura, Babylon, about 850 CE (Seder Rav ʿAmram). Half a century later Saadia Gaon, also of Sura, composed a siddur (see Siddur of Saadia Gaon), in which the rubrical matter is in Arabic. These were the basis of Simcha ben Samuel's Machzor Vitry (11th century France), which was based on the ideas of his teacher, Rashi. Another formulation of the prayers was that appended by Maimonides to the Book of Love in his Mishneh Torah: this forms the basis of the Yemenite liturgy, and has had some influence on other rites. From this point forward all Jewish prayerbooks had the same basic order and contents.
Two authoritative versions of the Ashkenazi siddur were those of Shabbetai Sofer in the 16th century and Seligman Baer in the 19th century; siddurim have also been published reflecting the views of Jacob Emden and the Vilna Gaon.
There are differences among, amongst others, the Sephardic (including Spanish and Portuguese and Mizrachim), Teimani (Yemenite), Chasidic, Ashkenazic (divided into German, Polish and other European and eastern-European rites), Bené Roma or Italkim, Romaniote (Greek, once extending to Turkey, Crimea and the southern Italian peninsula) and also Persian-, Kurdish-, Bukharian-, Georgian-, Mountain Jewish-, Ethiopian- and Cochin-Jewish liturgies. Most of these are slight differences in the wording of the prayers; for instance, Oriental Sephardic and some Hasidic prayer books state "חננו מאתך חכמה בינה ודעת", "Graciously bestow upon us from You wisdom (ḥochmah), understanding (binah) and knowledge (daat)", in allusion to the Kabbalistic sefirot of those names, while the Nusach Ashkenaz, as well as Western Sephardic and other Hasidic versions retain the older wording "חננו מאתך דעה בינה והשכל", "Graciously bestow upon us from You knowledge, understanding, and reason". In some cases, however, the order of the preparation for the Amidah is drastically different, reflecting the different halakhic and kabbalistic formulae that the various scholars relied on in assembling their prayer books, as well as the minhagim, or customs, or their locales.
Some forms of the Sephardi rite are considered to be very overtly kabbalistic, depending on how far they reflect the ritual of Isaac Luria (see Lurianic Kabbalah). This is partly because the Tetragrammaton frequently appears with varying vowel points beneath the letters (unpronounced, but to be meditated upon) and different Names of God appear in small print within the final hei (ה) of the Tetragrammaton. In some editions, there is a Psalm in the preparations for the Amidah that is printed in the outline of a menorah, and the worshipper meditates on this shape as he recites the psalm.
The Ashkenazi rite is more common than the Sephardi rite in America. While Nusach Ashkenaz does contain some kabbalistic elements, such as acrostics and allusions to the sefirot ("To You, God, is the greatness [gedullah], and the might [gevurah], and the glory [tiferet], longevity [netzach],..." etc.), these are not easily seen unless the reader is already initiated. It is notable that although many other traditions avoid using the poem Anim Zemiroth on the Sabbath, for fear that its holiness would be less appreciated due to the frequency of the Sabbath, the poem is usually sung by Ashkenazi congregations before concluding the Sabbath Musaf service with the daily psalm. The ark is opened for the duration of the song.
Hasidim, though usually ethnically Ashkenazi, usually use liturgies with varying degrees of Sephardic influence, such as Nusach Sefard and Nusach Ari, in order to follow the order of the prayers set by Rabbi Isaac Luria, often called "Ari HaKadosh", or "The Holy Lion". Although the Ari himself was born Ashkenazi, he borrowed many elements from Sephardi and other traditions, since he felt that they followed Kabbalah and Halacha more faithfully. The Ari did not publish any siddur, but orally transmitted his particular usages to his students with interpretations and certain meditations. Many siddurim containing some form of the Sephardic rite together with the usages of the Ari were published, both by actual Sephardic communities and for the use of Hasidim and other Ashkenazim interested in Kabbalah. In 1803, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi compiled an authoritative siddur from the sixty siddurim that he checked for compliance with Hebrew grammar, Jewish law, and Kabbalah: this is what is known today as the "Nusach Ari", and is used by Lubavitch Hasidim. Those that use Nusach HaAri claim that it is an all-encompassing nusach that is valid for any Jew, no matter what his ancestral tribe or identity, a view attributed to the Maggid of Mezeritch.
The Mahzor of each rite is distinguished by hymns (piyyutim) composed by authors (payyetanim). The most important writers are Yose ben Yoseh, probably in the 6th century, chiefly known for his compositions for Yom Kippur; Eleazar Kalir, the founder of the payyetanic style, perhaps in the 7th century; Saadia Gaon; 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. In the case of Nusach HaAri, however, many of these High Holiday piyyutim are absent: the older piyyutim were not present in the Sephardic rite, on which Nusach HaAri was based, and the followers of the Ari removed the piyyutim composed by the Spanish school.
Some siddurim have only prayers for weekdays; others have prayers for weekdays and Shabbat. 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").
Below are listed many popular siddurim used by religious Jews. This list mostly excludes prayer books specifically for the High Holidays; see Machzor (Popular versions).
These siddurim follow the halakha of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (1920–2013) a Talmudic scholar, and authority on Jewish religious law, and spiritual leader of Israel's ultra-orthodox Shas party. Yosef believed that the Sephardic halakhic tradition favoured leniency, and these principles are reflected in his siddurim. please note, these siddurim are also for the Edot Ha-mizrach communities.
The Baladi Jews (from Arabic balad, country) follow the legal rulings of the Rambam (Maimonides) as codified in his work the Mishneh Torah. Rabbi Yiḥye Tsalaḥ (Maharits) revised this liturgy to end friction between traditionalists (who followed Rambam's rulings and the siddur as it developed in Yemen) and Kabbalists who followed the innovations of the Ari. This prayer book makes very few additions or changes and substantially follows the older Yemenite tradition as it had existed prior to this conflict.
The Shami Jews (from Arabic ash-Sham, the north, referring to Palestine or Damascus) represent those who accepted the Sephardic rite, after being exposed to new inexpensive, typeset prayer books brought from Israel and the Sephardic diaspora by envoys and merchants in the late 17th century and 18th century. The "local rabbinic leadership resisted the new versions....Nevertheless, the new prayer books were widely accepted." As part of that process, the Shami modified their rites to accommodate the usages of the Ari to the maximum extent. The text of the Shami siddur now largely follows the Sephardic tradition, though the pronunciation, chant and customs are still Yemenite in flavour.
Reconstructionist Rabbi Rebecca Alpert (Reform Judaism, Winter 1991) commented:
Liberal prayerbooks tend increasingly to avoid male-specific words and pronouns, seeking that all references to God in translations be made in gender-neutral language. For example, the UK Liberal movement's Siddur Lev Chadash (1995) does so, as does the UK Reform Movement's Forms of Prayer (2008). In Mishkan T'filah, the American Reform Jewish prayer book released in 2007, references to God as “He” have been removed, and whenever Jewish patriarchs are named (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), so also are the matriarchs (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah).
Yoreh writes about his work: "I think prayer is communal and private expression of hopes, fears, an appreciation of aesthetic beauty, good attributes. But that has nothing to do with God.”