Feeling a little lost as the service in your Conservative synagogue moves ahead?
Your movement has something for you: Or Hadash (New Light), a new commentary on the Conservative movement’s prayer book, Sim Shalom. It’s a book within a book, a commentary wrapped around the prayer book. It’s a kind of beginner’s service in print, but deeper, with historical context and contemporary commentary running along side the prayers.
Its author is Rabbi Reuven Hammer, president of the denomination’s Rabbinical Assembly. It is published by the same group and is debuting at its annual convention, slated to begin Sunday in Los Angeles.
The time had come for a Conservative prayer book user’s guide, as it were, because so many people were asking for one, says Rabbi Hammer.
Some had even taking to using the Orthodox Artscroll prayer books, which utilize a clever format translating each line, and provide succinct directions about what to do when in the service.
"There’s a great deal of interest in prayer today, more than there has been in the past. These things are taken seriously by our congregants," he said. "There’s a lot more interest and understanding that the siddur is one of Judaism’s basic books, like the Torah, and worth studying."
He anticipates that Or Hadash will be used both during services in the pews, and for adult study.
"If you just give a person a siddur, it’s difficult for them to understand even with a nice English translation," said Rabbi Hammer in an interview from his home in Jerusalem. "With this, you can daven from it if you want and at the same time look at whatever’s interesting to you in the commentary and learn something at the same time".
It will be available shortly for $45, from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism book service.