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Ask the rabbi Halacha Customs of Pronunciation and Wording
Question
Hi, I have been using the Nusach Sepharad Siddur by Koren publishing for some time now. I started to notice some double formulations, possible contradictions, and some questionable grammar. It seems like Nusach Sepharad is just Nusach Ashkenaz with parts of Nusach Sephardi added to it. The wording is starting to feel a bit awkward now that I have noticed these things. Am I correct in my observations? I have heard similar criticisms of this nusach before. Are they baseless?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. I am glad to see that you must be praying with a good level of concentration to notice all these points! May your prayers all be heard on High, together with the prayers of all of Israel. The history of the Sefard version of prayers is very interesting – and certainly a topic that deserves more detail than a short answer like this can give it. In general you are correct that it is basically the Ashkanazi siddur with the "best of" the Sepfardi siddur added in. This was attributed to the teachings of the Ari HaKadosh – but there are many versions of the Sefard siddur, each with it's own changes and additions. I am not sure exactly what you mean by "criticisms" of the Sefard siddur. It is used by great Rabbis, and a very large section of the Jewish world. If it is your custom to use it, you need to have no fear at all, and should know that you are doing the correct thing. No one today can claim that they have a "pure" version of the prayers as written by the Members of the Great Assembly. In fact, there are those that claim that the differences between different versions of the Siddur are in and of themselves spiritually meaningful and correct. These different versions reflect the differences of the spiritual makeup of the Jewish people, as found in the differences of the tribes of Jacob. In short – you should continue using the version of the Siddur that is your tradition, or that of your own synagogue. On the other hand, learning and delving into the fascinating subtleties of the wording of the siddur is to be praised. I can see that this is an area that attracts you very much. So, may I suggest that you set aside some of your learning Torah time to also learn the siddur itself? There are many good commentaries on the siddur – both explaining its meaning and the different versions. I don’t know how good your Hebrew skills are – but let me recommend two books (in Hebrew). Rav Jacobson has a 5 volume set called "Netiv Binah" which covers all the prayers, their history and meaning. Also, the two volume set called "Otzar HaTefillot" has extensive notes and comments. I am sure that both would bring you much knowledge and pleasure. May you be blessed with only good.
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