Kosher Bookworm

Our siddur, taking us on ‘A Bridge Called Prayer'

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Yes, prayer is a bridge, a spiritual bridge that we take daily in our trip to G-d’s spiritual universe. And the bridge that we travel over is the siddur, the Jewish prayer book.

Recently, a new work was published by Mosaica Press entitled, “A Bridge Called Prayer,” authored by Rabbi Yehonason Alpren. Please consider the following words by Dr. Philip Birnbaum, the legendary siddur translator and commentator, written in 1949:

“The siddur is the most popular book in Jewish life. No book so completely unites the dispersed people of Israel. If any single volume can tell us what it means to be a Jew, it is the siddur which embodies the visions and aspirations, the sorrows and joys of many generations. The whole gamut of Jewish history may be traversed in its pages; it is a mirror that reflects the development of the Jewish spirit throughout the ages.

“Interwoven into the texture of the prayers are passages from the Bible, the Mishnah, the Talmud and the Zohar. The poetic and philosophic creations of numerous known and unknown authors constitute a considerable part of the siddur. No other book so thoroughly expresses the creative genius of our people across the centuries.”

Birnbaum’s words are further enhanced by those of one of the greatest theologians of our faith, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who, in “A Guide to Jewish Prayer” teaches us the following:

“No other Jewish book contains the entirety of Judaism. The siddur is like a garland, intertwining all the strands of Judaism and encompassing all fields of Jewish creativity in all their variegated forms. It includes sections that reflect the fundamentals of Jewish faith, and those relating to the field of religious law. … It contains sections of exalted poetry, and matters of ritual procedure. There are prayers that deal with the most intimate details of individual needs and problems, supplications reflecting the sorrows and aspirations of the nation, and prayers that touch upon the entire cosmos.”

With these precious sentiments as prologue let me share with you something about Rabbi Alpren.

He was born in Birmingham, England, in 1951, and remained at home until age 18 where he was a “classical English schoolboy” who attended a traditional English grammar school a stone’s throw from Shakespeare country — and even closer to the rugby field and cricket square!

He first visited Israel for a year in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, and then returned in Birmingham to complete a degree in business studies and finance, specializing in industrial law and labor relations. However, he was to take a turn that would redefine his life’s work, that being his enrollment in the famed Gateshead Yeshiva.

Rabbi Alpren guides his listeners with practical lessons and suggestions from Chazal, adapting and applying them into everyday life situations. He transforms Torah study into a delightful experience through inspirational insights and personal experience.

More information and recorded shiurim can be found at http://www.rabbialpren.com.

After his stint at Gatehead, he moved to London and entered the legal profession. After getting married in 1979 he moved to Jerusalem to learn at the Mirrer Yeshiva where he received semicha in 1996, and has been a member of the kollel of the Mirrer Yeshiva for the last 35 years. In 1990, the Alprens embarked on a career of teaching Torah, giving lectures, becoming a much sought after lecturer both in Israel, and worldwide.

In this writer’s opinion, Rabbi Alpren has the rare gift of making even the most complex Torah concepts come to life. His wit and wisdom, as well as his invoking a broad range of personal experiences, helps to transform Torah study into a delightful experience.

This talent is thus seen in the content and teachings in his recently released work, “A Bridge Called Prayer” in which he presents a practical view of what constitutes tefillah.

Please consider the following quote from the Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Perlow, in briefly describing Rabbi Alpren’s teachings:

“Rabbi Yehonason Alpren has written an inclusive and inspiring book on the meaning of prayer for the believing Jew. His analysis of the fundamental elements inherent in our communication with the Almighty should deepen one’s understanding of the power and purpose of our tefillos and serve as a bridge and uplifting in bringing man closer to his Creator.”

I leave it to you, my dear reader, to consider these words by Rav Perlow and take them seriously. When taken together with the teachings of Birnbaum and Rav Steinsaltz, we have before us a cherished combination of learning that will further enhance our appreciation of our sacred liturgy for the rest of our lives.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Please consider a siddur whose commentary will give you an even greater appreciation of the liturgical texts.

“The Koren Mesorat Harav Siddur” (OU Press, 2011), contains a commentary based upon the teachings of HaRav Yosef Soloveitchik, zt’’l, with translation of the siddur by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

 This work was edited by Arnold Lustiger, together with senior editor Rabbi Gil Student, one of the most gifted interpreters of Jewish theology in the world today. The literary editor is Rabbi Simon Posner, one of the most skilled editors of Judaica works and a devoted follower of the Rav’s teachings.

Also, please take note of a new work, “The Eishes Chayil Candle Lighting Treasury” (ArtScroll, 2017) by Rabbi Dov Weller, a must present for your mother, wife, mother-in-law or granddaughter, and a perfect engagement gift for your future daughter-in-law.

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