The Rav’s Siddur Has Arrived

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I am pleased and proud to announce the availability of the new Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur: Complete Tefillot with Commentary from the Teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, on which I worked. You can buy the siddur here: link or at your local Judaica store.

The siddur is bookended, with extensive overviews upfront on Rav Soloveitchik’s views on prayer (by R. Aharon Lichtenstein, R. Menachem Genack, R. Jonathan Sacks and Dr. Arnold Lustiger), a long list of Rav Soloveitchik’s practices regarding prayers and many essays in the back on halakhic prayer topics. In the middle is a full Koren Hebrew-English prayerbook for the entire year with a running commentary adapted from Rav Soloveitchik’s writings and teachings. The commentary is often brief but, in my admittedly biased opinion, very powerful. Here is an excerpt I chose largely at random (pp. 127-128):

אתה חונן לאדם דעת You grace humanity with knowledge. This is the only berakha which commences with an affirmative statement. It is the reverse of all other berakhot where we start with the petitionary sentence and conclude with an affirmative statement. Ata Honen expresses the fact that human intelligence is a source of man’s greatest pride and bliss, a source of his greatness and uniqueness. Without intelligence, man would be a brute in the field and progress would be impossible, for only through intellectual powers can man distinguish himself as an independent and powerful being who can free himself from his environment. And at the same time, human intelligence is also the source of man’s misery and suffering. Because of his intellect, man realizes his own tragic destiny and the distressful and sorrowful state of being in which he finds himself. So before we are ready to present God with our petitions, we state the cause: we pray because we realize that we are lacking. We are thankful to God for the intellectual talents and powers He has bestowed upon us. In spite of the fact that knowledge and intelligence are responsible for our misery and sorrow, we want as much knowledge and intelligence as God sees fit to bestow upon us. We are ready to accept the burden and carry it. However, at the same time, we must come before Him to pray for our salvation, for our survival, for our peace of mind, for our happiness, for our success.

This is now the siddur of the twenty-first century, combining Rav Soloveitchik’s brilliant insights with Koren’s precision and R. Jonathan Sacks’ eloquent translation. Anyone who can appreciate, or argue with, Hirhurim will want to own a copy of this prayerbook.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. Mazal Tov. Given recent threads, how is She’hem Mishtachavim treated? Parentheses, or not? Explanation, or not?

  2. The text is the same as the Sacks siddur.

  3. Not to open a can of worms, but for something that you are describing as “the siddur of the twenty-first century”, it strikes me that the use of “man” for “person/human/etc” is particularly antiquated. I’m not averse to seeing it in a translation, but in a commentary?

  4. There is this classical ‘yerushalmer’ vort explaining why chonen hadaas is different:
    Everyone knows that they are lacking health, wealth etc., but few are ready to acknowledge that they are lacking brains, and won’t admit it by saying “chonenu” as in the other berachos “refoenu” “hasivenu” etc ,
    therefore we preface “Atah Chonen” – God, if you are already giving it out, give me as well….

  5. In the ‘rav’s machzor’ there are many footnotes regarding different words or uses of the comma. How are those differences shown in this siddur? Also, I personally feel that the siddur is a few years late and might find itself ‘antiquated’ by attempts to return to ‘more authentic’ texts.

  6. I don’t know what to footnotes in the Machzor you are referring. The siddur has much less commentary than the Machzor because it is not feasible to use a siddur every day with such a high ratio of commentary to text.

    If you mean the Hanhagos, they are not in footnotes and only at the beginning of the siddur.

    This siddur is meant for the mainstream. Those wishing “more authentic” texts will have to use this siddur as a companion.

  7. Nusach Ashkenaz I assume?

  8. Yes, Nusach Ashkenaz.

  9. “This is now THE siddur of the twenty-first century”

    Came early in the century, didn’t it? BTW (from the little I’ve seen) I believe this is not a siddur for everyone and general population can get more inspiration from the Koren Sacks Siddur. The Ravs Siddur seems a bit more… intellectual (?).

  10. R’ Shimon,
    Please don’t use the dreaded I-word unless you want to kill sales!

  11. The Rav in many places does not describe דעת as knowledge.
    For example see Al HATESHUVA in Hebrew page 196 where he states it is “hakara temidis.”This is much more than mere knowledge.
    See also Reflections of the Rav page 141-142.

  12. I will get my machzor out regarding the footnotes. It gave instructions on how to daven differently, but i wont be home for some hours

  13. Joseph Kaplan

    Just a short time ago many MO shuld started buying the Koren siddur with R. Sacks’s translation and commentary. Now we have the same siddur as far as text, translation, set up etc. but with a different commentary. Wouldn’t one siddur, with commentary from BOTH R. Sacks and the Rav, have been the wiser thing to do? I think it’s a good idea for the MO community to compete with ArtScroll. But why compete with ourselves?

  14. Our community is sufficiently diverse to have people with different siddur needs. Koren offers three choices in US siddurim — Koren Sacks, Koren Talpiot (Hebrew-only) and Koren Mesorat HaRav.

    However, more to the point, the projects were undertaken separately (as was the RCA’s forthcoming siddur with Artscroll). While the Sacks Siddur was completed a few years earlier, it did not derail the Rav Soloveitchik Siddur project. The Rav’s contribution was sufficiently immense to merit his own commentary.

  15. When will they do a siddur in Nusach Sefard? How about with the normal Yotzros at least for the 4 parshiyot, Purim etc. ?

    Also why is it the siddur for the 21st century? Isn’t the Rav a modernist from the 20th century?

  16. Koren is working on a Nusach Sefard siddur. They want a siddur that fits the needs of most US shuls, which do not recite yotzros.

    Because the siddur is published in the 21st century and will be used by people, the vast majority of whom did not major in philosophy in college.

  17. Last Sunday, we were doing a little shopping in the Five Towns and I decided to buy the Siddur at one of the seforim stores as opposed to going to the Book Launch at the Jewish Center. I have rarely been so entranced with a Siddur as I was while I was skimming the essays and commentary in this Siddur.

    Arnie Lustiger, R Gil, and all involved deserve a major Yasher Koach for their involvement in this undertaking. It is a major addition for anyone who thirsts for the Torah of RYBS on Tefilah, and is especially a pressing need for a Dor Asher Lo Yada Es Yosef. The Hanhagos, as in the Machzor, are fascinating, and the essays by RAL and CR Sacks, are superb in their appreciation of RYBS’s focus on Tefilah. For anyone, who as RYBS pointed out in a comment to the Bracha of Shomea Tefilah, that Tefila is a three times per day conversation and encounter with HaShem, as opposed to a shopping list of requests that we quickly tick off in the course of a fixed Nusach, this Siddur ( and hopefully the many shiurim on its commentary that it should spawn) is a must.

  18. Michael Rogovin

    For those who wish to follow the hanhagos of the Rav, not having them in the text is frustrating. I have the Koren siddur. If I want the Rav’s siddur, why not make the nusach the Rav’s nusach?

  19. Michael: For two reasons: 1) the Rav expressed many times that he did not want people to follow his family’s customs, 2) we want the siddur to be usable by most shuls and using the Rav’s personal nusach would make that impossible.

  20. Why didn’t RYBS want people to follow his minhagim?

  21. He believed people should follow their fathers’ minhagim, just like he followed his fathers’.

  22. But his family’s minhag was to make up new minhagim!

  23. Certainly not! As the siddur documents, the vast majority of his minhagim were from the Gra and/or earlier.

  24. Weren’t his “minhagim” simply things he thought obligatory for everyone?

  25. No. Talmidim often say that the Rav would answer on such questions that they should do whatever their father did. Only on very few minhag issues did he tell them what to do. R. Genack told me this many times.

  26. Out of curiosity, was one of those “minhag issues” kiddush?

  27. So is that RCA siddur ever coming out? Artscroll’s already issued a Sacks pretender.

  28. Since the topic was mentioned, I once heard that Rav Soloveichik instructed talmidim to follow their fathers’ customs with three exceptions, where he felt that the din required a particular behavior. I can only remember two of them:

    1. To sit in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeres.

    2. That the knot on the tefillin she rosh should like the letter DALED, and not like a square knot (supposedly a double DALED).

    Anyone remember the third, or any others?

  29. Tal: Could the third be Hallel on Pesach night?

    IH: I think there was a public incident regarding sitting/standing for kiddush/hallel.

  30. Gil — could you point me to a source or summarize? I am not aware and my question was innocently related to a conversation with someone about their family minhag in which the Rav’s shita was cited.

  31. R’ Gil,

    I’m not sure if this is public information, but if it is, can you please explain:

    1. Why was OU Press not involved in the new Sacks Koren RH Machzor?

    2. How come Khal Publishing (publishers of the Ravs Machzorim) didn’t also publish this Siddur with the same layout?

  32. IH: I’m pretty sure some version of the story appears in one of R. Hershel Schachter’s books. I’ll b”n look it up later tonight. But I heard it from R. Julius Bermaan who was there.

    Shimon S: I can’t comment publicly on those issues but there are reasonable answers to both.

  33. Joseph Kaplan

    “Since the topic was mentioned, I once heard that Rav Soloveichik instructed talmidim to follow their fathers’ customs with three exceptions, where he felt that the din required a particular behavior. I can only remember two of them:

    1. To sit in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeres.”

    There is a shiur by the Rav that’s online (don’t remember where I got it) in which he speaks about this issue. He finds a reason for not sitting in the succah (like a limud zechut though I don’t recall if he used that term). But he explicitly does NOT tell people to ignore their family minhag and sit in a succah. (R. JJ Schacter pointed me to this shiur when I once said to him what Tal said.) But what the Ravdid say was that if you don’t eat in the succah on SA then you can’t eat gebrokst on pesach. When people laughed he said he was serious; if you follow chasidic minhagim on yom tov, he said seriously, then you can’t just choose the easy ones.

  34. mitch morrison

    is the mat’be’a tefillah of the rav’s or is it like the makhzor, where his emendations are footnoted? i haven’t seen the siddur yet.. thank you

  35. Will there be a siddur with RHS hanhagos too? That would be really good for people seeking the authentic YU BM feel (which is hard to get even in YU, what with the new BM and its corporate aesthetics)!

  36. mitch morrison

    daat y on November 2, 2011 at 12:19 pm
    The Rav in many places does not describe דעת as knowledge.
    For example see Al HATESHUVA in Hebrew page 196 where he states it is “hakara temidis.”This is much more than mere knowledge.
    See also Reflections of the Rav page 141-142.

    Spot on — Rav distinguished between Emunah and De’ah. Da’at is much more profound and transformative, you could say more personal; whereas emunah is broader, more conceptual, a genuine, yet general belief. Well said daat y

  37. whereas emunah is broader, more conceptual, a genuine, yet general belief.

    Emunah is loyalty, more than belief.

  38. The Rav said different things on different occasions. This may be an example of it. It may not. I don’t know.

  39. Mitch-Thanks for your comments.

  40. My comment seems to have disappeared, so let me add that I thought the second thing the Rav insisted on (after the sukkah thing) was birkat kohanim on Shabbat, something skipped back then and even in England today.

  41. The commentary in the siddur seems sparser than I would have expected. I know that the Rav spoke extensively for decades on tefillah. I can think of several places in the siddur that don’t have commentary where I have seen writings of his, for example on ashrei,on hallel, on pirkei avos. It’s strange.

  42. So how about a large-type Koren Sacks Shabbat-only siddur, for older folks in shul? (to keep beating my mother’s drum) For market – there are lots of old Jews in America, and lots of shuls they attend that would want to order several copies.

    Or are they waiting for a donor to pony up cash for it, the way Artscroll does? I don’t see a “dedication opportunities” page on the Koren website.

  43. BTW, I was in Pomeranz on Tuesday, but didn’t see it there yet. Ordered some other Koren large-type materials, they should be sent on the slow boat in a couple of months.

  44. “Hirhurim on November 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm
    The Rav said different things on different occasions. This may be an example of it. It may not. I don’t know.”

    Gil, where is the source for what you quoted from the Rav? Is it from a tape? (If so what year?) If it is just from someone’s notes or recollection then daat is totally correct and we should not start assuming that the Rav contradicted himself.

  45. What do you mean that is not “feasible to use a siddur every day with such a high ratio of commentary to text.” Why not? The Hirsch siddur is loaded with commentary. There’s room for plenty more commentary in this siddur. I have heard now from several people surprise and disappointment that this siddur didn’t contain more commentary. Did you really need the 100 pages of hilchos tefillah in the back? There were some strange editorial choices here that really hurt the book.

  46. You can’t please everyone. That’s a given.

    Almost everything the Rav said was on the Amidah and Kerias Shema. Those comments are spread throughout the many different tefillos. If we put in everything and didn’t spread it out, the weekday Amidah would be 50 pages long which is unfeasible. The hilchos tefillah in the back are irrelevant because they don’t affect page turning.

  47. The Rav commented on plenty besides Amidah and Kerias Shema. I have three books of his commentary on tshuvah. Halachic Positions has several pages on Gomel, while the siddur, as far as I can see, is silent there. No’oros HaRav talks about hataras nedarim. Siddur is silent. Took me 2 minutes to come up with those examples.

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