Noam Sienna - Meet Our Artist

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to introduce you to the artist doing ten custom works of calligraphic art for our project, Noam Sienna. 

Photo by Aaron Rotenberg, 2015.

Photo by Aaron Rotenberg, 2015.

Noam is an incredibly talented scholar and artist (an excellent combination) who combines knowledge of Jewish book and manuscript history with a skill for several media. He's an accomplished henna artist in addition to his work with Hebrew, Arabic, and English calligraphy and illumination. Canadian by birth, Noam studied at Brandeis, the Hebrew University, and is now pursuing a doctorate at the University of Minnesota. He has an amazing knowledge of a wide range of historical hebrew scripts, and he brings that to his calligraphy and henna work. 

From Noam's Instagram

From Noam's Instagram

Noam is going to be working on a range of pieces for us, from the strictly traditional calligraphic illustrations one might find in older Sephardi siddurim to elegant illuminations of prayers. Aharon and I are very excited for the knowledge, talent, and energy that Noam brings to the project, and I'm happy to share a draft of the first plate for the siddur

This image will accompany Psalm 67, traditionally recited as part of the early morning prayers, just before Barukh sheAmar. The psalm's words easily divide into seven branches, taking on the form of the menorah. Sephardi minhag upholds that one is to recite the psalm while reading it in the form of the menorah rather than like typical text, forming a unique morning meditation. (Read more about the custom to write out the psalm this way and the meditations around it here, in a great piece by Shmuel Gonzales) I'm elated that Noam's depiction of Psalm 67 will be in Siddur Masorti, and I hope you are as excited as I am to meditate and pray with it next year. Without further ado: 

Piyyut Preview - Odeh l'El

Here's another beautiful piyyut translated by R' Mark Greenspan. This one comes from R' Shemaya Qosson, and is a moving song to the soul. You can see the full Hebrew text and hear a beautiful recording of it sung here



Rabbi Qosson is relatively unknown - we only know that he lived in the 17th century in North Africa, and that his poetry was quickly adopted as liturgical text across the Sephardi world. 

Rabbi Qosson sings to the soul, who he describes as wandering across a barren world, and calls upon it to return to God. Almost a love-poem to the soul itself, Odeh l'El will be one of the seven piyyutim included for daily study and practice in Siddur Masorati. 

I thank the One who probes the heart        As stars, in unison, sing praise the morning.


Pay heed to the soul:                                    As precious as jacinth, agate and amethyst

As bright as is the sun's glow,                                Sevenfold brighter than the morning! 


It is hewn from God's throne,                                                In the wilderness  it dwells,

Seeking deliverance from burning flames,             Illuminating the way  toward morning.


Arise each night                                                                  As your soul ascends on high

Accounting for its deeds                                     Before the Maker of night and morning.


If it is found tainted                                                                        With sins and wrongs;

It is like a maiden disgraced                                          Each day, morning after morning.


If it is found sanctified                                                               With mitzvot and merits;

It is like a bride adorned,                                               Each day, morning after morning.


God is a faithful guardian                                             Who willingly returns the deposit

No one need die for one’s sin,                                        In the night before the morning.


Rise up! This is not the final rest                           For divine mercy has been extended.

Return, for God’s hand is open                                          To all who rise in the morning.


Adore not sleep;                                                                             Instead sanctify God.

Ascribe unto God, ascribe                                              Glory, and let there be morning!


Sing of the soul, once bare,                                               While the animal spirit sleeps

As a fisherman lays out the net                      Prepare the prayerful offering of morning.


Let us revive the poor one                                                      An innocent and pure soul.

If the soul has not yet renewed                   How can it attain the light of the morning?


May we merit, this year                                                              To behold God’s beauty

In joy and not anger;                                                         Hear my voice In the morning.

Piyyut Preview - Kol Beru'ei

One of the best traditions of the Edot haMizrach siddur is Baqashot, religious poems which are inserted before the service to help inspire a spiritual mentality when entering prayer. There are thousands of these piyyutim (poems), but for Siddur Masorati, we've chosen seven. 

An artist's depiction of R' Shlomo ibn Gabriol, author of the piyyut, Kol Beru'ei

An artist's depiction of R' Shlomo ibn Gabriol, author of the piyyut, Kol Beru'ei

One for each day. Like the tradition of having a Psalm-of-the-Day, Siddur Masorati will also contain a baqasha for each day. Here's a preview of Sunday's, translated by R' Mark Greenspan:


All creatures, above and below
Testify and proclaim as one;
“Adonai is one and God’s name is one.”
Your way is made of thirty-two paths;
All who understand their mystery, proclaim Your greatness;
From them, they know that all is Yours,
You are a singular sovereign ruler. 
Minds in contemplation find a world created;
Everything is created in pairs but You.
By number and measure, all is counted,
But through only one Shepherd, all was given.
Your signs are everywhere, beginning and end,
North, south, east and west
Heaven and earth are faithful witnesses;
Together they are, “One.”
Everything is Yours, a gift to cherish
You exist eternally while humans perish.
Therefore all creatures to You give honor
From end to beginning, is there not one father?


With references to Chazal and to Sefer Yetzira in particular, Kol Beru'ei is one of Shlomo ibn Gabriol's most beautiful poems. Enjoy! 


Siddur Masorati - An Open Source Journey

This blog will be a place to chronicle the development of Siddur Masorati and to share the texts and their translations that will be used as we build an open-source Sephardi Egalitarian siddur! 

Currently Siddur Masorati is still active on Kickstarter! Check back here after Kickstarter closes to see the siddur develop!