Siddur Masorti - 2 Years On (and Counting!)

Well, friends– we're officially at the two year mark. Originally, I had anticipated being able to have the siddur in print by last Summer! However, missing that deadline was less due to any issue in the layout or design of the siddur and more due to the fact that it was utterly unrealistic. 

Regardless, we're pressing on. I'm happy to say we're about 75% complete with the first draft of the text. In a few months, I hope to have this draft to volunteer proof-readers and copy-editors (if you'd like that to be you, let me know.) Assuming editing goes smoothly, the ambitious goal is to have the siddur printed by Pesaẖ, with a more conservative goal of next Summer. 

We have almost all of the art work in from the amazing Noam Sienna, 100% of the Hebrew text transcribed, typset, and laid out, 80% transliterated, 60% translated, and about half the notes completed. In recent months, I've worked to try and refine the transliteration (romanisation) scheme for the siddur, with two contrary goals in mind: 1) to maximalise the adherence of the transcription to an authentic 'pan-Sephardic' pronunciation, and 2) maximalise the accessibility of the text to a non-Hebrew speaker (who will be the primary user of romanised text.) 

To that end, some distinctions have had to be erased (tav vs. thav, as well as dual forms for gimel and dalet), while others have been emphasised. To me, the most critical aspects of pronunciation are the syllabic structure, the vowels, and the shəva. You can see the Romanisation Scheme guide and a sample text here. A special thank you to Isaac Treuherz as well as the online committee of critics in SABO for helping with this. 

Lastly, I want to share an updated sample page with the new romanisation in effect as well as some slight changes to layout spacing and font. As always, I welcome any comments or feedback. 


Thank you to all of you for your patience. I have had to prioritise accuracy over speed in this project and that has come at the expense of several deadlines, but I'm looking forward to sharing the finished project with you as soon as possible. 


Updates on Siddur Masorti!

At this point, our project is officially past it's original due date! So, you may ask, what has kept us so busy in the mean-time that's holding up Siddur Masorti? Well:

1. Last Pesah we created a Haggadah just for our Kickstarter supporters. Creating the Haggadah offered the opportunity to rehearse the layout of the Siddur and to work out some of the kinks in pagination and other publication issues. 

2. This past Spring, I was very honored to have been featured in this year's Jewish Week "36 Under 36" for the work on the siddur! One quick quote from their piece which I think illustrates particularly well what we're trying to do: 

"The prayer book, he said, is for like-minded people, who find extant Orthodox Sephardic siddurim too “patriarchal” and gender-neutral prayer books too Ashkenazic.“It’s not going to be a big bestseller,” said Zagoria-Moffet, it’s more of a work of passion."

It certainly is - and I know many of you are as passionate about this project as I am! It's an honor to be included among such an amazing cohort of Jewish leaders, thinkers, and activists - and to see that there is so much interest in Siddur Masorti! 

3. We've been advancing with putting together the front-matter and back-matter for the siddur. So much work is required to have indices, tables of content, etc. One of the biggest benefits for us are the foreword and introduction written by leading Sephardi hakhamim today. Here's a bit from the foreword which R' Roly Matalon has written for the siddur: 

"It is well known that, over the centuries, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews have evolved a tradition that is temperate and tolerant, and deeply connected to its roots while open to its surroundings. This is reflected, for instance, in the rabbis’ general leniency in legal rulings, in their responsiveness to social and ethical concerns, and in their relationship to those outside of the Jewish community. An unfortunate dissonance exists, however, in the absence of full and equal participation of women in prayer and ritual. I am delighted that this Siddur Masorti will make available these traditions to those of us who value gender equality, who do not respond to denominational labels, and who love to see the traditional prayer text enhanced by beautiful piyutim."

I'm very grateful to have R' Matalon on board and to receive his endorsement for our work! 

4. We've had to re-do some of our formatting of the Hebrew text. For the last few months, Aharon has been going through our pan-Sephardi text with a fine-toothed digital comb ensuring that any errors in how the text is coded or displayed are resolved. 

5. Lastly, I've just spent the last few months moving to the United Kingdom! I'm very excited to be here and to serve as the rabbi of St. Albans Masorti Synagogue - but understandably, I've done a poor job for some months staying on top of the siddur workload. 

All of this is to say: I'm sorry things are moving so slow. For Aharon, Noam and I, it is absolutely essential that the product which is released is as professional and as error-free as possible. That means that our original projection has had to be adjusted. If all goes well, we hope to have the siddur in-hand by the Spring. 

I want to thank you all, personally, for your faith in this work and your patience in seeing it through. I hope that even if it's not 'a bestseller,' it provides spiritual sustenance and cultural diversity to a Jewish world much in need of both. 



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!