Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Why a new siddur? Why now?

“The work of the new siddur began truly with a survey, not of theology and clergy, but of laity. In 1994, Rabbi Peter Knobel and Dan Schechter received a grant from the Lilly Foundation to survey worshippers in Reform congregations throughout the United States to determine what they sought from a new prayer book. What were the results? Strongly articulated were the desires for transliteration, translation, and a response to the feminist critique. Based on this project, a proposal was set before the CCAR Board, describing a prayer book with four different services, a la Gates of Prayer . The time to select an editor arrived, and a critical awareness emerged. It would be important for the editor(s) to focus less on personal style and instead be able to respond to the diversity of the Movement’s expectations. Those expectations? Ancecdotally: a prayer book that would help us re-engage our Jews in meaningful worship. How? Offering a balance of creativity and beauty, theology and purpose.” Click here to read the full text of "Entering Mishkan T'filah" by Elyse D. Frishman. You will also find insights in the "Introduction to Mishkan T'filah" and in the Reform Judaism magazine articles "The Prayer Book of the People," an interview with Lawrence Hoffman and "The Prayer Books, They are A'Changin" by Elliot Stevens. Another resource is "Recommendations of the Project on Lay Involvement in Worship and Liturgical Development".

2. How will MT work in our diverse congregation?

"In any worship setting, people have diverse beliefs. The challenge of a single liturgy is to be not only multi-vocal, but poly-vocal—to invite full participation at once, without conflicting with the kevatext. (First, the keva text must be one that is acceptable; hence, the ongoing adaptations of certain prayers, over time, such as the G’vurot.) Jewish prayer invites interpretation; the left hand material was selected both for metaphor and theological diversity. The choices were informed by the themes of Reform Judaism and Life: Social justice, feminism, Zionism, distinctiveness, human challenges." Click here to read the full text of "Introduction to Mishkan T'filah." Also visit "Whither Reform Worship?—Parashat Terumah."

3. How do we introduce MT?

In short: Carefully! Thoughtfully! Patiently! Many Reform worshipers have not previously seen Mishkan T’filah and, what’s more, its layout is different than previous siddurim. Click on any of the articles on our page "Useful for Mishkan HaNefesh" for ideas and assistance

4. Why are there liturgical changes in the Sh-ma, the Amidah and the Aleinu?

“An excellent example of theological and social debate is the one over the middle paragraphs of the Sh’ma. One group argues that its literal meaning can never be divorced; since it is Deuteronomic, its context is absolutely retributional…Others contend that one must understand the material metaphorically…A second debate was whether or not to include t’chiat hameitim[“Who gives life to the dead”]. The argument is clear: either physical resurrection defies reason…or, the language is metaphor…Two irreconcilable camps.” Click here to read the full text of "Entering Mishkan T'filah" by Elyse D. Frishman. Also providing answers are these three pieces:"Have You Noticed?—Changes in Hebrew and English Wording in Mishkan T'filah" (keep scrolling to 12a); "Ordering the Matriarchs: The Leah and Rachel (or Rachel and Leah) Debate" (keep scrolling to 12b); and "The Three Paragraphs of the Sh'ma."

5. Why are some prayers/blessings on a two-page spread while others are not?

One version of Mishkan T’filah has some pages in linear form and other pages in the two-page spread format. There is also a version of Mishkan T’filah which is entirely in the linear format. In the former version, the linear sections are those in which the material is simply not intended to have alternatives. For example, P’sukei D’zimra is meant to be sung, so no reading alternatives are included. The Torah service also does not lend itself to alternative renderings. Other sections such as the Festival or Holiday inserts simply do not require alternatives. Material in the book that is linear in style is designated with a special blue frame, a simple blue line around the page. This applies both to the linear service and to those pages in the “mixed” version of Mishkan T’filah (such as P’sukei D’zimra) that are linear in style.


6. What strategies can you suggest for use of MT by bar/bat mitzvah students?

“Hopefully, in a few months time, Reform synagogues will begin using Mishkan T’filah at their Shabbat services which include b’nei mitzvah. In addition to the general issues surrounding using the new siddur, there are concerns special to using the siddur with b’nei mitzvah conducting the service and with b’nei mitzvah guests attending the service. The concerns are not hard to imagine, but are worth spelling out: 1) How can a synagogue best prepare the bar/bat mitzvah to use thesiddur as easily as possible? 2) How can the congregation—including perhaps more guests than regulars—use the siddur in a way that will promote participatory worship?” Click here to read the full text of "Suggested Guidelines for Adapting Mishkan T'filah for Shabbat B'nei Mitzvah Services."

7. Is there new music to fit some of the new wordings and phrasings in MT?

“The publication of Mishkan T’filah presents a wonderful opportunity to examine new and meaningful ways to approach worship. Integrating the spoken word with uplifting musical settings of our liturgy can generate a dramatic worship experience. Music can be a gateway to the spirit; for many congregants searching for meaningful worship, carefully planned and balanced musical choices can provide a pathway that guides their spiritual journey. The following suggestions are offered as a guide for planning the music of worship. No one size fits all. Mishkan T’filah will be one prayer book that has variegated applications in each Synagogue community each in its unique way, according to its minhagim (customs)." To read more, click on "Music in Mishkan T'filah."

8. What are some of the liturgical and theological differences between Gates of Prayer and MT?

“By the mid-1980s, with Gates of Prayer only ten years old, it was confronted with gender and cultural complaints. But Reform worship was also in conflict. It is possible that Gates of Prayerwas being challenged not just because of its content, but because of problems in the worship culture…It used to be argued that a [Movement’s] siddur served two primary purposes: It unified Reform congregations in worship…and articulated a clear Reform theology. The latter became untrue with the publication of Gates of Prayer and its myriad theologies…The integrated theology in Mishkan T’filah suggests that it is the blending of different voices that most accurately reflects God.” Click here to read the full text of "Entering Mishkan T'filah" by Elyse D. Frishman. You will also find insights in the "Introduction to Mishkan T'filah" and in the Reform Judaism magazine articles "The Prayer Book of the People," an interview with Lawrence Hoffman and "The Prayer Books, They are A'Changin" by Elliot Stevens.

9. How can I avoid announcing every page number?

Explain to the worshipers that hearing the chatimah, the closing blessing of most prayers, is their cue to turn to the next page. There is no need to announce page numbers unless you are skipping pages. Then, when you begin the next prayer, begin slowly. It takes less than a half-second to find your place—but if the leader introduces the words too quickly, the mind can’t register them properly. Be patient!

10. How will congregants know when to read without the use of italics and Roman font?

The worship leader(s) need to decide in advance what will be read together and then cue the worshipers accordingly. Cueing can be as simple as saying, “Together,” or “Responsively.” Minimal directions are best.

11. How do I get more information?

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) is the publisher of Mishkan T'filah. As the publisher, the CCAR is responsible for all aspects of content, layout, design, publication, sales and shipping of Mishkan T’filah. For answers to questions about any of these matters, please contact the CCAR directly at 212.972.3636.

12. What changes have been made in the language?

a) Have You Noticed? — Changes in Hebrew and English Wording in Mishkan T'filah
by Rabbi Sue Ann Wasserman

From Birchot Hashachar (The Morning Blessings)


Elohai N’shamah (p. 34–35)


Mid-way through the prayer the option of modeh/modah(offer thanks, first in the masculine and then the feminine) is offered.

Further down in the prayer the word v’imotai (mothers) is added.



Nisim B’chol Yom (p. 36–37)


The order of the blessings is different from the order inGates of Prayer (GOP).

Two additional blessings are added: roka haaretz al hamayim, (Who stretches the earth over the waters), andshe-asani b’tzelem Elohim, (Who made me in the image of God).


From Sh’ma u’Virchotecha (The Sh’ma and Her Blessings)


Yotzeir (p. 60–61)


MT has included the traditional sentence before the closingchatima: Or-chadash al Tzion ta-ir, v’nizkeh chulanu m’heirah l’oro (Shine a new light uponZion, and may we all swiftly merit its radiance.).



Ahavah Rabbah (p. 62–63)


In the second paragraph which begins, V’ha-eir eineinufour words from the traditional text are added followingv’lo neivosh. They are: v’lo nikaleim, v’lo nikasheil, (never deserve rebuke, and never stumble,

A few lines down in the prayer, set off by an asterisk is another inclusion from the traditional text: Vahavi-einu l’shalom mei-arba kanfot ha-aretz, v’tolicheinu kom’miyut l’artzeinu. (Gather us in peace from the four corners of the earth and lead us upright to our land.)



Sh’ma (p. 64–65)


Following the V’ahavta, MT offers the traditional third paragraph of the Sh’mawhich begins Vayomer Adonai el Moshe… Numbers 15:37-39.


From the Amidah (The Standing Prayer)


Avot v’Imahot (p. 76–77)


The order of the matriarchs has changed to Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. (Please see the Web site piece “Ordering the Matriarchs: The Leah and Rachel (or Rachel and Leah) Debate” for a more detailed explanation.)



G’vurot (p. 78–79)


MT includes in parentheses, as an option, the traditional wording m’chayeih meitim (You revive the dead) followingm’chayeih hakol (You give life to all).

The seasonal prayers for wind, rain and dew according to the growing seasons in the Land of Israel are included following the first sentence of the G’vurot.



Birkat Shalom (p. 96–97)


In the second sentence, note the change of the word avinu(our Father) toyotzreinu (our Creator) in MT.

Before the chatimah (final blessing of the prayer) theShabbat Shuvahinsertion is expanded to resemble the insertion in Gates of Repentance.



Oseh Shalom (T’filat HaLev in MT, p. 98–99)


Following v’al kol Yisrael (and all Israel) the words v’al kol yosh’vei teiveil (all who inhabit the earth) are added.


For the Reading of Torah


Av harachamim (p. 362)


This literally translates as Father of mercy. In GOP it had been changed to El harachamim which literally translates as God of mercy. However, both MT and GOP translate these phrases as “Source of mercy.”


Aleinu and Mourner’s Kaddish


Aleinu (p. 586–591)


There are two versions: Aleinu I and Aleinu II.

Aleinu I is the full traditional text as was Aleinu I in GOP.

Aleinu II parallels Aleinu II in GOP in the English and Hebrew. There is an additional alternative English reading in MT as well as an additional Hebrew text before V’ne-emar (Thus it has been said): Al kein n’kaveh l’cha Adonai Eloheinu, lirot m’heirah b’tiferet uzecha, l’takein olam b’malchut Shaddai(Adonai our God, how soon we hope to behold the perfection of our world, guided by a sacred Covenant drawn from human and divine meeting.).

Rabbi Wasserman is the Union for Reform Judaism's Director of Worship, Music and Religious Living.

b) Ordering the Matriarchs in the Avot V'Imahot:
The Leah and Rachel (or Rachel and Leah) Debate

[NOTE: The section of the liturgy in which Rachel and Leah are named, the Avot v’Imahot, can be found in Mishkan T’filah on p. 76–77, p. 166–167, p. 244–245, p. 274, p. 324, p. 346 and p. 470–471.]

In Talmud and Midrash the order is more commonly found as Rachel and Leah. There is never an explanation why, though the speculations many have offered are reasonable. It strikes me that this verse is something of a Rorschach, drawing strong personal reactions. Nonetheless, there’s something significant to be said for following the tradition here, especially since there is nothing inherently negative in it.

A coincidence occurs as a result of changing the order of Rachel and Leah. After Leah, the next word is Ha-El (The God) which, of course, is Leah spelled backwards. It makes for good midrash and certainly downplays any sense that Leah was less significant than Rachel.

In balance, the argument for changing the most common traditional order and also being dissimilar from all other liberal movement prayer books was not strong enough. I appreciate that some may disagree. It’s important to know that the decision was thoughtfully studied and considered over many years of our work on the siddur.

{Rabbi Elyse Frishman}

In the classical and medieval Talmudic and Rabbinic literature both orders are included: Rachel v’Leah, Leah v’Rachel—the former in 72 instances and the later in 25. Nobody much worried about the order in the 1994 version of Gates of Prayer for Shabbat and Weekdays until the Conservative Movement published their new siddur, Sim Shalom, using a different order. The order Rachel v’Leah derives less from the Talmudic literature than it does from the only Mi Shebeirach formula in the traditional siddur that uses the matriarchs’ names at all—this is when a husband or son donates money to the synagogue in honor of his wife or mother—otherwise the matriarchs’ names never appear. The formula there is Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, v’Leah. This was clearly the precedent drawn on by the Conservative Movement and the oneMishkan T’filah has chosen to follow at this juncture. This is ultimately a debate in which both sides have good reasons; it boils down to a matter of taste and/or tradition.

{Dr. Richard Sarason}

Other Changes to the Avot V’Imahot:

  1. When the prayer was first adapted in our Movement to include the Matriarchs, the language overall was not consistent. For example, while some used avot v’imahot(Fathers and Mothers) others used dorot (Generations). Some argued grammatically that in Hebrew, avot includesimahot and should be translated as the gender-neutral Ancestors. Others stressed that language can communicate gender dominance, and so even though avot may have been technically correct in its inclusivity, it paralleled “mankind” instead of “humanity.” We were seeking broader, more inclusive language.

    {Rabbi Elyse Frishman}
  2. The chatimah, or final line of the prayer, and how it came to read Ezrat Sarah: Othersiddurim that have included the names of the Mothers use the phrase Po’keid Sarah(takes note of Sarah; Genesis 21:1) which parallels the sense of God as helper and sustainer in times of difficulty that we hear in the phrase Magein Avraham (shield of Abraham). We include that chatimah on the left side as an alternative.

Rachel Adler reminds us that prayers try not to introduce new language into thechatimah, and so when the chatimah for Avot V’Imahot was first considered, it was likely that term Ezrat Sarah was chosen for this reason (Ezer [Helper] appearing in the body of the text just before thechatimah, while Po’keid does not).

{Rabbi Elyse Frishman}

13. How does the linear commentary work? Where does it come from?

Introduction to Mishkan T'filah Linear Commentary

by Rabbi Richard Sarason, PhD

To help worshipers use the commentary that accompanies the linear-format Shabbat services, while keeping that commentary relatively compact on the page, we offer here some general background on the sources and development of Jewish liturgy, and on the evolving relationship between Reform liturgy and the traditional siddur (prayer book; “Order” of service).

Jewish worship is a living organism. The service as we know it today is a product of many eras, places, and sensibilities. In addition to being a ritual manual and guide to daily piety, our prayer book is truly a textbook of living Judaism, embodying our history and our evolving ideas about God, the world and our relationship to both. It contains the words of prophets and priests, sages and poets, philosophers and mystics, all juxtaposed with each other. The language of Jewish prayer is poetic. It is modeled on, and includes large portions of, the Psalms and other prayers in the Hebrew Bible, the TaNaKH (the traditional abbreviation for the three parts of Scripture: Torah, “Instruction;” Ne’vi’im, “Prophets;” andKetuvim, “Writings.”)

While much of the language is biblical, or based on biblical models, the liturgy itself was first shaped by the Rabbis (masters, teachers) of the late first through seventh centuries of the Common Era (C.E.) in the Land of Israel and Babylonia. Jews had always prayed, but prayer as the primary expression of Jewish public worship became common only after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., when daily sacrifices no longer could be offered. (Some groups of Jews outside the Land of Israel who did not have access to the Temple, and others, like the community of the Dead Sea Scrolls who withdrew from the Temple in protest against the perceived illegitimacy of the Maccabean priesthood in the second century before the Common Era [B.C.E.], engaged in regular communal prayer even before the Temple was destroyed.)

In place of the twice-daily sacrifices, the Rabbis instituted a thrice-daily Prayer of Eighteen Benedictions, the T’filah (“the Prayer”), later called the Amidah (“the Standing [Prayer]”), or theSh’moneh Esrei (“the Eighteen [Benedictions]”). The Amidah was to be prayed by, and on behalf of, the entire community; down to our own day, it remains the core of each Jewish worship service. The three daily prayers correspond roughly to the three main demarcations of the day—sunrise, noon, sunset.

The Amidah serves a twofold purpose: It expresses the community’s praise of God and gives voice to their needs; simultaneously it expresses the hopes and needs of each individual Jew and encourages each person to insert his or her own private prayers. Here is an attempt to address the ongoing tension between the needs of the community and the needs of the individual. This is also the reason why, in traditional worship, theAmidah is recited twice, once by each person privately and then by the congregation together, led by the sh’liach tzibur(prayer leader, “agent of the congregation”). As Mishkan T’filah attests, contemporary worship still struggles to balance the needs of the individual worshiper with those of the congregation.

The other early liturgical unit, dating from at least the first century C.E., is what the Rabbis callK’riat Sh’ma, the “Recitation of Sh’ma.” Traditionally, this comprises the twice-daily recitation, “when you lie down and when you rise up,” of three biblical paragraphs, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41, framed by rabbinic benedictions appropriate to evening and morning recitation. The combination of these two originally separate liturgies is the origin of the multi-dimensional Jewish prayer service as we know it.

Other elements of the service followed: The Rabbis endorsed the pious custom of preparing oneself to pray by coming early to the synagogue in the morning and reciting psalms (Mishnah B’rachot 5:1). In time, this became a regular part of the morning service, the Pesukei deZimra(“Verses of Song”) psalms and praises recited before Bar’chu. Similarly, the Babylonian Talmud (Berakhot 60a) prescribes a series of blessings to be recited, as an act of personal piety, upon waking up and beginning each new day. Later, these were incorporated into the public synagogue service and became the Birchot haShachar (“Morning Benedictions”) unit with which the morning service now begins. The custom of public reading from the Torah in the synagogue on Sabbaths and Monday and Thursday mornings, and of reading also from the Prophets (Haftarah, “conclusion” of the scriptural reading) on Sabbaths, is very old; it goes back to the Second Temple period. After the Temple’s destruction, this was combined in the synagogue with the rabbinic liturgies. The conclusion of the daily services with the Aleinu prayer (“Let us adore”), on the other hand, is a relatively late custom, originating in the Rhineland around 1300, in the wake of the Crusades. (The prayer itself is much earlier; it is part of the Rosh HaShanah liturgy.) And later still is the service of Kabbalat Shabbat (“Welcoming the Sabbath”), which began as a ritual practiced by sixteenth-century Kabbalists (mystics) in the Land of Israel.

Jewish liturgical and ritual creativity has never flagged. Even as elements of the service became fixed, there was always a countervailing impulse toward spontaneity and improvisation. Our earliest rabbinic sources, the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Talmuds (on which, see below), suggest that, although the Rabbis early on fixed the content and structure of the liturgy (themes, numbers of benedictions and their relative lengths), the actual wording of the prayers was not (or at least not completely) fixed. Only the concluding benedictory phrases (such as, “Praised be You, O Lord our God, who brings on the evening twilight”) are explicitly prescribed in the Mishnah. Opening phrases occasionally are mentioned as well.

Both the Mishnah and the Talmuds bear witness to an ongoing debate over the desirability of fixing the precise wording of the prayers. On the one hand, fixed prayers are easier to teach and easier to memorize; they allow worshipers to “flow with the words.” But spontaneous, creative, and fluid wordings force worshipers to think about what they’re saying and to respond with kavanah, intentionality: “When you pray, do not make your Prayer a matter of fixed routine, but an entreaty for mercy and grace before the Omnipresent One” (M. Avot 2:13).

Even when fixed wordings seemed to have won out, new poetic versions of the basic prayers were often created. Elegant and elaborate hymns (piyyutim) were written and performed in synagogues on Shabbat and festival mornings (some of these are included in the festival services in this prayer book). These poems incorporated rabbinic midrashim (interpretations) on the day’s Torah reading and tied them to the themes of the benedictions and of the day. They are, perhaps, the earliest “creative liturgies.” The creation of liturgical hymns (like Adon Olam,Yigdal, and Yedid Nefesh) in different styles, reflecting changing aesthetics and theologies, continued down to the modern period.

The first “prayer book,” Seder Rav Amram (“The Order of Rav Amram”), a manual of the liturgy of the entire year with fully written-out prayers, dates only from the last half of the ninth century, during the Islamic period; before that time we have no full written texts of any of the standard prayers. Seder Rav Amram was composed by the head of the talmudic academy in Sura, Babylonia, in response to a request from the Jewish community of Barcelona, Spain, for guidance about the “correct” order of prayers as practiced in the Babylonian rabbinical academies. It became the basis particularly for the Sephardic rite of Jews who lived in Islamic countries. Many other manuals detailing liturgical laws and customs of various Jewish communities were to follow.

The various medieval prayer manuals contributed to the fixing of Jewish prayer texts and customs. But at the same time, a variety of pious and mystical movements created new rituals, customs, and texts; they also infused new meanings into old ones. Pietists in the Rhineland in the twelfth century (Hasidei Ashkenaz), and Kabbalists (mystics; literally “receivers” of mystical traditions) in fourteenth-century Spain, Provence, and later in the Land of Israel (particularly the circle around Isaac Luria in Safed) made major contributions to the liturgy, including numerous hymns (likeAn’im Z’mirot, Yedid Nefesh, and L’chah Dodi) and customs (like Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday evenings, and Tikkun Leil Shavuot, the all-night Torah study on the eve of Shavuot). Ultimately, it was the invention of the printing press, and the expense of publishing every local variation, that led more than anything else to the standardization of prayer texts.

The modern reform of Jewish liturgy began in early nineteenth-century Germany. Initially, the concerns were aesthetic and cultural: How could the style of Jewish worship, for a community entering into mainstream western culture, be brought into conformity with contemporary (bourgeois Lutheran and Reformed Protestant) ideals of religious edification and piety? Early reforms included shortening the service and eliminating repetitions; introducing a German-language sermon, hymn singing and art music with a choir and organ; and emphasizing decorum in the conduct of services. Subsequently, theological concerns became important as well: There was a strong desire to “say what you mean and mean what you say.” Rituals based in superstition (“folk religion”) were eliminated, as was the mention of angels. The hope for some kind of spiritual immortality after death replaced that for physical resurrection. The expectation of a future messianic age in which the evils of social life would be ameliorated was substituted for the belief in a personal Messiah. In general, Jewish particularism was toned down in favor of a prophetic universalism. Prayers for the ingathering of the exiles to the Land of Israel and for the reinstitution of the ancient Temple sacrificial rituals were eliminated: These no longer expressed the political and religious aspirations of western European Jews. (See Jakob J. Petuchowski, Guide to the Prayerbook, Cincinnati, 1992, pp. 54-55.)

By the beginning of the twentieth century, most Reform liturgies in Europe were fairly “moderate” in their style and content, still retaining a good deal of Hebrew language and tradition. In the United States, however, what became “classical” Reform was fairly radical, eliminating much Hebrew and many traditional practices. The first edition of the Union Prayer Book, published in 1894-95, embodied the spirit of the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform, the first manifesto of Reform Judaism in North America. It was the work primarily of more radical German Reformers. Subsequent revisions (1918-20, 1940-45) reflected the growing influence on the movement of Jews from Eastern Europe who had greater attachment to Hebrew and traditional customs.

Gates of Prayer (1975) and Gates of Repentance (1978), the next North American Reform liturgies, displayed the sensibilities of the post-Six Day War period, combining acute awareness of the Holocaust and the State of Israel with a growing interest in the Hebrew language and traditional ritual forms. The first impact of the feminist movement that began in the late 1960’s, and the entry of a significant number of women into the Reform rabbinate over a decade later, can be seen in the gender-neutral editions of Gates of Prayer (1994) and Gates of Repentance (1996). Their fuller impact is felt only now in Mishkan T’filah, which also reflects the spiritual sensibilities of the maturing post-war “baby boom” generation and the search for personal meaning within (and without) the communal context. A deeper exploration of Jewish tradition (including the mystical tradition) and Hebrew liturgy has been part of this search. Dor dor v’dorshav: Each generation refracts Jewish tradition and Jewish worship through its own lenses. This prayer book explicitly acknowledges that fact, but also strives for continuity among the generations.

We must identify briefly the literary sources of rabbinic liturgy, as these are cited in the commentary:

  1. The Mishnah (“Memorized Teaching”), the earliest rabbinic text, edited in the Land of Israel around 200 C.E., is a succinct anthology and study-book of early rabbinic law and custom. Its contents are compiled in 63 tractates, arranged into six orders. The first tractate, B’rachot (“Blessings”) deals entirely with liturgies, prayers, and blessings. The public Torah reading is discussed in Tractate Megillah, which deals primarily with the reading of the Scroll of Esther on Purim. Other prayers and liturgies are discussed in tractates that deal with the festivals, fast days, and the rituals of the Temple. References in the commentary to the Mishnah prefix the letter “m.” to the name of the tractate, followed by the chapter and paragraph number (m. B’rachot 1:4, for example).
  2. The Tosefta (“Supplement”) is the earliest commentary on the Mishnah, edited in the Land of Israel sometime in the third century C.E. It contains additional traditions and alternative versions of traditions that are as old as those in the Mishnah, as well as commentary on the Mishnah. Some of the traditions included here are the earliest building-blocks of the two Talmuds. The Tosefta broadly follows the arrangement of the Mishnah. References in the commentary to the Tosefta prefix the letter “t.” to the name of the tractate, followed by the chapter and paragraph number (t. B’rachot 2:1, for example).
  3. There are two Talmuds (“that which is learned”), one from the Land of Israel and one from Babylonia. The former is briefer and generally thought to have been completed first, sometime in the fifth century C.E.; the latter was likely completed about a century later. Both are framed as commentaries on the Mishnah and follow its order, but they include voluminous other materials. The Babylonian Talmud became the primary source of later Jewish law (halakhah) when Babylonian Jewry later found itself at the center of the Islamic empire, in the eighth century C.E. References in the commentary to the Talmud of the Land of Israel (also called the Palestinian Talmud, Jerusalem Talmud, and Talmud Yerushalmi) prefix the letter “y.” to the name of the tractate, followed by the chapter, paragraph number, and folio and column number in the standard one-volume edition printed in Krotoshin, Poland, in 1866 (for example, y. B’rachot 2:1, 4c). References to the Babylonian Talmud prefix the letter “b.” to the name of the tractate, followed by the folio number and side in the standard edition printed in Vilna, Lithuania, in 1880-86 (for example, b. B’rachot 11b).
  4. Tractate Soferim (“Scribes”), composed probably in the eighth century c.e. in the Land of Israel, is a manual for Torah scribes that includes a list of Torah readings for special occasions, an account of the Torah service, with a full text, as well as the earliest full references to theKaddish and an account of its liturgical use. It is sometimes called one of the “minor tractates of the Talmud,” because it is often printed in sets of the Babylonian Talmud, although it is not part of the Talmud. Reference is made in the commentary to the standard printed edition found in the back of the Avodah Zarah volume in the Vilna edition of the Babylonian Talmud. An English translation may be found in the Soncino Minor Tractates volume. Reference is also made to the critical edition of Michael Higger (New York, 1937), which numbers the paragraphs differently.

The following midrashic and homiletical texts are referred to in the commentary:

  1. Midrash Tanhumais a homiletical midrash on the Torah, compiled in the Land of Israel sometime between the sixth and eighth centuries c.e. The edition published by Solomon Buber (Martin’s grandfather) in 1885 transcribes a manuscript that differs from the standard printed edition. The Buber edition is cited according to the parashah (weekly Torah reading) and paragraph number (thus, B’reishit, 10).
  2. Seder Eliahu Zutais a homiletical text compiled in the Land of Israel in the eighth century c.e. that stresses the value of Torah study and ethical behavior. It is cited according to chapter number (Seder Eliahu Zuta 17).
  3. Sefer HaZohar(“The Book of [Divine] Radiance”), the major work of Spanish Kabbalahfrom the end of the thirteenth century c.e., takes the literary form of a homiletical midrash in Aramaic on the Torah. The interpretations are all symbolic of processes that take place within God, who has ten primary aspects or dimensions (s’firot). The Zohar is cited according to the parashah (weekly Torah reading), and the folio number and side in the standard edition (Vilna, Lithuania, 1882); thus, Vayakhel, 206a.

The following medieval halakhic liturgical compendia are referred to in the commentary:

  1. Seder Rav Amram, the first “order of prayer,” composed by the ga’on (“eminence,” head of the rabbinical academy) Amram ben Sheshna sometime before 875 c.e. in Sura, Babylonia. It heavily influenced all subsequent rabbinic prayer rites, but especially that of the Sephardim (Jews in Spain and other Arab lands).
  2. Machzor Vitry, the first major liturgical work of Rhineland Jewry (Ashkenazim), compiled by Simcha ben Samuel of Vitry (now in France) in the twelfth century.
  3. Kol Bo (“Miscellany,” literally “everything’s in it”), compiled by Shemaryah ben Simchah, details the liturgical customs of German Jews in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
  4. Seder HaYom(“The Order of the Day”), by Moses ben Makhir, who lived near Safed in the late sixteenth century, is a liturgical work heavily influenced by the kabbalistic school of Isaac Luria.

Rabbi Sarason is Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought at HUC in Cincinnati and is associate editor of the Hebrew Union College Annual.

14. Webinars

Adopting and Integrating Mishkan T'filah into Congregational Worship

This participatory webinar will give all who join an opportunity to learn and ask questions of an experienced professional team about adoption, integration, and the joyous use of the Mishkan T'filah prayer book.

The New Reform Prayerbook

We invite all who are considering the adoption of Mishkan T'filah AND leaders and members of congregations that own our new Reform Prayer book to join us, Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell and Cantor Alane Katzew, Worship and Music Specialists, for a session that will provide an in-depth introduction to this new and essential resource for congregations of all sizes, and is in use by congregations across the English-speaking world. Our participatory webinar will give attendees an opportunity to learn and ask questions of an experienced professional team about adoption, integration, and joyous use of this powerful prayer book.

Powerpoint Presentation

1-12-2010 Adopting and Integrating Mishkan T'filah AUDIO

1-20-2010 Adopting and Integrating Mishkan T'filah AUDIO

Question and Answer Log

Q: When describing this feature to our congregations, is there a term to describe the listing of the order of the service at the far right and left side of the page?
Sidebar, menu bar or outside margins.

Q: How does a Congregation determine when it is ready to switch to Mishkan T'filah?
This is, of course, different for every congregation - remember that no one size fits all congregations! Any congregational change requires the commitment of at least one individual who takes on the responsibility of educating him/herself and others about Mishkan T'filah. This person can be a member of the board or a professional congregational leader. "Readiness" also includes bringing representatives of many congregational constituencies "on board." You may want to read Rabbi Kim Geringer's excellent article, "Before Purchasing Mishkan T'filah-How to Get Started and Decide If you Even Want to Buy It..." See also, A Congregational Year-Long Transition Plan
Q: Are there plans for a Braille edition of Mishkan T'filah?
In the past the Braille edition is something that Jewish Braille Institute (JBI) has undertaken, with CCAR permission. There is a Braille edition currently available through JBI that includes the English and transliteration but the Hebrew is not yet available. Because of the current American economic situation, there hasn't been money available to get the Hebrew done. At present, the CCAR is working with JBI to raise the necessary funds to complete this project, and we hope that will reach this goal in the coming months.

Q: We have discovered that our religious school students and, we suspect, some adults, do not always understand the English readings related to a particular prayer. Obviously, it is part of our job as synagogue professionals, clergy and lay educators to discuss these readings in a classroom setting. Have other people expressed this concern, and does the Union have resources for us to use for such discussions?
As you can imagine, the extensive discussions that preceded the publication of Mishkan T'filah included conversations about how to best provide support to those who use the prayer book as a teaching tool for students of all ages. The translations that appear below every prayer, on the right hand side following the Hebrew, are literal and not interpretive, enabling readers to "read" and study the prayers, albeit in translation. The readings that appear on the left hand side of the pages are an invitation to interpretation and study. While no "guide" has been developed for the left hand pages, the contributions to each Thursday's Ten Minutes of Torah sometimes deal directly with the left hand readings. Mishkan T'filah offers two linear services for Shabbat, that is, complete services with no interpretive readings that may work well in your teaching settings. For Erev Shabbat, the linear service begins on p. 145/263, and for Shabbat morning it begins on p. 169/287 (page numbers are for the full siddur [Weekdays, Shabbat, Festival] and for the Shabbat version).

Q: Did I hear correctly that when we order Mishkan T'filah we will get 20% off? Does this offer apply to all-sized congregations and congregations "of all ages"?
YES! You can order your copy online today!

Q: Who should be involved in evaluating a change over toMishkan T'filah, how large a group should this be and what other factors should we consider?
You can begin with the Worship or Liturgy or Religious Affairs Committee (these committees seem to have many names in different synagogues), or with a subcommittee of the board. We recommend using the Union publication Iv'du B'Simchah, Worship with Joy. You might also want to read "Before Purchasing Mishkan T'filah-How to Get Started and Decide If you Even Want to Buy It..." by Rabbi Kim Geringer.

Q: We have conducted an extensive process and taken the decision to adopt Mishkan T'filah. There are, of course, those who did not agree with this decision. Does the Union have any suggestions on implementation processes that might assist in bringing these individuals on board?
We would be delighted to speak with you on the phone about how to bring folks along. It may "take a village," that is, it may take some real creativity and teamwork to bring along some folks who are concerned about or afraid of change. Reform Judaism is all about change and growth. Give us a call or drop us an email so we can continue this conversation! [Contact presenters Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell or Cantor Alane Katzew to discuss this change.]

Q: We introduced Mishkan T'filah this fall and now need to look at how to help the worshippers process the use of the new siddur. It is the Friday night group. I am planning to speak about some of the prayers with 10 Minutes of Torah materials as the source material. Do you have other suggestions?
Take a look at more information for examples of other congregations' journeys from adoption to acceptance and celebration. And feel free to call us for further ideas.