The Siddur reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Siddur

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The siddur is the prayerbook used by Jews the world over, containing a set order of daily prayers. There is a separate entry on the prayers that appear in the siddur, and when they are said This entry discusses how some of these prayers evolved, and how the siddur as we know it today has developed.

Table of contents
1 Complete versus weekday siddurim
2 Variations and additions on holidays
3 History of Jewish liturgy
4 Different Jewish rites
5 Additional reading
6 See also

Complete versus weekday siddurim

Some siddurim have only prayers for weekdays; others have prayers for weekdays and Shabbat (the Sabbath). Many have prayers for weekdays, Shabbat, and the three Biblical festivals, Sukkot (the feast of Tabernacles), Shavuot (the feast of weeks) and Pesach (Passover). The latter are referred to as a Siddur Shalem (complete siddur).

Variations and additions on holidays

There are many additional liturgical variations and additions to the siddur for the Yamim Noraim (The Days of Awe; High Holy Days, i.e. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur). As such, a special siddur has developed for just this period, known as a mahzor (also machzor). The mahzor contains not only the basic liturgy, but also many piyutim, Hebrew liturgical poems.

History of Jewish liturgy

The earliest parts of Jewish prayer are the "Shema Yisrael" (Hear O Israel) (Deuteronomy 6:4 et seq) and the set of 19 blessings called the Shemoneh Esreh or the Amidah (Hebrew, "Standing Prayer".)

The name Shemonah Esreh, literally "eighteen," is a historical anachronism, since it now contains nineteen blessings. It was only near the end of the Second Temple period that the 18 prayers of the weekday Amidah became standardized. Even at this time their precise wording and order was not yet fixed, and varied from local to local. Many scholars now believe that parts of the Amidah came from the Hebrew apocryphal work Ben Sirah.

According to the Talmud, soon after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem a formal version of the Amidah was adopted at a rabbinical council in Jabneh, under the leadership of Rabban Gamaliel II and his colleagues. However, the precise wording was still left open. The order, general ideas, opening and closing lines were fixed. Most of the wording was left to the individual reader. It was not until several centuries later that the prayers began to be formally fixed. By the middle-ages the texts of the prayers were nearly fixed, and in the form that they are still used today.

A separate article on the Amidah exists.

Readings from the Torah (five books of Moses) and the Prophets form part of the prayer services. To this framework were fitted, from time to time, various prayers, and, for festivals especially, numerous hymns. The earliest existing codification of the prayerbook is the Siddur (order) drawn up by Amram Gaon of Sura about 850. Half a century later the famous Gaon Saadiah Gaon, also of Sura, issued his Siddur, in which the rubrical matter is in Arabic.

Different Jewish rites

There are differences between the Sephardic (Spanish), Ashkenazic (German-Polish), Roman (Greek and South Italian) liturgies. The Mahzor of each rite is distinguished by hymns (piyyutim) composed by authors (payyetanim) of the district. The most important writers are Yoseh ben Yoseh, probably in the 6th century, chiefly known for his compositions for the day of Atonement, Elazar Qalir, the founder of the payyetanic style, perhaps in the 7th century, Saadiah, and the Spanish school consisting of Joseph ibn Abitur (died in 970), ibn Gabirol, Isaac Gayyath, Moses ibn Ezra, Abraham ibn Ezra and Judah ha-Levi, Moses ben Nahman (Nahmanides), and Isaac Luria.

Also see: Judaism, Prayer, Jewish services

Additional reading

See also