Sunday, July 24, 2005

Prayerbooks for Women

Artscroll have published a siddur for women. I actually saw it in a bookstore last week, but forgot to blog about it. Avraham Bronstein did not. (by the way, dinner was great. Hope to see you again.) Of course, now there is (part of) a woman's siddur from a another, more enlightened age, available online.

But I am reminded of something that happened a couple of weeks ago, when I was visiting Hassidic relatives in the Catskills. I noticed several copies of Perek Shira lying around (you will notice that it is also included in the new Artscroll siddur), and mentioned Prof. Malachi Beit-Arie. Malachi, before creating the field of Hebrew codicology, heading the IMHM and the JNUL for years, and teaching at the (now defunct) HU School of Library Science, wrote his doctorate on Perek Shira, under Gershom Scholem.

My cousin was amazed. "I thought no-one had heard of Perek Shira until five years ago!". Well, noone in the Catskills, apparently. But it was a very popular work in the Middle Ages, and has attracted a moderate amount of scholarly attention over the years. Beit-Arie produced a critical edition based on all extant manuscripts, and linguists have written a couple of short pieces on its vocabulary.

So, it is nice that the Haredi world has rediscovered Perek Shira, which really is a beautiful little work. But if we depended on the Haredim to preserve Jewish culture, we'd be missing out on a lot.


Blogger Simon said...

I remember hearing a vort on Perek Shira over 20 years ago from Dayan Michael Fisher of the Federation of Synagogues in England.

As well as I can remember he asked why the weasel in Perek Shira says "Kol haneshama tehallel yah" (Let every soul/everything that has breath praise the Lord), and answered from a Yerushalmi Shabbat 14:1 (no I don't remember the reference from back then, but I just found it on Google) which says that every species that exists on land also exists in the sea, except for the weasel. This means that all weasels breathe air, without gills, so "Kol haneshama" is particularly appropriate to them.

12:39 AM  
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