Andrew Greene (530nm330hz) wrote,
Andrew Greene

Channeling my inner Lord Dorwin

"Pirenne heard Lord Dorwin's idea of scientific research. Lord Dorwin thought the way to be a good archaeologist was to read all the books on the subject---written by men who were dead for centuries. He thought that the way to solve archaeological puzzles was to weigh the opposing authorities.... Don't you see that there's something wrong with that?"
-- Isaac Asimov, Foundation

One of the things that worries me about putting the finishing touches on my siddur --- well, to be frank, what I really mean is one of the things that worries me about calling it "done" and publishing it and putting it out there --- is that I'm actually unqualified for the work. I'm a pashut yid, a simple Jew, with no semicha (rabbinic ordination), no degree in Hebrew grammar, liturgical history, or any of this stuff. I dabble. I used to flatter myself that my interests in liturgy, in nusach, and in typography made me a natural for this work --- now, with the prospect of committing to a final version before me, I am facing the fact that I'm a dilettante, not a polymath.

I look in other siddurim, I weigh Rinat Yisrael against Artscroll against Rödelheim against Koren and Koren/Sacks, and the two dozen other siddurim on my shelves. I read what I can, mostly in translation, but it's not enough. I'm not a scholar, I'm not qualified to judge which authority has more weight. I'm certainly not learned enough to do original research.

"Why not go to Arcturus and study the remains for yourself?"

Lord Dorwin raised his eyebrows and took a pinch of snuff hurriedly. "Why, whateveh foah, my deah fellow?"

"To get the information firsthand, of course."

"But wheah's the necessity? It seems seems an uncommonly woundabout and hopelessly wigmawolish method of getting anywheas. Look heah, now, I've got the wuhks of all the old mastahs---the gweat ahchaeologists of the past. I wigh them against each othah---balance the disagweements---analyze the conflicting statements---decide which is pwobably cowwect---and come to a conclusion. That is the scientific method."

It's one thing to have made a mistake when all that was at stake were my own prayers. But others, far more qualified than I, have made mistakes that have changed the course of Jewish prayer. By what right do I, a liturgical Dorwin, presume to publish my own edition of the siddur, to blemish the offerings of the lips of others?

Tags: siddur

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