Also see Michael Fink's (Messianic Times) review on Jeremiah Greenberg's "Zmirot Shabbat" CDs

WHAT'S NEW
-AND NOT SO NEW-
IN MESSIANIC JUDAICA

Book Reviews by Michael A. Kashdan 
"The Messianic Outreach" Winter 1996 book review

Messianic Shabbat Siddur: A Messianic Prayer Book for use in Sabbath service and at Home compiled by Jeremiah Greenberg [Messianic Liturgical Resources, 140+viii pp. $18 ($38 with instructional CDs), hardcover]

Many Messianic Jewish congregations appear to have come, or are coming to the realization that Messianic Jewish worship should be structured in an authentically Jewish manner. Yes, orderly worship done in a spiritual manner in a Messianic Jewish congregation should richly avail itself of traditional Jewish order: the Siddur. Unfortunately, far too many of us use, for traditional Jewish worship, overhead transparencies, hastily-thrown-together homemade siddurim, or congregants' memories. While these options sometimes seem to be the only ones available to us, other than using something like the Artscroll Siddur, it would be nice if we could choose a well bound, moderately priced, well printed, well edited, Messianic Siddur.

Well, such an option does exist. One is the Messianic Siddur for Sabbath Services compiled by John Fischer of Or Chadash, Clearwater Florida. Also out of the State of Florida comes a Messianic Shabbat Siddur, compiled by Chazzan Jeremiah Greenberg. Say goodbye to those homemade siddurim which received an "E" for effort, but not for evangelism, nor for empathy with davening. Say goodbye also to those overhead transparencies where the person who runs the projector has to choose between letting the congregation see either the Hebrew or the transliteration.

Chazzan Greenberg has compiled an excellent Shabbat siddur, one that Messianic synagogues/fellowships of any size may use proudly. The Greenberg siddur guides the follower of Messiah Yeshua from Erev Shabbat, to Shabbat morning, to Havdalah. One can be lifted to new spiritual and communal height by making use of the "Additional Worship" sections, zemirot, tehilim portions, and grace after meals. The siddur's sequential nature makes for greater focus in prayer and worship since each prayer is repeated when it appears in more than one service.

The Hebrew print style, which Chazzan Greenberg chose, is large enough to be easy to read, without being so large that the book becomes bulky.  Facing pages feature English translation with transliteration in bold print. The brief explanations of some of the prayers reminded me of the excellent brief commentaries which precede many of the prayers in the Artscroll siddurim and makhzorim. The only drawback here is that the commentary is printed exactly the same as the translations, so this might be a slight inconvenience the first couple times one uses this siddur. In future editions, Chazzan Greenberg might want to print the commentary portions in italics, or some varying type to more easily distinguish it from the translation.

Responsive sections of the liturgy are usually clearly designated in the translation and/or transliteration, but not with the Hebrew. One reason for this may relate to varying minhagim, such as is the case with the Kaddish, which some congregations recite responsively and some recite in unison. However, it would have been helpful if responsive portions, such as Barchu, had been clearly designated as such. Just because someone reads from the Hebrew does not mean that he or she is knowledgeable regarding certain practices. Also, in future editions, it might be a good idea to explain that the second line of the Sh'ma is chanted in an undertone most of the year. The vast majority of Messianic synagogues seem to be either ignorant or indifferent to this traditional practice.

Chazzan Greenberg is somewhat unique in some of his transliteration choices. They will definitely seem strange to anyone who has learned the academic transliteration common in many Gentile seminaries. But this is just the point. Much of scholastic transliteration is not phonetic, and not terribly helpful to someone who does not know the alef-bet. Of course, transliteration is only a halfway house to someone on a journey toward learning, or relearning the alef-bet. For a congregant on such a journey, Greenberg's transliteration is adequate, although it must be supplemented with experience.

Such experience can be gained, in part, by availing oneself of the CDs which Chazzan Greenberg has made available. On these CDs, Greenberg goes through the siddur and chants/reads the prayers/brackot. As a formally trained chazzan, from a family of chazzanim, Jeremiah Greenberg is well-qualified to teach us, and lead us through the different aspects of traditional Jewish worship. His Shabbat Siddur is an extremely valuable resource which I highly recommend to Messianic Jewish congregations, and to Messianic Jewish congregants.



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