So a pretty decent Shabbat this week–I didn’t get my kitchen totally clean, but good food was had, and the LCBO had some different kosher wines in from the usual 2-3 uninspiring vintages. Some years ago I had a really incredible red from sooomewhere in the Galilee, something sweet but complex, and drank it on the front porch with my housemates in Kingston on the night of a massive power outage (or as we say here, pooer ootage). In fact, I drank it from a kiddush cup, because I had bought one impulsively and used it as decor, and it was the only stemmed cup we had. Fancy university living. It was a very good year, is what I’m saying. Ever since then I’ve tried to find another Israeli wine that was as good, but so far I haven’t found it.
I also bought a siddur this past week, which is intimidating but useful. Regarding the intimidation factor, I’m well-prepared because I’ve prayed the Office before–while the latter might be all in English, the amount of page-flipping and ribbon-placing is crazy, and there’s a whole procedure of looking up the date in the little booklet, gluing in the “cheat sheet” cards or using them as extra bookmarks, and finding all the elements of prayer for the day. And besides that, you need several volumes for the whole liturgical year. Is it worth all that trouble? Yeah, the Office is substantial prayer, beautiful and educational. The siddur is well worth my time too, and there’s only one volume, and (as far as I understand it) the services are read in linear fashion without a lot of jumping around. It just happens to have facing Hebrew, and the services are (to put it mildly) not short. I’m slowly learning the aleph-bet and it’s neat to be able to look at the other page and recognize familiar words, and the selections from Scripture, sixteenth-century mystical poems, and other neat bits give me something to pore over while I’m eating Shabbat dinner by myself. The introduction and footnotes in the Koren Sacks are definitely useful. There’s no way to jump in right away and be perfect at davening, just as the Office has a steep learning curve, but in both cases the raw material you’re working with (i.e. the Psalms) is so classic that you’re bound to get something out of it.
It’s also amazing to flip through the siddur and find familiar lines, or totally new things. Stumbling upon Nishmat Kol Chai, I was totally blown away by the poetry:
To You alone we give thanks:
If our mouths were as full of song as the sea,
and our tongue with jubilation as its myriad waves,
if our lips were full of praise like the spacious heavens,
and our eyes shone like the sun and moon,
if our hands were outstretched like eagles of the sky,
and our feet as swift as hinds–
still we could not thank You enough,
Lord our God and God of our ancestors,
or bless Your name
for even one of the thousand thousands
and myriad myriads of favours
You did for our ancestors and for us…
Doesn’t get better than that.