Actually, it wasn’t until fourth grade that I finally realized that a “Sekhvi” is, in fact, a rooster. Before that, all I knew about the elusive “Sekhvi” was that G-d had granted it understanding to distinguish between day and night.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that I had a Rinat Yisrael siddur (prayer book), but who knew that you could just look at the bottom of the page to find definitions and explanations?
Anyway, I don’t recall school prayer being anything special. It wasn’t frustrating and oppressive like math, but it also wasn’t a life-altering spiritual experience.
However, I do remember my siddur party from the end of first grade. I desperately wanted a prayer book with a black, rather than a red or green, cover. (Everyone knows that black is for boys. Only stupid girls want red covers.)
By sixth grade, that original siddur was lost to the sands of time. I replaced it with one from home. (The cover was a relatively decent light blue.)
It’s been some time since I’ve been to school, but apparently, there have been some drastic changes. For example, today’s pupils can use the TALI Education Fund’s new prayer book, “Yachad BiTefillah” (“Together in Prayer”).
The charming prayer book, which is designed for very young students, contains colorful and whimsical illustrations on every page. It almost looks like a child’s bedtime storybook.
Different, but appropriate
As can be expected from a TALI publication, the new siddur does not rigorously adhere to strict Orthodox standards. Nevertheless, with a few blatant exceptions, most of the traditional blessings are included.
Predictably, the authors have chosen to sidestep the “did not make me a woman/made me according to His will” hurdle. Instead, they introduced an egalitarian blessing in lieu of both gender specific blessings: “Who made me in His image”. Similarly, “did not make me a gentile” was transformed to the more positive “made me Israel”.
Thankfully, the illustrator leaves no doubt as to the identity of the “Sekhvi”. An unmistakable rooster appears on the relevant page.
Not much remains of either Psukei DiZimra or the blessings preceding the Shema. Furthermore, the Shmoneh Esreh (literally, eighteen) silent prayer has been reduced to a mere seven blessings. (Do they think it’s Shabbat?)
Overall, the highly abridged prayer book encompasses only a portion of the original liturgy. A young child will be comfortable with the shortened service, but older students require a more substantial version.
Do I think that this new prayer book will likely be used in the state religious schools? Not a chance, and that’s truly a shame.