Desert Island Texts

Desert Island Texts

If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?

This week Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky of Menorah Synagogue (Cheshire Reform Congregation) selects: The Siddur

If I were cast away on an island destined to be alone with just one Jewish text for company, I would choose a good book that encompasses a wide range of words of wisdom that kindle prayer, positive spiritual and intellectual stimulation and comfort. My choice would be the Siddur.

The Siddur, as Jakob Petuchowski, the renowned scholar of Jewish liturgy described it, is the diary of the Jewish people. And I can think of no better companion and connection to loved ones as our very own shared diary that is both intimate and unique, yet touches on matters as public and universal as ethics, spirituality, and wisdom.

As I envisage myself alone on that island, I think particularly of night time and the thoughts that might arise when the physical work required to make life possible for another day has ended.

I can imagine looking back at my life and reflecting on those fateful circumstances, the people, and what surely would have been a disturbing turn of events contributing to such a fate.

Then I’d remember the Siddur and open it to read soothing words of meditation and the Shema Before Sleep for the night. I’d then pause to take in the traditional meditation composed by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (the Shelah) in the 16th century that often precedes the bedtime Shema in many traditional siddurim: “I hereby forgive anyone who has angered or provoked me or sinned against me…” then I let the Siddur guide me into the prayers for peaceful sleep and safe awakening in the liturgy.

When I wake, I hope it’d be to life renewed and the realisation it is a dream and that today is another day in which we’re privileged to affirm through our actions the daily gifts, opportunities and the obligations that our life as Jews calls upon us to seize.