Culture, Religion

Let Us Sing!

bencher cover
When we have simchas (celebrations) — weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, etc. — we tend to put a lot of effort into making sure all the details of the day are just right. But it’s important to think not only about the experience of the day itself, but about the things that will last far into the future.
That’s right, the benchers.
Long after the food has been digested and the flowers are dead, these little books of blessings and songs will adorn the Shabbat tables of your friends and relatives around the world week after week, and they’ll think about you and your simcha each time. So it’s important to choose a bencher that reflects your values and that your family and friends will want to continue using. And that’s why, when I get married this summer, we’ll be using L’chu N’ran’nah (Let Us Sing). This brand-new bencher is edited by Barry Walfish and Mark Frydenberg (editors of Chaveirim Kol Yisraeil, “the purple siddur”) and Aviva Richman, and distributed by Haggadahs-R-Us (of A Different Night fame).
L’chu N’ran’nah has something for everyone. In addition to the full Hebrew text, the entire bencher is translated (referring to God in gender-neutral language) and transliterated. For those who want to navigate easily between the Hebrew, English, and transliteration, there is a line-by-line three-column layout like the purple siddur. For those who like to sing, a wide range of songs are included, from Kol Mekadeish Shevi’i to Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu. For those of a scholarly bent, the foonotes provide citations to many of the biblical and rabbinic references in the Shabbat zemirot. For those looking for alternatives to the traditional liturgy, the bencher provides four alternative versions of birkat hamazon. For those looking for alternatives within the traditional structure, the bencher provides many options, including two different versions of the “harachaman” for peace between the children of Sarah and the children of Hagar (or is it between the children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael?).
There are many options for contents and covers, including a full version with all the songs as well as a mini version with just birkat hamazon. The bencher will be out by Shavuot.
Let us sing!

11 thoughts on “Let Us Sing!

  1. Interesting. I too am getting married in a couple months. This particular one is a bit lefty for me but perhaps the Yedid Nefesh one (another bencher these guys seem to be putting out) might be OK…
    An issue with most non-orthodox benchers is they have reshit smichat geulateinu, which I don’t say. i bet both of these new benchers have it.
    in short, it is very difficult finding a good non-NCSY transliterated bencher (for my open orthodox wedding with my bride’s whole family that can’t read hebrew, thus the transliteration). for now, we’ve settled on feldheim’s essential birchon shiron, which is more expensive.

  2. An issue with most non-orthodox benchers is they have reshit smichat geulateinu, which I don’t say. i bet both of these new benchers have it.
    I don’t know what Yedid Nefesh has for this, but L’chu N’ran’nah (or at least the preliminary version that I have) has “Harachaman hu yevareich et medinat Yisrael im Yerushalayim ir hakodesh, vivieim lig’ulah sheleimah.

  3. yedid nefesh is a nice book- but I thought it had was too much gratuitous zionism. while I may not be a “reishit zmichat geulatenu” fan- I understand that for many people it is now mainstream liturgy, and dont find it gratuitous when a bentcher puts it in, even though I skip it. however- I thought putting in the “al hanissim” for israel’s independence day which couches the 1948 war in hyperbolic messianic terms of good vs. evil to be a bit too much. honestly, its inclusion is enough to prevent me from buying the bentcher. (yes, I know the sim shalom has this text- but its far from universal, far from canonized, and in my mind its problematic nature outweighs the benefit of having it there for the few people who would want to use it).
    also- in the ushpizin section, kudos to yedid nefesh for adding in female ushpizin (ushpizot?) but in their explanation of the ushpizin they resort to some unnecessary prayers for american/israeli influences in the world. (cant find my copy- can anyone give us the text?) I didnt understand why they would make this so country specific instead of turning it into a general prayer for wise world leadership and peace (both because the Israel message was unnecessary and bc Im sure there are people outside the US and Israel who might buy the bentcher).

  4. Another option for anyone with some DIY energy: when I got married in 2006, we put together our own bencher through a company called Singer Siddur: http://www.singersiddur.com/ Vivian Singer, who runs Singer Siddur, was fantastic to work with. You can customize ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING — which zmirot you want in or out, in what order you want them, any liturgical tweaks you want to any prayer, etc.
    Case in point — Not only did we not have to deal with “reishit smichat geulateinu” but I think ours is the first bencher to print “harachaman hu yitein sof l’kibush bimheira biyameinu” — “May the merciful one grant an end to the occupation speedily and in our days.”
    If I remember correctly, she has license to use just about every movement’s version of the translation of the hebrew text. And in the end, the total cost for this perfectly customized bencher was just about equal to ordering the same number of b’kol echad benchers from the conservative movement.

  5. Our 1995 bencher didn’t use the word kibush per se, but we did have “Harachaman hu yisbor ulenu al tzavar am acher” (May the Merciful One break our yoke off the neck of another people) following “…al tzavarenu,” an addition we got from Israel Cohen of Jerusalem. One of many tweaks and changes; we could have used Singer Siddur or Haggadahs-R-Us back then!

  6. Is it not too late to add popular Sephardi pizmonim? I’m not making any unreasonable demands, but I’d like to have them included in at least ONE mainstream benscher.

  7. As main editor of L’chu N’ran’nah, I thought I’d respond to a few of the issues raised here.
    Comparing Yedid Nefesh and L’chu, I’d say YN is more mainstream egalitarian conservative and ours a little edgier, including the traditional text but providing alternatives where we felt there was a need or issue to be addressed. But the text of the zemirot and the choice of songs are comparable. Also the 3-column format sets ours apart from all other benchers and, I feel, is an attractive feature. There’s more, but people should check them both out.
    Re Ushpizin, my impression is that YN is using the text from Sim Shalom. We created a new version from the sources, including women — ushpizata.
    Re including Sephardic zemirot, the original bencher I had put together for my daughter Miriam-Simma’s wedding, included several Sephardic pizmonim but they didn’t make the cut when we decided that we needed to reduce the size to make it a more viable option for weddings and other simchas. If we see that there is interest in a larger version, we would consider putting one out that included more zemirot and other songs (Israeli, Yiddish, Ladino, etc.). But, that wouldn’t happen for a while.
    We need to see how this one is received. We welcome feedback on this and other issues.
    On the Al Ha-Nisim issue, we actually had included it in the original version, but decided to leave it out this time. Perhaps, we’re still too close to the actual events. I wonder how long after 165 BC the Al Ha-Nisim prayer was written and how long it took for it to be accepted as an established part of the liturgy. Probably a couple of hundred years at least.
    As BZ mentioned, we do not have reshit tsemichat ge’ulatenu, but the text that BZ quotes above, again because it’s probably too soon to know for sure whether Medinat Yisrael is truly reshit tsemichat ge’ulateinu.
    Barry Dov Walfish

  8. “it’s probably too soon to know for sure whether Medinat Yisrael is truly reshit tsemichat ge’ulateinu.”
    Interesting. My view is that it’s definitely *not* too soon to know that M”Y is definitely *not.” And no, I’m not charedi. Just someone who thinks that the emergence of a racist nation-state isn’t going to be reshit tsemicha of anything good, let alone geulateinu.

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