I learned this morning that my dear friend, Rabbi, and inspiration for this website, Rabbi Dr. Michael “Mickey” Rosen, Z’L, passed away. A great light no longer shines from this earth. May his memory be for a blessing.
Update 4: I’ve added the first set of tunes: three versions of Shalom Aleychem. Do be warned that I am neither a musician nor composer. Frankly, I can’t even read music. I can, however, hit keys on a keyboard until I think I’ve got the right notes and I can belt out a tune into my computers mic (however lacking in tonal quality and consistant pace). As I said before, I’m planning on trying to convince my cousin and my dear friend Heidi and Jason, to help with with this project. That should improve things a bit. Until then, feel free to use what I’ve got so far. Thanks!
Update 3: I have always loved the songs of Firday night, both from the Kabbalat Shabbat service, and from around my family’s Shabbat dinner table. After college I studied at Yakar in Jerusalem. The Kabbalat Shabbat service at Yakar is historic. Rabbi Doctor Michael Rosen, the founder of Yakar, decided he wanted to assist those with an interest in davening at Yakar by creating a compact disc of the music they use. While there I helped Reb Mickey create a CD liner with the complete text of the service and notes on the origins of the tunes. This CD is available from Yakar for a modest donation (I think they ask for something in the range of $10 which covers the cost of the CD). I also helped them create a second CD of the Seudat Shlishit service. This CD was unique in that we produced it with two tracks for songs with harmonies: one with the melody alone and one with the melody and harmony together. Our intention was to help listeners learn harmony and melody so they could choose which suited them best.
My experience at Yakar renewed my interest in the music of our tradition. I somehow got it into my head that it would be a lot of fun to someday collect these tunes in one place. You may have noticed the Tunes – לחנים page which has a placeholder for the future possibility of sharing some of these tunes so you can try them for yourself.
I’ve decided now is as good a time as any to start. I would like to start small and see how things go. I’ve decided to start with the prayers and songs that traditionally start off Shabbat dinner. I will soon post three tunes for Shalom Aleichem, a tune for Eyshet Chayil, and my favorite tune for Kiddush. I must warn you, however, that I am no David Broza. I hope to convince one of my oldest, dearest, closest friends, Jason McKinney, and my cousin, Heidi Maistelman, to assist me in this regard. Jason and Heidi are both extraordinary musicians. Jason is a classically trained opera singer and has performed for the first family at the White House, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York just to name a couple. Heidi is also a classically trained opera singer and has her masters in musical education from Northwestern (where she graduated Cum Laude). She is now in music education at a Jewish day school in Milwaukee. Oh… and they honored me by singing at my wedding.
The reason I think it is important to have both a male and female voice is it can be difficult to master a tune when sung far outside one’s own range. I hope having the option to hear a tune sung both ways will be useful to those listening. Until I’ve had a chance to convince Jason and Heidi to help me out, however, we’ll have to be OK with my voice.
One final note: After the first tunes go up, I’ll be asking for two things from those visiting this site. First, if you know of the origin of the tune I would love to give credit so please email me (ariel /at/ arielbenjamin /dot/ com) and let me know. Second, if you have a tune different from the tune I’ve posted and wouldn’t mind letting me add it to the site, I’d love to hear from you on that as well. Please don’t just send me a file of your recording. Please contact me by email and we can discuss the best method of transport. Thanks!
Update 2: I decided the comments to this front page were a bit out of place. I have now created a page just for comments and would love to hear from you!
Welcome to the Free Siddur Project – פרויקט סדור חופשי! Here you will find resources for producing your own customized siddur. I began working on this project in the months leading up to my wedding. My Rabbi was in visiting on the way to another wedding she was performing. She stopped in to do one of the many pre-wedding counsels with my Fiancé and me. For the wedding she was performing a few days later, she had prepared (like she often does) a custom siddur for the guests of the wedding. Unfortunately in her rush to the airport, she misplaced a portion of her booklet. She and I went online to attempt to reconstruct the missing portions.
As I browsed around the net searching both in English and Hebrew I was unhappy to discover that their existed very few useful resources. What I wanted was one site where I could find the text of the תפילות (prayers), their translation and a transliteration of the Hebrew. I was chagrined to discover all sorts of sites for translations (almost entirely Christian), a few incomplete sites of the Hebrew, and virtually no sites of transliteration.
This got me thinking: wouldn’t it be great if such a place existed. It had been a number of years since I had played with writing in Hebrew with vowels and cantilation marks. The last time I attempted to do anything of the sort it required highly specialized software (Davka or Qtext or Dagesh) and even then wasn’t the simplest process. I was excited to learn the times have changed dramatically since then. Using Tavultsoft’s Keyman and the Ezra SIL Unicode font kit (both free) I was able to type phonetically in Microsoft Word 2003 with full vowels and cantilation marks. The text could even be exported to Adobe Acrobat PDF with no loss. What a change!
I feverishly began running through my favorite portion of the liturgy – Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv for Friday night. The Hebrew was fantastically easy to produce. As I went I attempted to hash out my own system of transliteration, but quickly discovered that despite my brief flirtation with linguistics, I was coming up short with creating a uniform transliteration. I did some looking around the net and discovered HebrewWorks’ Saffa – a program that automatically transliterates Hebrew text. Saffa allows for a 4 day trial period and so I used those four days to create the transliteration for the Friday Evening texts I’d already produced. Under the “Texts – טקסטים section you’ll find these texts. They’re nothing fancy – just the Hebrew and transliteration – but it’s a start. Before I invest more time in this project and before I invest in Saffa I want to get your feedback on the usefulness of the site and on ease of use of the transliteration. If the feedback is positive I’ll continue with the project.
One final note: you’ll notice that there is no translation here yet. Translation is a project I’d love to take on at some point (or find someone to work with that would like to work on that portion of the project) but I’m not there yet. Hopefully someday soon! In the meantime, enjoy the site!
Update: It has recently come to my attention that Tavultsoft’s KeyMan is no longer free. Fortunately, there is a keyboard map that doesn’t require KeyMan. Check out: