New Alter Rebbe’s Siddur Doesn’t Leave a Stone Unturned

Two decades after publishing the Alter Rebbe’s siddur with detailed sources and halachic explanations, Dayan LY Raskin of London prepares to publish a new and expanded edition. In an interview with, he outlines the significance of the siddur and the nature of his work.

By reporter

Around twenty years ago, a large and thick red volume was published by Kehos imprinted with the title, “Siddur Rabbeinu Hazaken.” In fact, the unusually bulky siddur was not made for davening, but it was a groundbreaking compendium of sources to the Alter Rebbe’s siddur.

The volume, produced by Dayan LY Raskin of London, was quickly bought out by anash and anyone interested in understanding the uniqueness of the Alter Rebbe’s work. It has since been quoted extensively in contemporary Seforim.

The sefer has been out of print for years, and at the same time, new sources were found and added. Now, a new edition is being prepared to go to print, this time in three volumes, including over 1,500 pages.

We turned to Dayan Raskin to hear more about this project and what we should expect in the new set. Dayan Raskin, what is so unique about the Alter Rebbe’s edition of the siddur?

Dayan Raskin: The Mezeritcher Maggid encouraged his Chassidim to embrace Nusach hoArizal (known as ‘ Nusach Sefard’) instead of their tradition for centuries to Daven Nusach Ashkenaz.

This transition, however, had its fair share of difficulties, because many elements of Nusach Ashkenaz were still retained by the chassidim who followed minhagei Ashkenaz. Therefore, competent guidance was needed to navigate which elements of Nusach Sefard should be adopted and which elements of Nusach Ashkenaz should be retained.

Additionally, numerous scholars before the Alter Rebbe had made emendations to the Sidur, and these were incorporated into many editions of the Sidur. Whilst many of the modifications were justified, a sizable number were highly debatable. There was an obvious vacuum for an authority of stature to decide.

Tradition has it that the Alter Rebbe perused 60 different editions of the Sidur in order to find authentic Nuschaos that he could adapt.

In addition, the Alter Rebbe’s Sidur is replete with Halachic guidance, some in larger sections, some in short lines of instructions, and some embedded in the text of the davening.

What did your sefer come to do?

For years, chassidim have tried to understand the basis of the Alter Rebbe’s choices in nusach and halacha.

Rav Avrohom Lavut, Rav of Nikolaiev, a great-great-grandfather of our Rebbe זי”ע published the first major research into the Alter Rebbe’s Sidur. His first edition was called Shaarei Tefilo, whilst his later and more famous edition – which incorporated copious input of the Rebbe Rashab נ”ע – is known as Shaar haKolel.

Of special significance are the comments of our Rebbeim, the Nesi’ei Chabad over the last six generations, each of whom had input on the Sidur (besides their explanations in Maamorei Chassidus). The sheer volume of these comments warranted a separate section in our new edition, entitled Gilyonei haSidur. Thus, when opening the new print you will easily be able to identify hundreds of observations culled the writings of our Rebbeim, throughout the Sidur.

Plus, hundreds of articles about the Alter Rebbe’s Sidur have been published in numerous forums. I endeavored to collate their findings in as succinct way possible.

Your first edition spanned over 750 pages, whilst the current work includes twice that amount. What caused this phenomenal expansion?

In the first edition I simply collated observations from hitherto published material. In this edition I painstakingly compared the Alter Rebbe’s text to several early editions of Nusach Ashkenaz which the Alter Rebbe undoubtedly worked with, as well as to early Nusach Sefard. This brought out many fascinating observations.

Additionally, I received literally hundreds of items of feedback on the first edition. These, plus my own later discoveries, are incorporated into the current version.

Moreover, some ten years ago was discovered – in the Chabad library still in exile in Russia – what is assumed to be the first edition of the Alter Rebbe’s Sidur (Shklov 5563). The Rebbe Rashab wrote that he doesn’t have a copy of that edition. This discovery was hugely significant in our new edition.

Of similar value was the recent publishing of the notes that our Rebbe penned as he was publishing the Sidur Torah Or, the ‘Rostov’ Sidur, and the Tehilas HaShem Sidur.

Yasher koiach Rabbi Raskin for this amazing work which will certainly be bought and learned by many more.

Sidur Rabeinu Hazokein is now in the final stages of preparation for print. According to the Rebbe’s instructions, especially regarding seforim of halacha, the sefer has been carefully reviewed by an eminent Talmid Chochom.

A campaign is underway to get the sefer to print. If you benefited in some way from Dayan Raskin’s shiurim, please show your support by donating towards the sefer.

Click here to donate.

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