Koren Press, a prestigious publishing house, has published “The Koren Rav Kook Siddur.” Rabbi Abraham Isaac haKohen Kook (1865–1935) was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine He was the founder of the Religious Zionist Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav. He was a Torah scholar, a decider of halakha (Jewish law), a mystical thinker, and one of the most celebrated and influential rabbis of the twentieth century.


As a child he gained a reputation of being a child prodigy. He enrolled in the Volozhin Yeshiva in 1884 when he was 18 years old, where he was praised for his learning. He was a vegetarian, and only consumed meat on the sabbath and festivals. He came to Israel in 1904 and took the position as a rabbi in the city of Yafo. He was appointed Chief Rabbi of Palestine, the name Israel had at that time, in 1921 and held the position until his death some fourteen years later.


He worked hard to build relationships between the various Jewish groups, including between the Orthodox and the secular Zionist. He felt that the Jewish state of Israel required the work of all Jewish groups. He is quoted as saying that pious Jews could not enter the Holy of Holies of the Temple and the high priest could only enter once a year during the holiday of Yom Hakippurim, but non-religious Jews could enter at any time to make repairs.


This new Koren Rav Kook Siddur is beautiful and it is filled with information that will provoke thought and which will profit readers to learn. The unique Hebrew format and the translation of the Nusach Ashkenaz prayers by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is the same that appears in the other Koren Siddurs, but the commentary is based on Rav Kook’s book “Olat Re’iyah,” other writings by Rav Kook, and some insights by the editor Rabbi Bezalel Naor that he employed previously in The Rav Kook Haggadah to great acclaim. Rabbi Naor includes an insightful 17-page introduction to the thinking of Rav Kook generally and Rav Kook’s views as well as the views of others, such as Nachmanides, Joseph Albo, Sigmund Freud, Israel Salanter, Shneur Zalman of Liadi, and others, about prayers.


Rav Kook’s world view is mystical. For example, he speaks about ingesting food. “Before the Primordial Sin, all the food ingested remained in the system. It was man’s partaking of the Tree of Knowledge that brought about the present state by which some of the nourishment is turned into foul-smelling waste matter.” Similarly, sleep resulted from the corruption of the world; in the future, in the messianic era, man will have no further need of sleep. Other examples include: the morning prayer about the Torah is in the present tense, “Who gives the Torah.” This is because “God is constantly giving the Torah anew. In every age, the Torah flows constantly within the interior of the soul.” He taught that “in the future all Jews will be on the level of King David. He believed in the existence of demons, which “are disembodied spirits.”


The Siddur has all the prayers for weekdays, Shabbat, festivals, listings of berachot (blessings) such as the Grace after meals. services for the cycle of life such as circumcision, Torah readings, and a discussion on the laws concerning prayers.