“Whenever I finish praying, I feel cleansed. Although I’ve seen in my as-yet short sojourn on this planet that not all my prayers are ‘answered,’ I still appreciate what prayer can do in my life. Judaism teaches that the very process of prayer – no matter what the outcome – is a self-reflexive activity that clarifies for ourselves what our needs and perspectives are.”
-Ruchi Koval, Conclusion
Conversations with God: Prayers for Jewish Women is the title of Ruchi Koval’s siddur (prayer book). I was going to review it back when it came out earlier this year but guess what? It sold out. SOLD OUT. So we decided to wait until the second printing, when you could actually get yourself a copy.
Which you should totally do.
If you already have a siddur (like I do), it’s still worthwhile to pick yourself up a copy of this one. Not only does it contain the daily prayers that are most frequently said by women, bentching (Grace after meals) and Shabbat prayers, but it also has a whole lot of prayers for specific events, like for finding a soulmate, when going to the mikveh, a prayer for marriage, to become pregnant, during pregnancy, after a miscarriage or stillbirth, prayers for children, prayers at a gravesite, prayers for Israel, for Rosh Chodesh, for aging with grace, for speaking positively of others. And that’s not all of it, there’s more, I just got tired of listing them.
But that’s not even the best part. The best part is that after the Hebrew text and the English text of the prayers, Ruchi adds her own insights and wisdom. If you’ve ever read her blog, Out of the Ortho Box, you know that she is a thoughtful, funny, sensitive and smart woman who is always striving to improve. She brings the same heart and reflection to her siddur, and it has been great for my prayers.
I’ve “only” been davening for about a decade, and these days, much of the time I speed or mumble through with only intermittent points of clarity and/or thoughtfulness. This is the blessing and challenge of having been frum for long enough that this has become somewhat habitual.
With Ruchi’s siddur, I am more easily able to break out of the habit of, well, habit. I am able to remember that my davening is really a conversation with G-d, and I am reminded of what it is that I am saying, and why I am having these conversations at all.
This siddur is also accessible to those among us whose Hebrew is not so fluent. Ruchi includes a transliterated text (the Hebrew words written out phonetically in English), and then an English translation. This is all before she adds her own insights.
As a bonus, the siddur itself is beautifully laid out. The cover is beautiful, the layout is beautiful, the fonts are beautiful. Even the inside of the cover is beautiful. I know it’s not the most important thing, but I connect more to a book that is set up in a pleasant way.
ALSO – I have another piece up on Hevria, where I’m reminisce about an impossible adventure I had during my year in Israel, and how that adventure is still teaching me lessons that I use today.