Any trip to Israel is not complete without a visit to my favourite Jewish bookstores. Before my most recent trip in late December I resolved to buy a new siddur – prayer book – for daily use. The siddur I am using now was originally purchased in 1970. It is small, compact, and lightweight: perfect for travel and ease of handling. But forty-seven years of use has taken its toll.
The edges of many pages are frayed. Some pages are darkened in precisely the spot where my thumbs had held them open. Other pages that had separated from the binding had been re-attached with scotch tape. As careful as I tried to be, my best attempts at repair often resulted in some pages slightly askew or some text rendered illegible. Fortunately, familiarity with the prayers allows me to gloss over these shortcomings. Yet I had come to think that it is time for a replacement.
The bookstore clerks were only too happy to show me the latest publications: some with outstanding commentaries, some with non-yellowing pages. Other than the Haggadah for Passover, the Jewish prayerbook is the most published text in Jewish history.
As I paged through some new editions of the same version of the prayerbook I use, I began to have second thoughts. Just because something is old does not mean it isn’t serviceable. And just because something isn’t perfect does not mean it isn’t worth keeping. I recalled that my prayerbook has traveled with me all over the world. It has been my comfortable companion, a familiar friend in unfamiliar places.
Perhaps it is my own perception of growing old reflected in my siddur. Perhaps it is my appreciation of the Jewish tradition: old and aging but still invaluable and irreplaceable. Perhaps I have simply turned into an irredeemable sentimentalist. But whatever the reason, I decided to stick with my old and worn siddur. It may very well be that in few more years it will have to be replaced. But I am willing to wait until then.