Title: The Musaf Prayer
Rabbi Elchanan Adler
Those who use the regular Hebrew English Artscroll siddur probably do not realize that the opening paragraph of Tikanta Shabbos in the Shabbos Musaf amidah begins with a reverse acrostic. Despite being aware of this for more than twenty-five years, I never found an explanation for this acrostic or why Chazal chose to structure the beginning of Musaf in this fashion. Naturally, when I saw Rabbi Elchanan Adler’s The Musaf Prayer: Background and Commentary, I assumed that reading it would answer this decades old riddle.
In fact, Rabbi Adler opens his sefer by explaining the reverse acrostic that begins the Musaf bracha. This liturgical technique alludes to the final redemption, and the prayer’s author incorporates a messianic theme for Musaf because Bnei Yisrael merit the final redemption as a result of their Sabbath observance. Alternatively, the reverse acrostic was used because Shabbos will be mentioned toward the beginning of the bracha with the letter shin.
From there the sefer goes on a lengthy phrase-by-phrase analysis of the entire Tikanta Shabbos paragraph. For every phrase Rabbi Adler presents multiple approaches ranging from class commentaries on the siddur such as Machzor Vitri or Rabbeinu Yehuda bar Yakar to contemporary authors like Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl and Rabbi Ahron David Goldberg’s Shiras David. While the amount of information presented is vast, it is hard to see a clear theme through the bracha that a reader would be able to keep in mind as he or she recites Musaf on subsequent Shabbasos.
With the main text of the bracha fully explained, the sefer moves on to the alternate text for when Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbos. In addition to a similar phrase-by-phrase explanation, Rabbi Adler also devotes another lengthy chapter to comparing and contrasting differences in the Rosh Chodesh text with the Musaf text from other yomim tovim. This chapter also provides sources for each of the phrases along with explanations for the variations between the texts. Due to the more analytical nature of this topic, the myriad opinions presented seem more welcome than when analyzing the text of the bracha itself. The sefer concludes with halachic issues that occur on a Shabbos Rosh Chodesh.
With a main text that comprises less than 200 pages, The Musaf Prayer nevertheless succeeds in showing readers the profundity and depth of even a bracha recited only once weekly. Rabbi Adler succeeds in addressing multiple facets of this tefillah and even adds a chapter about when Bnei Yisrael were commanded regarding the mitzvah of Shabbos. While those looking to enhance their own Musaf davening will need to really focus on the perushim that speak most to them, those perushim are likely to be found in The Musaf Prayer.