June 22, 2024
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June 22, 2024
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Reviewing: “The Musaf Prayer: Background and Commentary” by Rabbi Elchanan Adler.

Mosaica Press. 2023. Hardcover. 230 pages.

Rabbi Elchanan Adler, a distinguished rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary for over a quarter-century, brings his erudition to life in this insightful exploration of the Musaf prayer recited on Shabbat. The author has already written many books in English and Hebrew, and holds degrees in psychology and education. But in his newest work, Rabbi Adler offers a fascinating adaptation of his earlier Hebrew work dedicated to this very topic.

Tapping into the rich background of the Musaf prayer’s history, the book touches on the history of the text of the regular Shabbos Musaf prayer, often comparing variant traditions side-by-side. However, the book’s tour de force is its comprehensive word-by-word explication of the standard version of the weekly Musaf liturgy. Notably, the author also dedicates chapters to the special Musaf prayer recited during the rare occurrence of Rosh Chodesh falling on Shabbat. Here too, Rabbi Adler shows the reader different versions of the prescribed blessings, explicates each word of the prayer, and presents a digest of pertinent halachic insights and rulings.

Rabbi Adler’s exhaustive research draws from a wide array of traditional sources, spanning from Medieval sages who commented on the siddur (such as Machzor Vitri, Ri Bar Yakar, Siddur Rabbi Shlomo of Worms, and Abudarham) all the way down to contemporary rabbinic figures (like Rabbi Eytan Kobre, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, and Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl).

Throughout the book, recurring themes emerge, showcasing Rabbi Adler’s keen observations within the Musaf prayer and his ability to connect related motifs found in different sources. Central among these is the fervent yearning expressed for the Ultimate Redemption and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This longing is deeply intertwined with the aspiration to once again offer the Musaf sacrifices on Shabbat and holidays, a vision resonating throughout Jewish history and tradition.

In short, Rabbi Adler’s work masterfully navigates the intricate layers of the Musaf prayer, offering both a historical panorama and a nuanced commentary. His skillful elucidation not only enriches the reader’s understanding, but also invites deeper contemplation on the profound spiritual and theological significance embedded within the prayer’s text. This book thus deserves a place on the Jewish bookshelf as an invaluable resource that illuminates the depths of this sacred liturgical text, while also highlighting the timeless aspirations and hopes embedded within it.


Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is a distinguished author and scholar from Valley Village, California, who now resides in Beitar Illit, Israel. He holds rabbinic ordination from prominent figures and is an active member of the RCA. He’s known for his influential books, scholarly contributions, and involvement in Torah-related projects.

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