I have often read things online that state if you want to know what the Tanach has to say, read it in Hebrew. Okay, but for the rest of us who might have an elementary understanding of Hebrew with limited vocabulary, there’s translation. And some, I think are “better” than others. (From my limited Hebrew understanding.)
No list would be complete without the mention of Artscroll. They have done a wonderful job getting their materials to the masses…for better or worse. I like its more “literal” translation and especially love how they don’t bother to translate words they have no idea what they mean. I have the Hebrew/English version, the Artscroll English Tanach, also well as their wonderful Interlinear Chumash.
Aside from these, I also use the Hebrew/English Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary (Conservative), and sometimes the JPS English Tanakh, which I don’t really care for. I also have “The Jewish Study Bible” with the NJPS translation that I purchased from a Christian book distributor only because I love the historical and archaeological information in the “commentary”.
Most often for davening, I use Artscroll’s interlinear Siddur…still trying to expand my Hebrew vocabulary. I also have their Women’s Siddur which has gotten a good bit of negative feedback during the last few years. But I like it because for a while, it was a guide to what I needed to be reciting daily during davening. Lots of laws concerning women…and it leaves out things I don’t use like blessings for tzitzit and tallit…or the blessing for thanking G-d for not making me a woman…no need for me to say that because I am a woman. Other siddurim have moved away from this kind of “seperation language”, considering it offense, I suppose. I am not offended to be a woman and the more traditional siddurim is what I am used to.
I have also used the Conservative Hebrew/ English Siddur Sim Shalom, which has a wonderful section in the back of the book with poems and reflections on selected topics. Like JPS though, they are a bit “free” with their English translation in a style I am not used to. I also hate how all the words are the same size. This makes it hard to find things, as I am used to the “most important” words being in much larger sized font than the other so called “less important” sections.
I like the Hebrew/ English Koren Siddur too. The creamed colored pages are easy on the eyes and unlike other Hebrew/English versions, the Hebrew is on the left rather than the right. The commentary at the bottom of the pages has really helped me to understand the prayers and blessings more. I am not used to that style of Hebrew font though and sometimes it is difficult for me to make out certain Hebrew letters. It probably doesn’t help that I have the “compact version”, so the Hebrew is small.
I also have a copy of a Hebrew/English siddur from Kabbalah4all.com that I downloaded, printed and hand bound into a pocket sized siddur for personal use while away from home. For those who are stuck on transliteration, you might find it helpful. It contains Hebrew, English and transliteration. It was the only Hebrew/English version I could find which I could bind myself into a pocket sized edition.
There is also the UK Reform Judaism compact version of Siddur Ha-tefilot, Forms of Prayer. I like its small size and artwork on the pages but I don’t use it. Many of the blessings and prayers I’m used to are either not there at all or only in part. And the English is not really what I am used to.
Last, but not least, I have the Hebrew only Sephardic Edot HaMizrach Siddur. I love this little pocket sized siddur. All different sizes of fonts…did I mention its pocket sized? Once I no longer have to rely on interlinear so much, this will probably become the siddur I use most often.
Below are some pictures.