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Who wrote the prayer in the Siddur:

:אוֹר חָדָשׁ עַל צִיּוֹן תָּאִיר וְנִזְכֶּה כֻלָּנוּ מְהֵרָה לְאוֹרוֹ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, יוֹצֵר הַמְּאוֹרוֹת

May You shine a new light on Zion and may we all merit speedily from its radiance. Blessed are You, O God, the creator of the luminaries.

I have seen it attributed to Chazal, but does anyone have a specific reference?

I ask because those two lines have a history of controversy:

  • Originally understood to refer to the sunlight that is renewed each day, and that will be enhanced in the Messianic Era.

  • Saadia Gaon [10th-century Egypt] banned it because that siddur section deals with creation, not deliverance. Sephardim follow him and recite only the blessing (yotser hameorot), not the first line (ohr hadash).

  • Sherira Gaon [10th-century Babylonia] reinstituted it. Ashkenazim follow him.

  • Rashi [11th-century France] advised not to recite that line because it refers to a light that will shine in the future while the theme of the blessing is a present light.

  • The Raaven [12th-century Germany] the Rosh [13th-century Germany] and Yaavetz [15th century Spain] reconciled the two opinions: The light is the original light of creation, which was stored for the enjoyment of the righteous in the Messianic era.

  • It’s interesting that Saadia Gaon would prohibit saying this according to that reasoning. Because he uses a similar type of reasoning to illustrate that eternal life which follows the resurrection of the dead is the natural state of being from the beginning of creation. – Yaacov Deane May 27 '18 at 3:03
  • FWIW, the line is not in the Chabad nusach, most likely for the same reason it isn't found in Sephardi siddurim. – ezra May 28 '18 at 4:18
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    Btw, the "Yaavetz" mentioned here is referring to Rabbi Yosef b. Chayim Yaavetz, as opposed to Rabbi Yaakov Emden, a leading 18th Century German rabbi. – ezra May 28 '18 at 4:21
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This article (Hebrew) by Shmuel Weingarten, argues that the controversial line was first added during the time of R. Natronai b. Nehemiah Gaon (719-730).

During this time, there was a false messiah called Saria or Sarini. His name is related to the Persian word for light, and thus this line was added by his followers, referring to him as 'a new light'.

In time, the questionable source of the line was forgotten, and it was adopted by the masses, until two hundred years later when R. Sa'adia Gaon challenged its recitation on technical, halakhic grounds, as noted in the question.

  • Quite odd that Saria's followers would include a line in the prayers referencing their false messiah, since he taught that the daily prayers were to be nullified, at least according to the Wiki article you cited. – ezra May 28 '18 at 14:42
  • @ezra Weingarten addresses this in the article. He suggests that the reference to nullifying the prayers may actually mean that they were accused of not praying correctly, rather than doing away with the prayers altogether. – Joel K May 28 '18 at 14:48

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