Guide to Shabbat Worship Service
Introduction to the Guide
We hope that this guide will be helpful to guests and newcomers to our Havurah, potential service leaders, and anyone who wants to more fully understand the components of our Shabbat service.
There are two parts to this guide. The first is a description and explanation of a Shabbat worship service. The second provides the basic format for a worship service in outline form.
We are a Havurah that welcomes all who wish to worship with us. All members of the Havurah have the opportunity to lead services. We use Mishkan T’filah, the Reform Siddur.
After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple in 70 CE, new prayers were developed by the rabbis as a substitute for the sacrificial rites of the Temple that they were no longer able to perform. The major traditions of the Jewish Shabbat service were established over many years and reached the form as we know it around the 9th century, CE.
While the service is complete as it is, we are also encouraged to let our thoughts move to personal prayers or meditations. The service is intended to move us out of the concerns of our everyday lives and into the special atmosphere of worship.
I. Introduction to the Service
The opening of the Friday night service consists of the lighting of candles, (which, though traditionally done by a woman, may be done by a man), followed by the singing of a song and/or the reading of poems or psalms to set the mood for the prayer service that follows.
Traditional songs may include L’Cha Dodi or Shalom Aleichem. Other songs may be substituted. Wordless melodies (nigunim, singular, nigun) may be sung. Readings may be taken from a prayer book or from any other source. They may be read by the leader, by individuals in the congregation, by the congregation as a whole or in any way the leader decides.
The signal that this part of the service is concluding is the recitation of the Hatzi Kaddish (Reader’s Kaddish). This prayer may have originated during Second Temple times, i.e., before 70 CE. It serves to separate sections of the service.
II. The Sh’ma and Its Surrounding Blessings
This section of the service begins with the Bar’chu, an ancient call to worship. Dating from around 421 BCE, Ezra and Nehemiah called the Jewish people together to hear the Torah and to pledge to uphold it. In the Bar’chu the emphasis is on calling the congregation together for prayer. Jewish tradition emphasizes praying with a community.
Prayers of creation and revelation of God’s love follow the Bar’chu. In a traditional Friday night service, this would be Ma’ariv Aravim and Ahavat Olam. In a traditional Shabbat morning service, it would be Yotzer Or and Ahavah Rabbah.
Since the beginning of Jewish tradition, the Sh’ma had been considered the most important statement of a Jew’s belief in God. It was spoken daily in prayers at the Temple, and the rabbis included it in morning and evening service of the synagogue. The Sh’ma is taken from Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear O Israel: Adonai is our God, Adonai is One!” and its response is: “Blessed is God’s glorious majesty forever and ever!”
The next reading or chanting is the V’ahavta, (“You shall love the Lord your God...”) recited in unison by the congregation in Hebrew and/or in English. This may be followed by Mi Chamocha (prayers of Redemption) and Hashkiveinu (God’s Care). This section of the service is often concluded on Friday night by the singing of V’shamru, which are the words of the commandment to keep the Sabbath.
III. The Amidah
The Amidah is considered the heart of Jewish worship. Jewish prayer makes room for both our personal meditations and the prayers we recite as a community. The word Amidah means “standing” and it describes the way in which its prayers are recited. Another name for this portion of the service is T’filah, or prayer.
The prayers begin with Avot v’imahot (Fathers and Mothers or Ancestors) and G’vurot (God’s Power) and continue with K’dushah (Holiness, including the holiness of Shabbat). Avodah (Service, or being of Service), Modim (Thanks), and conclude with a song of peace, e.g. Shalom Rav or Sim Shalom.
It is important to provide a time for personal private prayer. This concept dates to the Talmud where it is understood that one’s obligation to pray is not fulfilled without personal prayer. This section usually concludes with the singing of Oseh Shalom or Yih’yu l’ratson. The Mi Shebeirach, a prayer of healing, is recited here, unless there is a Torah service, when it is moved to that section of the service.
IV. D’var Torah
A service leader gjves a commentary based upon the Torah portion. This talk may instead be about a topic of Jewish interest.
V. Concluding Prayers
The congregation recites the Adoration or Aleinu, followed by The Mourner’s Kaddish, and a concluding hymn closes the service.
VI. Oneg Shabbat
We begin our Oneg Shabbat with the Kiddush over the wine or grape juice and HaMotzi over the challah.
While a Torah Service is traditionally part of the Shabbat morning service it can be included in a Friday night service after the Amidah section.
Meaning and Significance of Torah Service Rituals: For Jews, the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, is the holiest of all sacred objects. It is handwritten with no vowels, punctuation or notes by a highly skilled scribe on kosher animal skin and sewn together on a scroll many yards long whose ends are wound on two wooden staves. We call the Torah a “Tree of Life”. It is the story of the Jewish people and also contains laws by which Jews have been guided for millennia.
The Torah teaches us the values of truth, justice and peace, and has served as a touchstone for Jews throughout the ages. For this reason it holds a central place in the Jewish tradition.
The Torah is divided into 54 weekly sections (parashot) so that, in a year, the entire Torah is read from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Deuteronomy. Each week a parasha or a portion of a parasha is read.
Recommended Format for a Sabbath Service
We begin the Oneg Shabbat with Ha Motzi, the blessing over the challah.