Outline of a Typical Service

The Jewish prayerbook, as indicated above, is called a “siddur.” The word siddur (related to the more familiar term for the Passover meal, the “seder”) means “order.” Our services contain patterns of units of prayers, combining a fixed liturgy with spontaneous teaching and learning and interaction.

At an Erev Shabbat (Friday night) service, we either enter or begin with singing, followed by the kindling of candles to mark the beginning of Shabbat. We greet one another and may share some of the joys or challenges of the week that was.

The opening setting of the service is followed by a unit of prayers referred to as Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming the Sabbath). This is a series of Psalms (from the Hebrew Bible) and medieval liturgical compositions. For many services at Temple Shalom, a high percentage of this part of the service is sung, and is in Hebrew. It is meant to set the tone, and mood, of the service, and convey the joyous celebration of Shabbat.  Even those who do not know Hebrew can feel the spirituality and mood through the music and usually pick up the prayerful songs after several services.

Beginning with a “call to worship” knows as the Bar’chu, the next section of the service, the Shema and its blessings, we rehearse through our prayers the basic Jewish view of history: Creation, Revelation (for Jews this means the giving of the Torah) and Redemption (achieving freedom, and shaping the world the way it is meant to be). This unit contains the Shema, the central declaration of the Jewish faith: “Hear, O Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal God is One.” Of interest to many is the idea that the “law” of Israel (the Torah) is given by God as an act of love – and is followed as an act of love on our part.

The next major section of the service is called either the Amida (the Standing Prayers), the Tefilah (“the Prayer”) or the Shemonah Esrei (the Eighteen Benedictions – even though there are 19 on weekdays, and only seven on Shabbat). These prayers connect us with the merit of our ancestors (Avot v’Imahot), the power and holiness of God (Gevurot and Kedusha), a reference to the specific aspects of the day we are celebrating (including the song Yis’mechu on Shabbat), and a concluding section dealing with Prayer, Thanksgiving and Peace. This section ends with the familiar song Oseh Shalom.

An important part of our Temple Shalom tradition is the Mi Shebeirach -- a prayer for healing of mind, body, and soul.  During this prayer, the Rabbi will typically looking around the room from right to left and invite congregants to say the names of those in need of healing.  Our program also contains a list of names added by congregants who whom Temple Shalom includes in its prayer for healing each service.

In most Reform congregations – including ours – we do not read from the Torah on Friday nights although that weeks’ Torah portion is often highlighted in the Rabbi’s sermon. Instead, that portion of a typical Shabbat service occurs during Shabbat morning services on Saturday.  The liturgy surrounding the reading, the processional with the scroll, the explanation of the portion and the reading from the scroll itself are all referred to as Seder Keriyat HaTorah, the Service for the Reading of Torah.

Often a formal sermon or an interactive discussion follows the Amida before our concluding services.

The Concluding Section of the service includes the Aleinu prayer (our vision of the world the way it can be), and the Mourner’s Kaddish. In our congregation we ask mourner’s to rise (if they are comfortable doing so) as we call the name of a loved one listed in the service program; then, in keeping with general Reform Jewish tradition, the congregation as a whole rises for the Mourner’s Kaddish itself.

We begin the transition from the service to the celebration of the service with the recitation of a blessing through the wine (Kiddush) and the blessing through the bread (Motzi).  Often this occurs in the social hall and is led by our b’nai mitzvah family if there is a b’nai mitzvah service the following day.  We then come together for an Oneg Shabbat (a “celebration” of Shabbat), in the form of dessert and interaction in the Social Hall.

On Shabbat morning, from 10 a.m. to noon, we always have a traditional Shabbat Morning Torah Service and Torah Study in our Chapel. Services typically last about 45 minutes to 1 hour, followed by 1+ hours of Torah Study and discussion.  Many describe this service and study as one of the best traditions of Temple Shalom.   If there is a b’nai mitzvah (most weeks from March to June; September to December), that service occurs in the main Sanctuary beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at noon or 12:30 p.m. depending on whether it is a single or a double b’nai mitzvah.

Please talk to any of our Clergy if you have any questions about our services, traditions, and the meaning of the various parts of the Shabbat service.