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Shabbat morning service

The following describes the typical Shabbat morning service of our egalitarian minyan.


You will notice that the prayer book, Siddur, has many sections for the various liturgies of different occasions, and that the pages turn in the opposite direction of English books. Though most of our prayers are recited in Hebrew, we invite our guests to follow the English translations provided on the facing pages.

Some of our prayers date back literally thousands of years. The Conservative Movement believes that our liturgy should begin with these prayers, but also evolve to reflect the needs and feelings of every generation. The Siddur Sim Shalom therefore includes modern prayers that reflect the epochal events of recent years.

*Visitors who are unfamiliar with these Psalms may wish to “pick and choose” selections for meditation*

Morning Blessings / bir-chot ha-sha-char

Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, pp. 65-82

At the beginning of the service (p. 65), we take a moment to reflect on the miracles of the process of awakening (opening our eyes, putting on clothing, standing, and so on).

Two Psalms (sometimes more on special occasions) are then recited, followed by the Mourner's Kaddish / / ka-deesh ya-tom (page 82). Those who mourn the recent loss of a loved one join those observing yahrzeit (the anniversary of an immediate relative's death) by standing in respect and reciting a prayer of faith in God and in the future.

Introductory Hymns and Psalms / / p'soo-kay d'zimra - pp. 83 – 105

The Morning Service/sha-cha-reet - pp. 105 - 138

The formal worship service for Shabbat morning begins with Barchu / / bar-khoo, the leader's call to congregational worship (page 107).

pages 107 – 110: Following the Call to Worship, prayers of thanksgiving for the light of the day precede the blessing that celebrates God's love for Israel. God's love is demonstrated in the gift of Torah – study and law – to the Jewish people.

The Sh’ma - pp. 112-113
The above is followed by the Sh'ma, a trio of Biblical paragraphs taken from Deuteronomy and Numbers. The first verse of the Sh'ma is easily the most important single sentence in Jewish liturgy. It is not a prayer but rather an affirmation that there is only One Source that absolutely governs the affairs of the universe.

It is the Jewish affirmation of One God, one humanity, and a brotherhood of people. Believing in the Oneness of God is the religious metaphor for stating that we human beings are responsible for one another's welfare.

The last words a Jew utters before his death are “sh'ma yisrael,” an affirmation that life and death are integrally woven into the context of God's plan for the universe. Even in death, we perceive a beneficent God. For further reading about the Sh'ma, see Siddur Sim Shalom, Introduction, pages xii–xiv.

Next (middle, p. 113-114), transitional paragraphs compare the redemption of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage to the ultimate redemption of humanity. This prepares us for the Amida / / a-mee-da (pages 115-120; Festivals, pages 123-128). Visitors may be interested in reading an abbreviated version of the Amida in English, found on pages 121-122.

The Amida

The word Amida means “standing,” as this cluster of blessings is recited silently, while standing. The Amida is the most complete prayer in the prayer book and is the only prayer recited at every service throughout the year, morning, afternoon and evening. Its benedictions (nineteen on weekdays, seven on Shabbat) include the three basic aspects of prayer: praise, petition and thanksgiving.

On weekdays, the Amida includes thirteen petitionary blessings, but on Shabbat and Festivals, days of rest for which everything has been prepared in advance, we leave these out and instead include a blessing thanking God for the gift of the Holy Day.

Because the Amida is so important, we leave time for each individual to “personalize” it as they pray it silently. Then our Cantor repeats it so that everyone may answer Amen / to each of its blessings, whether or not they have the Hebrew proficiency to recite each blessing themselves. For further reading on the Amida, see Siddur Sim Shalom, pages xiv–xv.

On Festivals and the New Moon, we add an additional service of Psalms, Hallel  (begin at p. 131 on Sukkot; on p. 133 otherwise; continue through p. 137) after the Amida. Hallel means “praise” and is the root of the familiar “Halleluyah.” These Psalms were part of the Temple services in Jerusalem and served as a liturgy to accompany the sacrificial system.

The Reader's Kaddish/ka-deesh shalem (p. 138) concludes the Morning Service. Like other versions of the Kaddish which are recited by mourners, it affirms our faith in God as Sovereign and Master of the Universe, and affirms our faith in the future. The Reader's Kaddish also includes a prayer that God accept all of the supplications of those gathered here to worship.

The Torah Service - pp. 139-154

With the Morning Service concluded, we turn our focus from prayer towards study, from expression towards listening, from our own concerns towards those of the Divine. In the words of the late Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, "When I pray, I speak to God. When I study, God speaks to me."

During the course of a year, we read aloud the entire Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses, with specific chapters assigned for each week. Special readings for festivals interrupt this cycle.

Before the reading of the Biblical portion(s) assigned for the day, we rise as we remove one or more of our Torah Scrolls / / sif-ray to-ra from the Ark for a procession through the sanctuary. Each scroll is hand-written on parchment by a specially trained scribe, and is treated with great reverence.

Members of the congregation will reach out to touch the scroll with their prayer book or prayer-shawl, then kiss it to show their love and respect for God's word. We also show respect by turning to face the scroll, and by avoiding conversation and other distractions during the procession.

Please follow the reading in the copy of Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary at your seat. This book includes the original Hebrew text, plus translation and commentary. Realize, however, that the scroll has neither vowels nor punctuation, so our Reader / / ba-al ko-ray, usually the Cantor or a trained layman, must practically memorize the section to be read from the scroll.

Reading from the Scroll

During the reading, two Attendants/ga-ba-im stand on either side of the reader to summon up those who participate in this portion of the service, and to correct any mistakes in the reading.

Members and guests of the Congregation are involved in the Torah service by means of an Aliyah / / ah-lee-ah (plural Aliyot, literally "ascent"), an honor given to persons who recite blessings for each passage read from the scroll. The blessings at the Torah thank God for our unique portion in history as bearers of a special revelation.

The first person called to the Torah is usually a kohen, a descendant of Moses' brother Aaron, commemorating the role of the kohanim who served as officiants of Temple times. The second Aliyah is given to a Levite / / lay-vee, a member of the tribe of Levi who, in ancient times, might have supervised the maintenance of the Temple and its sacred ritual. “Ordinary” Israelites are then honored. After the seven required Aliyot, additional ones may be assigned to any kohen, Levite, or Israelite.


The final Aliyah, called Maftir/maf-teer, usually repeats the final verses of the day's portion. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrant may be honored with this Aliyah, as it also includes chanting the Haftarah/haf-ta-rah, the reading from the Prophets. The Haftarah comes from either the so-called Early Prophets (historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) or from one of the Later, or Literary Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve).

At the conclusion of the Torah reading, one person is called to lift the scroll and show it to the congregation. Lifting / / hag-ba-ha is a reminder that the Torah is an open book and belongs to all of the people. As the Torah is lifted, the Congregation chants, “This is the Torah that Moses placed before the children of Israel at the command of God.” A second person is summoned for the wrapping/g’lee-la of the scroll.

After the scroll has been dressed and placed in a position of honor, the person honored with Maftir chants a portion from one of the books of the Prophets. This section is usually chosen to reflect a theme found in the Torah portion or to impart a seasonal message. Remember that in ancient Israel, the role of the prophet was not to predict an immutable future, but rather to reinforce the ethical message of Torah, and to encourage and cajole the nation towards faithful practice of Torah law. Thus, our “academic” reading from the Torah scroll is often followed by an emotional Prophetic appeal to take these words to heart.

The Torah Service also includes prayers for healing, prayers for the congregation and our country, and prayers for peace. It concludes as it began, with a procession through the sanctuary.

The Sermon

Since ancient times, the liturgy and the reading of the Torah have been  supplemented by a sermon designed to connect the themes of the text with contemporary concerns. In most congregations, a sermon usually follows the Torah service.

The Additional Service/mu-saf
Kaddish - p. 155

     "ordinary" Shabbat: pp. 156-161
     Festival or Rosh Hodesh: pp. 166-178


Reader's Kaddish/ka-deesh shalem - p. 181.

Concluding Hymns and Prayers - pp. 182 - 187

The most striking of the hymns added to the end of our service is Alenu/a-lay-noo, p. 183, a prayer celebrating both particularism and universalism.

In the opening paragraph, we thank God that we have a unique portion among the nations; then we pray for the day when all nations will call upon the One God.

We do not believe that the whole world must follow the same religion in order to be “saved.” Judaism is not a missionary faith. Rather, Jewish law and philosophy have always affirmed that “the righteous of all nations have a share in the World to Come.” We pray for the day when all who worship the One God will realize that despite our differences, we, too, should be unified.

Alenu is followed by the Mourner's Kaddish / / ka-deesh ya-tom (page 184). Those who mourn the recent loss of a loved one join those observing yahrzeit (the anniversary of an immediate relative's death) by standing in respect and reciting a prayer of faith in God and in the future.

After announcements and a final hymn, we rise for Kiddush/kee-dush, the prayer of sanctification of the day, recited over wine (or grape juice for the children). We then adjourn to the Lippa Family Auditorium, where the prayer over bread/ha-mo-tzee, begins our noon meal.

Shabbat Shalom! May your Sabbath be blessed with peace!

Sat, July 13 2024 7 Tammuz 5784