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Jewish services
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Jewish services

Jewish services are the prayers recited as part of observance of Judaism. These prayers, often with instructions and commentary, are found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book.

There are three prayer services each day on weekdays. A fourth additional prayer service (called mussaf, "additional"), is added on Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) and on major holidays. A fifth prayer (ne'ilah), is only recited on Yom Kippur.

Many synagogues have a Hazzan (cantor) who is a professional or lay-professional singer employed for the purpose of leading the congregation in prayer.

Table of contents
1 Quorum
2 The language of prayer
3 Weekday prayer services
4 Shabbat services
5 Services on Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot
6 Guide on etiquette for visitors
7 See also
8 References
9 External links


Halakha (Jewish law) requires Jews over the age of majority (13 for males, 12 for females) to pray three times a day. Prayer alone is considered acceptable, but prayer with a quorum of ten adults (a minyan) is considered "prayer with the community", and this is the most highly recommended form of prayer.

According to traditional Jewish law, the smallest congregation which is permitted to hold public worship is one made up of ten men over the age of majority (13 years).

The rule originates from the Mishnah (Megillah 4:3):

"They do not divide over the Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel), nor pass before the Ark, nor lift their hands, nor read from the Law, nor conclude with the Prophets, nor arrange the standing and sitting, nor say the benedictions of the mourners or the consolation of the mourners, nor the benedictions of the bridegrooms, nor use God's name in preparing for grace after meals, with less than ten."

The Babylonian Talmud, in commenting on this section of the Mishnah, finds the Biblical authority for ten men constituting a congregation in the words (Numbers 14:27): "How long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur against me?" which it refers to the scouts who were sent to spy out the land of Canaan, twelve in all, two of whom, Caleb and Joshua, were faithful, and only ten "evil."

All male Jews over 13, unless they have openly severed their connection with their brethren by converting to another religion, are counted in the minyan. (Shulkhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim, 55:12).

Traditional codes of Jewish law do not discuss the possibility of counting women in a minyan, but a small number of classical rabbinic responsa mention this as a theoretical possibility in certain instances (e.g. Megillah reading), though not as part of the public prayer service. However, even this seems never to have been the practice of the Jewish community, and women being allowed to count in the minyan on a regular basis is a new development in Jewish practice.

Rabbis within Conservative Judaism (also known as Masorti Judaism) have published responsa justifying the counting of women within a minyan, though other Conservative Rabbis have strongly objected to this innovation. In practice, those Conservative synagogues which label themselves as "egalitarian" include women in the minyan, while other Conservative synagogues do not. Most Conservative synagogues are egalitarian.

Rabbis within Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism count women within a minyan. However, since these movements do not follow Jewish law as normative, its leaders have stated that they do not feel the need to justify their practice within the system of Jewish law.

The language of prayer

Prayer is done almost exclusively in Hebrew, but Jewish law allows for prayers to be said in any language that the person praying understands. Orthodox synagogues use almost exclusively Hebrew, and use the local language only for sermons and directions; Conservative synagogues use Hebrew for about 75% to 95% of the service (depending on the local custom), and the rest is in the local language. Reform synagogues (usually called Temples) use anywhere from 10% to 40% Hebrew; most of the service is in the local language.

Weekday prayer services

Shacharit: morning prayers

Prayers said upon arising; donning tzitzit and the
tallit; prayers for putting on tefillin; and readings from Exodus. Next follows a section called the morning blessings, followed by blessings for the Torah and readings from Biblical and rabbinic writings. Next comes Shema Yisrael (first part only). In Orthodox services this is followed by a series of readings from Biblical and rabbinic writings recalling the offerings made in the Temple in Jerusalem. The section concludes with the Rabbi's Kaddish.

The next section of morning prayers is called Pesukei D'Zimrah, verses of praise, containing many psalms (100 and 145-150), and prayers made from a tapestry of biblical verses, followed by the Song at the Sea (Exodus, chapters 14 and 15).

Now begins Barchu, the formal public call to prayer, and an expanded series of prayers relating to the main recitation of Shema Yisrael. This is followed by the core of the prayer service, the Shemonah Esreh, also called the Amidah. this is a series of 19 prayers. The next part of the service, is Tachanun, supplications. Reform services usually omit tachanun entirely.

On Mondays and Thursdays a Torah reading service is inserted. Concluding prayers then follow.

Mincha: afternoon prayers

Prayers start with Psalm 145, immediately followed by the Shemoneh Esreh (Amidah). This is followed by a shortened version of Tachanun, supplications, and then the full Kaddish. After this is the Aleinu, and then the Mourner's Kaddish.

Ma'ariv (also: Arvit): evening prayers

This service begins with the Barchu, the formal public call to prayer, and an expanded series of prayers relating to the Shema Yisrael. This is followed by the Hashkiveinu ("Lay us down to sleep, Adonai, our God, in peace, raise us erect, our King, to life, and spread over us the shelter of Your peace.") A series of other blessings are added, which are made from a tapestry of biblical verses. This is followed by the Half-Kaddish, and the Shemoneh Esreh (Amidah), bracketed with the full Kaddish. Then the Aleinu and Mourner's Kaddish.

In many congregations, the afternoon and evening prayers are recited back-to-back on a working day, to save people having attend synagogue twice. The Vilna Gaon discouraged this practice, and followers of his set of customs commonly wait until after nightfall to recite Ma'ariv.

Shabbat services

Friday night services

Shabbat services begin on Friday evening with the weekday Mincha (see above), followed by the Kabbalat Shabbat, the mystical prelude to Shabbat services composed by 17th century Kabbalists. This Hebrew term literally means "Receiving the Sabbath".

It is composed of six psalms, 95 to 99, and 29, representing the six week-days. Next comes the poem Lekha Dodi. Composed by Solomon ha-Levi Alkabetz (1529), it is based on the words of the Talmudic sage Hanina: "Come, let us go out to meet the Queen Sabbath" (Talmud Shabbat 119a). Kabbalat Shabbat is concluded by Psalms 92 and 93, and is then followed by the Maariv service.

The reading VeShameru (Ex. 30:16,17) is recited before the Amidah. The Amidah on Shabbat is abbreviated, and is read in full once. This is then followed by the hazzan's mini-repetition of the Amidah, Magen Avot, a digest of the seven benedictions. In Orthodox synagogues the second chapter of Mishnah tractate Shabbat, Bameh Madlikin, is read. The service then follows with the Aleinu. Kiddush is recited in the synagogue. Many synagogues end with the singing of Yigdal, a poetic adaptation of Maimonides' 13 principles of Jewish faith.

Saturday morning and evening Shabbat services

Shabbat morning prayers commence as on week-days. Of the hymns, Psalm 100 is omitted, its place being taken in the Ashkenazi tradition by Psalms 19, 34, 90, 91, 135, 136, 33, 92, 93. Sephardic Jews maintain a different order, add several psalms and two religious poems. The Nishmat prayer is recited at the end of the Pesukei D'Zimrah. The blessings before Shema are expanded, and include the hymn El Adon, which is often sung communally.

The fourth intermediary benediction of the Shaharit Amidah begins with Yismah Mosheh. The Torah scroll is taken out of the Ark, and the weekly portion is read, followed by the haftarah.

After the Torah reading, three prayers for the community are recited. Two prayers starting with Yekum Purkan, composed in Babylon in Aramaic, are similar to the subsequent Mi sheberakh, a blessing for the leaders and patrons of the synagogue. The Sephardim omit much of the Yekum Purkan. Prayers are then recited (in most communities) for the government of the country, the State of Israel, and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

Musaf - the additional service

The Musaf service starts with the silent recitation of the Amidah. It is followed by a second public recitation that includes an additional reading known as the Kedushah. This is followed by the Tikanta Shabbat reading on the holiness of Shabbat, and then by a reading from the biblical Book of Numbers about the sacrifices that used to be performed in the Temple in Jerusalem. Next comes Yismechu, "They shall rejoice in Your sovereignty"; Eloheynu, "Our God and God of our Ancestors, may you be pleased with our rest"; Retzei, "Be favorable, our God, toward your people Israel and their prayer, and restore services to your Temple";

After the Amidah comes the full Kaddish, followed by Ein ke'eloheinu. In Orthodox Judaism this is followed by a reading from the Talmud on the sacrifices that used to be performed in the Temple in Jerusalem. These readings are usually omitted by Conservative Jews, and are always omitted by Reform Jews.

The Musaf service culminates with the Rabbi's Kaddish, the Aleinu, and then the Mourner's Kaddish. Some synagogues conclude with the reading of An'im Zemirot, "The Hymn of Glory".

American Reform Jews omit the entire Musaf service.


Mincha commences with Psalm 145 and the prayer U'va le-Tziyon, after which the first section of the next weekly portion is read from the Torah scroll. The Amidah follows the same pattern as the other Shabbat Amidah prayers, with the middle blessing starting Attah Echad.

After Mincha, during the winter Sabbaths (from Sukkot to Passover), Bareki Nafshi (Psalms 104, 120-134) is recited. During the summer Sabbaths (from Passover to Rosh Hashanah) chapters from the Avot, one every Sabbath in consecutive order, are recited instead of Barekhi Nafshi.

The week-day Maariv is recited on Sabbath evening, concluding with Vihi No'am, Ve-Yitten Leka, and Havdalah.

Services on Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot

The services for the three festivals of Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot are alike, except for interpolated references and readings for each individual festival. The preliminaries and conclusions of the prayers are the same as on Sabbath. The Amidah on these festivals only contains seven benedictions, with Attah Bechartanu as the main one.

Except in Reform Judaism, the Musaf service includes Mi-Pene Hata'enu, with reference to the special festival and Temple sacrifices on the occasion. A blessing on the pulpit ("Dukan") is pronounced by the "kohanim" during the Amidah. On week-days and Sabbath the priestly blessing is recited by the hazzan after the Modim ("Thanksgiving") prayer.

Guide on etiquette for visitors

In most synagogues [also called Temples] it is considered a symbol of respect for all male attendees to wear a head covering, usually a dress hat or kipa (yarmulke). Kipa is a Hebrew word; yarmulke is the Yiddish word for the same head covering. Kipot (plural) are usually provided near the front door; just take one and put one on as you go in. Return it to the same area on your way out of synagogue. Conservative (also called Masorti) and Orthodox synagogues ask that all male attendees cover their heads, whether they are Jewish or gentile. Most Reform (also called Progressive) Temples do not require people to cover their heads (neither Jew or gentile). Nonetheless, many Reform Jews now choose to wear a kipa.

As might be expected, there are some things that a non-Jewish visitor should do during a Jewish religious service, and there are some things not to do.

See also


External links