Understanding the Shabbat Service
If this is your first time here, welcome!
Temple Beth Orr is a multi-generational and multi-ethnic egalitarian Reform congregation founded in 1975, made up of singles, couples, and interfaith and gay and lesbian families. We joyfully include everyone!
Please note: We value the worship experience and request that everyone respect the sanctity of the service. Please turn cell phones off or on silent mode and limit conversation.
“Egalitarian” means that we do not segregate or assign different roles to men and women in our congregation. “Reform” refers to one of the three major movements within Judaism. While our siddur (prayer book) is different from what you might see in a Conservative or Orthodox synagogue, the major elements of the service are the same the world over. Likewise, on this Shabbat (Sabbath), all Jews will read from the same portion of the Torah.
The raised section at the front of the sanctuary is called the bima. In the middle of the bima is the ark containing the Torah scrolls. It is located on the Eastern wall so that when we face it, we face Jerusalem. Above the ark is the ner tamid, the “eternal light,” a symbol of the lamp in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.
The ark doors are opened in conjunction with specific prayers during the service. At these times we ask the congregation to rise as able. (While you are free to come and go during the service, we ask that if possible you refrain from doing so while the ark is open.)
The Shabbat Service
In Jewish tradition a rabbi is a teacher, not a priest. Our services are usually led by a rabbi and a cantor (who is responsible for the music), but we sometimes have lay leaders as well – including our young people who are becoming bar or bat mitzvah (literally, son or daughter of the commandment.)
Our rabbis, lay leaders, and musicians are worshipping with us, not performing for us. To show appreciation we do not applaud; we wish them strength by saying Ya‐sher ko‐ach (loosely translated as “well done”).
On both Friday nights and Saturday mornings, the basic structure of the service is the same. We start with a wordless song or chant called a niggun. The melodies are simple but elegant, intended to create a frame of mind for worship and reflection.
Because a day on the Jewish calendar starts at sunset, we mark the beginning of Shabbat on Friday evenings by lighting candles, accompanied by a prayer. While many families do this at home, it is our tradition to also light candles in the synagogue.
The Friday evening service is called Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming the Sabbath). Jewish mystics of the Middle Ages envisioned Shabbat as a bride. On Friday nights we sing “L’cha Dodi” – “Beloved, come to greet the bride; come to greet Shabbat.” At the last verse we rise, turn to the door of the sanctuary, and bow to welcome her.
On Saturday mornings, the first part of the service is a series of songs and blessings praising God. We give thanks for our souls and for the miracle of the human body.
Following the introductory songs is a call to worship known as the Bar’chu. It is a call and response prayer – the leader chants the first line; the congregation responds with the second. As the line is chanted, we bend the knee and bow.
The Bar’chu opens the section of the service that contains the central prayer of Judaism: Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu,
Adonai Echad. (“Hear, O Israel, Adonai is our God; Adonai is one.”)
The next section of prayers is called the Tefillah (literally “prayer”) or Amidah (“standing,” because in some traditions the entire section is said while standing). We chant or read the first several prayers together. Congregants read the rest of the prayers silently, or may substitute their own prayers for those in the prayer book. We sit down when we complete our individual prayers.
Following silent prayer is the Torah service. The Torah is taken from the ark, we repeat the Sh’ma, and then the Torah is carried around the sanctuary. As the Torah comes around you will see people reach out to touch it, either with the corner of their tallit (prayer shawl) or their prayer book. This is a tangible expression of our respect for and engagement with Torah.
Our practice is to read or chant only a small section of the weekly Torah portion. A congregant is called up to the bima to recite the blessings before and after the Torah reading. After the Torah reading and before the Torah is put away, we recite a prayer for healing, the Mi Shebeirach.
As part of the ritual of returning the Torah to the ark, a congregant will raise the scroll overhead and turn it so the writing can be seen by the entire congregation. The scroll is then lowered and dressed.
The concluding portion of the service begins with the Aleinu, which confirms the oneness of God. Following that is the Mourner’s Kaddish, an opportunity to remember those who passed away during the preceding week and month (periods marked by intense mourning), as well as those who passed away at this time in previous years.
The service closes with a song, followed by Kiddush and Motzi, blessings over wine/grape juice and challah (bread), respectively, in the Breezeway directly outside the sanctuary.
Being Respectful During Services
We treat our worship space with respect and love. Please do not place prayer books on the floor and refrain from eating, drinking or gum-chewing in our sanctuary. Please dress respectfully when called to the bima. All photography/ videography is limited to the use of a tripod beyond the last row of seating and must be silent.
Kabbalat Shabbat Services at TBO
At Temple Beth Orr, our first Friday of the month is “Celebration Shabbat” including birthday blessings. The second Friday is a standard service. The third Friday is our musical “Shabbat Experience,” and the last Friday of the month is “Torah Shabbat” which includes a Torah service.
* wording adapted with permission from Temple Beth Am in Seattle, WA.