Shabbat Services

Dress at our services is casual. Most Jewish men and many Jewish women will wear a kippah (head covering) but they are optional. Jewish men and women past the age of Bar or Bat Mitzvah may wear a tallit (prayer shawl) and many do. We have kippottallitot and copies of our Kol Haneshamah Reconstructionist siddur (prayer book) for guests. 

Non-Jewish guests are welcome to join in group prayers, volunteer to read English passages, and go up during the Torah reading as part of a group aliyah.

The Sections of Our Shabbat Service 

Torah Study

Our Torah – the five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – is our foundational document. Thus our morning services begin with study of the week’s Torah reading. The leader offers a summary, raises a question or issue to examine, and shares some traditional or contemporary thinking on that question. Then all present join in a discussion.

Birkot ha-Shachar Dawn Blessings (141-175)

We read blessings and readings that acknowledge the miracle of life and the start of a new day. They awaken us to the wonder of our bodies, heighten our awareness that our physicality can serve as a vessel of holiness, and create a joyfully reflective entry way into our communal Shabbat worship experience. 

(In this section and the next participants are welcome to accompany our singing by using varied percussion instruments.)

P’sukei deZimra Verses of Song (177-231)

We sing or chant two or three excerpts from songs of praise drawn from the Book of Psalms, often closing with “Halleluyah,” Psalm 150 (231).

The transition from this section to the next is by one version of the Kaddish, a prayer that affirms the ultimate redemption and unification of the human community in Divine service.

Sh’ma and its Blessings (247-291)

The center of this section is a prayer which begins Sh’ma Israel – Hear O Israel – which affirms Divine and universal Oneness.

After being called to communal worship by Bar’chu, the Sh’ma is framed by three themes: Creation, Revelation, and Redemption.

The Yotzer prayer, of which we usually sing El Adon (253), thanks God for the universal gifts of light, nature and the world. Then the prayer Ahavah Rabbah gives thanks for the specific spiritual paths represented within Judaism. The Sh’ma (377?) is followed by silent readings which deal with mitzvot, ecology and tzitzit. Last, Mi Chamochai Geulah, our Redemption song, praises the God of Freedom.

The Amidah (295-323)

The Amidah (standing) prayer is central in each Jewish worship service. The Shabbat Amidah invokes seven key themes. We bless God for our ancestors (Avot v’Imahot), for Divine might (G’vurot), and for holiness (Kedushah). Continuing silently, some follow the rest of the traditional text and express thanks for Shabbat, Divine service, our good world, and peace. Others use this time for private thoughts and meditations. Our silent prayer ends with us, still standing, singing or chanting a prayer for peace, often Sim Shalom or Oseh Shalom.

Torah Service (383-441)

The Torah scroll is a symbol of our commitment to sacred community and the pursuit of truth.

We open the doors of the Ark, remove the Torah scroll and carry it around the congregation in a small procession. Some will kiss their tallit or siddur and touch it to the scroll as it passes – a sign of devotion.

We divide the week’s Torah reading into segments (usually three) and call people up to the Torah for an aliyah, the recitation of the blessing before and after the reading from the Torah. While most congregations call up individuals, we generally create categories for each aliyah and invite worshippers to self-select for any or all of them. Following each aliyah, the service leader recites a blessing appropriate for this group. If the service includes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony, we often have more aliyot for friends and family of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

Before we sing Mi She Berach – our communal prayer for healing – we invite those present to mention the name(s) of anyone in need of physical, emotional or spiritual healing.

Concluding Prayers (443-465)

We end the liturgy with the Aleinu prayer which envisions a future time when our world will be perfected, and the recitation of Mourner’s Kaddish, which gives an opportunity to publicly acknowledge those in mourning or commemorating the anniversary (Yahrtzeit) of the death of a loved one.

Our custom for saying Kaddish is for the mourners to share with the congregation the name(s) of those they are remembering and their relationship to them. They stand and begin to recite the Kaddish alone, but at the line “y’hey sh’mey rabbah” we rise to join them – a sign of support for those grappling with loss and a way to remember the departed who have no one to say Kaddish for them.

Welcoming and Announcements 

Before the close of our services we follow the tradition of hakhnasat orkhim, the welcoming of guests, and ask those visiting us to introduce themselves. This is our way of recognizing those who have joined us in worship. Then, as much of our communal life takes place in programs and committees, we ask for the sharing of community announcements. We conclude the service with the singing of Adon Olam or any number of other inspiring songs.

All worshippers then assemble in the commons outside the sanctuary for Kiddush (blessing over the wine and the holiness of Shabbat), Hamotzi (blessing over the bread), and an opportunity to meet our guests and reconnect with one another.