Tell me more about Shabbat.
Shabbat (Sabbath) is the Jewish day of rest and symbolizes the day of rest after six days of creation. Shabbat starts at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday. It’s traditionally a time to take a break from regular activities, to spend time with family and friends, and to attend synagogue. Observant Jews refrain from using electricity, driving cars, writing and working on Shabbat. Many Conservative Jews adapt these customs to fit their own level of observance.
The Shabbat morning service at our synagogue is similar to services at synagogues around the world. Neveh Shalom is part of Judaism’s Conservative or Masorti movement, which one could say is “middle of the road.” Conservative Jews keep many traditional practices (such as observing Shabbat and keeping kosher) while adapting customs and rituals to reflect the times in which we live. Neveh Shalom is a fully egalitarian synagogue, so men and women share the same roles and responsibilities.
Most of the service is chanted Hebrew, with a few English sections. You may notice that the prayer book seems “backwards,” since Hebrew goes from right to left. The rabbi will call out page numbers as we move through the service. The prayer book (or siddur) is in Hebrew and has both English translations and some transliteration Hebrew words written in English) of the prayers.
There are several times during the service when the rabbi will ask the congregation to stand or sit; it’s pretty easy to follow along. There is lots of singing during the service.
There are four main parts to the service:
- During Psukei D’zimra (around 9:00 to 9:30), we chant psalms and prayers that help warm up for the rest of the service.
- The Shacharit section (around 9:30 to 10:00) includes the Sh’ma, a selection from the book of Deuteronomy that is a central part of every morning and evening Jewish prayer service, and the Amidah, a time for silent prayer and meditation.
- The Torah Service will start around 10:00. It’s customary for Jews to kiss the Torah as it passes them. The Torah is divided into weekly portions, and the entire Torah is read during the course of the Jewish year. The same portion is read in synagogues around the world. Several family members and congregants will be honored with an aliyah and say blessings before each section of the Torah is read. After the Torah is read, the haftarah, which this week is a selection from the book of Judges is read. After the Torah service, there is an explanation of the Torah portion (D’var Torah). And, then the final service of the morning Musaf, or concluding service.
Who’s in charge of the service?
If there is a B’nai Mitzvah the Bat/Bar Mitzvah will lead some parts of the service, other parts will be led by clergy and lay people. We have several rabbis at our synagogue; Rabbi David Kosak will is our senior rabbi. We also have a cantor, Debbie Bletstein, who leads the congregation in singing. Rabbi Eve Posen is our rabbinic educator and youth director and will often be found in our Tot Shabbat or one of the young family services.
I want to know more. What’s a good source of information?
There are lots of good web sites out there, but a good site for basic information about Judaism is My Jewish Learning.