Erev Shabbat (Friday night)
At an Erev Shabbat (Friday night) service, we begin with singing, followed by the kindling of candles to mark the beginning of Shabbat.
The opening setting of the service is followed by a unit of prayers referred to as Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming the Sabbath). This is a series of Psalms (from the Hebrew Bible) and medieval liturgical compositions. A very high percentage of this part of the service is sung and is in Hebrew. It is meant to set the tone and mood of the service, and convey the joyous celebration of Shabbat.
Beginning with a “call to worship” knows as the Bar’chu, the next section of the service is the Shema and its blessings. The Shema is the central declaration of the Jewish faith: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”
The next major section of the service is called either the Amida (the Standing Prayers), the Tefilah (“the Prayer”) or the Shemonah Esrei (the Eighteen Benedictions – even though there are 19 on weekdays, and only seven on Shabbat). These prayers connect us with the merit of our ancestors (Avot v’Imahot), the power and holiness of God (Gevurot and Kedusha), a reference to the specific aspects of the day we are celebrating (including the song Yis’mechu on Shabbat), and a concluding section dealing with Prayer, Thanksgiving and Peace. This section ends with the familiar song Oseh Shalom.Often a formal sermon or an interactive discussion follows this portion of the service.
The Concluding Section of the service includes the Aleinu prayer (our vision of the world the way it can be), and the Mourner’s Kaddis. Then, in keeping with general Reform Jewish tradition, the congregation as a whole rises for the Mourner’s Kaddish itself. We then conclude our service with a song.
Following the service we come together for an Oneg Shabbat (a “celebration” of Shabbat), in the form of a blessing of the wine (Kiddush), a blessing of the bread (Motzi) and dessert and interaction in the Social Hall.
Shacharit L’Shabbat (Saturday morning)
The Saturday morning service opens with words from the Torah: “Mah Tovu, How goodly are your tents, O Israel,” traditionally considered a reference to the synagogue itself.
The service itself opens with a section called Birkhot HaShachar (Morning Blessings) and P’sukei D’zimra (Poems of Praise). The latter includes Psalm 145, known as Ashrei, chanted in Hebrew and written out as an alphabetical acrostic.
We continue with sections of the service very nearly identical to prayers recited the night before: the Shema and its blessings and the Amidah.
We then reach Seder Keriyat HaTorah, the Service for the Reading of the Torah. The Torah is read serially, from one weekly portion through the next, beginning in Genesis, working all the way to the end of Deuteronomy, and beginning again the next year. Essentially all Jews all over the world read the same portion each week.
After the reading of the weekly portion from the Torah scroll, the Saturday morning liturgy enters the Concluding Section of the service: the Aleinu and the Mourner’s Kaddish. We conclude with a blessing over wine (Kiddush) and bread (motzi) as we move from service to celebration, followed by a light lunch in the Social Hall.