Guide to the Morning Service

Birchot Hashachar (pp. 141-175, Kol HaNeshama)

From the gathering of Mah Tovu to the blessings over Torah study, our opening prayers offer gratitude for our bodies, souls, minds, and community. To enable more time for discussion, we move quickly through these prayers.

P'sukei Dezimra (pp. 177-231)

These pages are drawn from the Book of Psalms, where we encounter God through Creation. Every aspect of nature testifies to a grand cosmic unity. Our excerpts of praise culminate with "Halleluyah," Psalm 150 (p. 231). From the Bar'chu are additional passages of praise: Nishmat, Shokhen Ad, etc.

Sh'ma and its Blessings (pp. 247-291)

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 (p. 253), thanks God for the universal gifts of light, nature and the world. Next comes the particularistic prayer Ahavah Rabbah/V'ha'eor Eineinu, offering thanks for the specific spiritual paths represented within Judaism. The opening lines of the Sh'ma (p. 377) affirm Divine and universal Oneness.  The following paragraphs, which we read silently, deal with mitzvot, ecology, and tzitzit. Finally Mi Chamochah Geulah, our Redemption song, praises the God of Freedom.

The Amidah (pp. 295-323)

Central in every Jewish worship service, the Shabbat Amidah invokes seven key themes. In unison, we bless God for our ancestors (Avot v'imahot), for Divine might (G'vurot), and for holiness (Kedushah). Continuing silently, we thank God for Shabbat, Divine service, our good world, and peace. Here we also add our private thoughts and meditations. Still standing, our silent prayer concludes by linking arms and singing Oseh Shalom.

Torah Service (pp. 383-441) -- and the Torah Discussion.

We remove the Torah scroll from the ark and symbolically walk around the congregation with it. It is customary to kiss one's tallit or siddur and touch it to the Torah as it passes. The Torah -- the Five Books of Moses -- is our foundational document. Thus, it is an honor to be called up to say a blessing before and after each reading of the Torah. This is called an aliyah; there are six aliyot in a typical service at Adat Shalom, each consisting of a few verses from the weekly Torah portion (parshah). [More about Torah Honors] [Conventions for Aliyot]

Before the reading of the Torah, the Rabbi, the Hazzan, or another member leads an extensive discussion on a theme or verse from the parasha.  An Adat Shalom hallmark, all are welcome and encouraged to join in the conversation. Public reading of the Torah is ancient, dating back to Ezra the Scribe's time, nearly 2500 years ago. In our community, as we both read and interpret the Torah, our love for it is refracted through our modern sensibilities. As Reconstructionist founder Mordecai Kaplan wrote, "The sacred need not be inerrant -- it is enough for it to be inexhaustible."

In the midst of the Torah reading, we pause to offer a form of the traditional prayer for healing. All who would send physical, spiritual or emotional healing to themselves or others are invited to the front of the sanctuary. We then say the names of our loved ones, and sing a modern Mi Sheberach [May the One who blessed our ancestors bring healing].

The final aliyah is called maftir. After the Torah is lifted and wrapped, the person with the maftir aliyah reads the Haftarah, a selection from the biblical Prophets. On the day of their special ceremony, maftir and Haftarah are read by the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student. After the blessing that follows the Haftarah, we return the Torah to the ark with a final procession.

D'var Chinukh

Occasionally, a member of the congregation will be invited to the bimah (podium) at some point to offer brief "words of teaching." Normally called “d’var Torah,” because the concept of Torah can encompass all Jewish learning, we use the term “d’var hinukh”, literally, a word of learning, to emphasize that The Torah, as such, need not be the topic of the talk. These divre hinuch can be on any Jewish or spiritual topic of import. Even as it broadens our horizons, this institution exemplifies the Reconstructionist belief that every member of the community has "a Torah" to teach.

Musaf/Meditative Liturgy

Though fairly traditional in format and content, our Reconstructionist service has taken out musaf (additional service), traditionally found after the Torah service. One reason is that we no longer share the traditional musaf's call to rebuild the Temple and restore animal sacrifices as offerings to God. Similarly, much of our liturgy contains substitutes for traditional language, reflecting the philosophical underpinnings of Reconstructionism mentioned above (see "What is Reconstructionism" regarding revelation, chosenness, resurrection, etc.). While quite concerned with the liturgy itself, we also recognize that there are places that words alone cannot reach. Music is one universal language that we emphasize during the service. Often, we also include simple passages which are chanted, repetitively and harmoniously, followed by an introspective period of silence. These "meditative musaf moments" are among Adat Shalom's many "alternative" approaches to prayer.

We also have a (member-only) choir that contributes to some of our service by bringing the gifts of old and new music composed for choir, some of it composed specifically for the syngagogue and some not. In our case, use of the choir also reflects the Reconstructionist idea that Judaism is a total civilization which necessarily includes all that is excellent in the arts.

Concluding Prayers (pp. 443-465)

Aleinu [sometimes called "adoration"] and the Mourner's Kaddish form the concluding liturgy. Children often join us during these final minutes, and are welcome to join us on the bimah for the kiddush [blessing over the wine] and the "motzi" [blessing of thanks for bread] We then link arms and voices once more for a concluding song, usually Mah Yafeh Hayom, Shabbat Shalom -- how beautiful is today, a Sabbath of peace. We hope that you will stay with us for our oneg shabbat, and join in our greeting and eating. We would most enjoy getting to know you ... come back again soon!

Welcoming Guests and Announcements

Following the tradition of hakhnasat orkhim, the welcoming of guests, we take a moment before the close of services to ask all those who are visiting Adat Shalom to stand at their places and introduce themselves. It is our community's way of reaching out to those who have joined us in worship. We'd like to greet you at the oneg shabbat! Since much of our communal life takes place in programs and committees, we also treat announcements as sacred. Members should make every effort to get their announcements to the President before services. This is also a time to share news of special occasions, simchas, in our lives.

Other Shabbat Links

Our Shabbat Experience: A Guide to Shabbat Practice
Welcoming Shabbat: Kabbalat Shabbat
Shabbat Mornings

Shabbat Services Handouts

Click here for PDFs of the handouts distributed at Shabbat Services.

Shalom Rav

Click here for a musical setting of Shalom Rav that Hazzan Rachel wrote with Steve Neugeboren, which was included in the 2011 Shalshelet Festival in New York. Steve is playing guitar throughout and singing harmony, as is Noah Guthman.