Shabbat Prayer

Shabbat services begin on Friday evening with the weekday Mincha (see above), followed in some communities by the Song of Songs, and then in most communities by the Kabbalat Shabbat, the mystical prelude to Shabbat services composed by 16th-century Kabbalists. This Hebrew term literally means “Receiving the Sabbath”. In many communities, the piyut Yedid Nefesh introduces the Kabbalat Shabbat prayers.

Kabbalat Shabbat is, except amongst many Italian and Spanish and Portuguese Jews, composed of six psalms, 95 to 99, and 29, representing the six week-days. Next comes the poem Lekha Dodi. Composed by Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz in the mid-16th century, it is based on the words of the Talmudic sage Hanina: “Come, let us go out to meet the Queen Sabbath” (Talmud Shabbat 119a). Kabbalat Shabbat is concluded by Psalm 92 (the recital of which constitutes men’s acceptance of the current Shabbat with all its obligations) and Psalm 93. Many add a study section here, including Bameh Madlikin and Amar rabbi El’azar and the concluding Kaddish deRabbanan and is then followed by the Maariv service; other communities delay the study session until after Maariv. Still other customs add here a passage from the Zohar.

The Shema section of the Friday night service varies in some details from the weekday services—mainly in the different ending of the Hashkivenu prayer and the omission of Baruch Adonai le-Olam prayer in those traditions where this section is otherwise recited. In the Italian rite, there are also different versions of the Ma’ariv ‘aravim prayer (beginning asher killah on Friday nights) and the Ahavat ‘olam prayer.

Most commemorate the Shabbat at this point with VeShameru (Exodus 31:16–17). The custom to recite the biblical passage at this point has its origins in the Lurianic Kabbalah, and does not appear before the 16th century. It is therefore absent in traditions and prayer books less influenced by the Kabbalah (such as the Yemenite Baladi tradition), or those that opposed adding additional readings to the siddur based upon the Kabbalah (such as the Vilna Gaon).

The middle blessing of the Amidah (see above) discusses the conclusion of the Creation, quoting the relevant verses from Genesis. This is then followed by the hazzan’s mini-repetition of the Amidah, Magen Avot, a digest of the seven benedictions (hence it’s Hebrew name Achat Me’ein Sheva). In some Ashkenazi Orthodox synagogues the second chapter of Mishnah tractate Shabbat, Bameh Madlikin, is read at this point, instead of earlier. Kiddush is recited in the synagogue in Ashkenazi and a few Sephardi communities. The service then follows with Aleinu. Most Sephardi and many Ashkenazi synagogues end with the singing of Yigdal, a poetic adaptation of Maimonides’ 13 principles of Jewish faith. Other Ashkenazi synagogues end with Adon `olam instead.

Shacharit

Shabbat morning prayers commence as on week-days. Of the hymns, Psalm 100 (Mizmor LeTodah, the psalm for the Thanksgiving offering), is omitted because the todah or Thanksgiving offering could not be offered on Shabbat in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem. Its place is taken in the Ashkenazi tradition by Psalms 19, 34, 90, 91, 135, 136, 33, 92, 93. Sephardic Jews maintain a different order, add several psalms and two religious poems. The Nishmat prayer is recited at the end of the Pesukei D’Zimrah. The blessings before Shema are expanded, and include the hymn El Adon, which is often sung communally.

The intermediary benediction of the Shacharit Amidah begins with Yismach Moshe and discusses Moses’ receiving of the Torah (which according to tradition took place on the morning of the Sabbath). Kedushah, which is always recited during the Hazzan’s repetition of the third blessing, is significantly expanded. After the repetition is concluded, the Torah scroll is taken out of the Ark in a ritual much longer than the ritual during the week, and the weekly portion is read, followed by the haftarah.

After the Torah reading, three prayers for the community are recited. Two prayers starting with Yekum Purkan, composed in Babylon in Aramaic, are similar to the subsequent Mi sheberakh, a blessing for the leaders and patrons of the synagogue. The Sephardim omit much of the Yekum Purkan. Prayers are then recited (in some communities) for the government of the country, for peace, and for the State of Israel.

After these prayers, Ashrei is repeated and the Torah scroll is returned to the Ark in a procession through the Synagogue. Many congregations allow children to come to the front in order to kiss the scroll as it passes. In many Orthodox communities, the Rabbi (or a learned member of the congregation) delivers a sermon at this point, usually on the topic of the Torah reading.

Mussaf

The Musaf service starts with the silent recitation of the Amidah. The middle blessing includes the Tikanta Shabbat reading on the holiness of Shabbat, and then by a reading from the biblical Book of Numbers about the sacrifices that used to be performed in the Temple in Jerusalem. Next comes Yismechu, “They shall rejoice in Your sovereignty”, and Eloheynu, “Our God and God of our Ancestors, may you be pleased with our rest” (which is recited during all Amidahs of the Sabbath. Kedushah is greatly expanded.

After the Amidah comes the full Kaddish, followed by Ein keloheinu. In Orthodox Judaism this is followed by a reading from the Talmud on the incense offering called Pittum Haketoreth and daily psalms that used to be recited in the Temple in Jerusalem. These readings are usually omitted by Conservative Jews, and are always omitted by Reform Jews.

The Musaf service culminates with the Rabbi’s Kaddish, the Aleinu, and then the Mourner’s Kaddish. Some synagogues conclude with the reading of An’im Zemirot, “The Hymn of Glory”, Mourner’s Kaddish, the Psalm of the Day and either Adon Olam or Yigdal.

Mincha

Mincha commences with Ashrei (see above) and the prayer Uva letzion, after which the first section of the next weekly portion is read from the Torah scroll. The Amidah follows the same pattern as the other Shabbat Amidah prayers, with the middle blessing starting Attah Echad.

Ma’ariv

The week-day Ma’ariv is recited on the evening immediately following Shabbat, concluding with Vihi No’am, Ve-Yitten lekha, and Havdalah.

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