Thank you for joining us at Beth Shalom!
Who is Beth Shalom?
We are a congregational community committed to honoring traditional Judaism. We are a proud member of the Union for Reform Judaism and we welcome a diverse group of Jews and non-Jews to our services.
Explanation of the Worship Service
The Jewish people have built Temples in Jerusalem twice. The first, built by Solomon around the tenth century BCE, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple, built on the same site in 516 BCE, was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Both times the destruction created a dilemma. Our ancient sages disagreed over how to worship God in the absence of the Temple. Some suggested study and others suggested prayer. Today our worship service consists of both.
All Jewish prayer services follow a basic design with slight alterations depending on the time of day of the worship.
Each service starts with introductory prayers to help us achieve kavanah, a contemplative perspective, before embarking on the core of the service. On Friday night, this introduction consists of the Shabbat candle lighting, a series of psalms, and Lecha Dodi, a poem welcoming the metaphorical Shabbat bride. During the last verse of Lecha Dodi, the congregation stands and faces the doorway symbolically welcoming the Shabbat bride. On Saturday morning, the service begins with the morning blessings which celebrate the new day and our appreciation to God for restoring our souls. The morning blessings are then followed by psalms.
Next, the Barechu, the call to worship, alerts us that one of the core parts of our worship is next. The Shema and its Blessings, follow the Barechu and affirm our faith in one God.
The central body of the prayer service is the T’filah. The T’filah, literally THE prayer, is also known by two other names; the Amidah, meaning “standing,” because it is recited while standing, and the Shemona Esrei, meaning “18,” because in its most complete version there are 18 prayers. The T’filah consists of praising, petitioning and thanking God both personally and communally. At the conclusion of the T’filah, there is private meditation.
The Shabbat evening and morning services vary at this point. On Shabbat morning there is a Torah service. The Torah Service is a dramatic re-enactment of God’s Redemption of and Revelation to the Jewish people. When the Ark is opened, the congregation stands, the Torah is then brought into the congregation in a processional re calling the Israelites’ forty years of wandering with the Holy Ark.
During the processional, the congregation moves to the nearest aisle and, with tallit or siddur, touches the passing Torah scroll and then brings the touched item to the lips, symbolizing bringing the words of Torah to one’s words and actions. The core of the Torah service consists of chanting the parsha from the scroll and the Haftarah (complimentary reading from Prophets) from the Chumash. During this ceremonial reading of the Torah, selected individuals are given an aliyah, the honor of being called “up”to the Torah to recite the blessings before and after each reading.
After the Torah is read, it is lifted high and turned where all can see the words. The congregation responds to the lifting of the Torah with Hebrew verses from Deuteronomy 4:44 and Numbers 9:23, “This is the Torah that Moses set before the Israelites…as per the Lord’s command, by the hand of Moses.” This lifting emulates Moses, as he displayed the tablets at Sinai; and the congregational response emulates the acceptance of the covenant by the ancient Israelites. After the Torah is dressed, it is returned to the Aron HaKodesh.
At this point the services on both Friday evening and Saturday morning conclude with the Aleinu, the adoration prayer, followed by the Mourner’s Kaddish. The Mourner’s Kaddish is the prayer for remembering the dead and is traditionally recited by those in mourning over the recent death of a loved one or observing the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Interestingly and intentionally, the prayer makes no reference to death. Rather, it is themourner’s public declaration — during a time of immense sorrow — of his faith in the worthiness of life and that God is just, even though we may not always comprehend His ways.