Structure of the Jewish Prayer Service – Intro to Tefillah with Rabbi Wendi Geffen

Posted By on November 15, 2019

Although Jews can pray individually
anytime…for a service Jews tend to pray in a group of ten or more people. We also pray out of a prayer book called a siddur, which means order. Each prayer
helps to form a story taking us all the way back to creation up through what we
imagine might be a perfect world. The service also gives each of us a shared
way to express our multifaceted relationships with God through different
prayer types like blessing petition and Thanksgiving. Imagine the service as
if it were a team sporting event – just like you wouldn’t start a game without
stretching first, the service begins with an introductory period for warmup, which
might include selected Psalms, songs or other readings depending upon the
occasion. Once everyone is warmed up the service officially begins with a praise
prayer called Barchu, essentially the equivalent of the umpire chanting “Now
play ball!” After that comes Shema and her blessings – Shema is one of the oldest prayers we have…it’s technically not a prayer but
rather a series of biblical quotes, the first of which and the most famous sums up
the unifying guiding principle of Judaism… that the Jewish people believe in
one God. If you had to write about the essence of Judaism in a tweet,
this would definitely be a possibility the next main section of the service is
the Amidah. it’s so important that Jewish tradition teaches that if you had to
choose only one part of the service to include, the Amidah would be that choice.
Then the last part of the service involves two concluding prayers: Aleinu
which envisions a perfected and unified world, and then the Mourners Kaddish. Whew, the game is coming to a close. Now there’s a cool-down ending that usually contains
some form of a closing song or benediction or both. A few other things
to expect: some services also include a reading from that week’s Torah portion
as well as a Dvar Torah, or sermon. One last word – by and large, anywhere in the
world you go when Jews pray certain prayers like Barchu, the Amidah and Aleinu they always turn towards Jerusalem…in fact most synagogue
sanctuaries in America are built to orient the congregation to face east.
This practice reinforces the core concept that no matter where we are and
what the unique details are of our variant communal practices, at the end of
the day we are all channeling our energies, prayers and hearts in the same

Posted by Lewis Heart

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