See our Calendar for Family Service times and dates.
The Order of the Service
The prayer book is called Siddur, which means “order.” Every service has an order.
The first line is a blessing of Bilaam (Bilam) from Numbers 24:5. Bilaam was hired by the King Balak to curse the people of Israel. Bilaam looked into the tents of the people of Israel and instead of a curse, he praised us with the words of “Mah Tovu”
Kaddish comes from the Hebrew word for holiness. There are five variations to the Kaddish prayer. This Kaddish is called the “Hatzi Kaddish” or the half Kaddish because it omits one verse from the basic version. It is also called the “Readers Kaddish” because it is used to separate the different parts of the service and offer a holy transition. Because our connection with the Kaddish is with mourning, we include the Reader’s Kaddish at the beginning of our service to tell mourners that they are welcome here, to praise God and to separate the first part of the service from the second part, the Barchu.
The Shema and Its Blessings:
Jewish tradition emphasizes praying with a community. “One who prays with a congregation will have their prayer answered.” (Talmud). As the first word, Barchu, is spoken the leader slightly bows to gently call each congregant to prayer. At the word Baruch, the congregation bows to acknowledge and respond to the leader.
The first statement of the Shema is, “Shema, Israel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad,” is from Deuteronomy 6:4ff. The response to the first statement of the Shema is “Baruch Sheim kevod malchuto leolam vaed” Blessed is the God’s glorious kingdom forever and ever. This response originated in the days of the Temple. Only the High Priest was permitted to say God’s holy name (represented by the Hebrew letters Yud Hey Vav Hey), and only from within the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. The congregation’s response to this most holy of utterance was “Baruch sheim kevod…”
Tradition calls us to remember Yetziat Mitzrayim – our going out from Egypt, in every service. We remember that we were slaves and know that until all people are free not one of us is completely free. Though we mourn for the suffering of the Egyptians and know that the journey ahead is long and difficult, we join together in celebrating of this precious moment of complete freedom. The wisdom of celebrating that moment has carried us through times of deep despair when a glimmer of hope came from remembering the miracle at the shores of the Sea of Reeds, when Miriam the prophetess took her timbrel in her hand and together with Moses, led the Israelites in song and dance.
This is the central part of the prayer service. Tefillah means “prayer.” This section has two other names: the Amidah (standing) because the prayer is said while standing, and Shmoneh Esrei (Eighteen) because it originally contained 18 blessings, (a nineteenth was added later, but the name was not changed). On Shabbat just seven blessings are said: three of praise, one for the Sabbath, and three of thanksgiving.
This prayer reminds us that we are no longer victims. We must be on guard to avoid becoming like those nations who oppress. We bend slightly our knees the word “korim” and bow at the word “u’mishtakhavim” in humility and gratitude as we learn from the lessons of our own history and commit ourselves to Tikkun Olam: the restoration of wholeness to our broken world.
As all of our prayers, the Mourner’s Kaddish connects us with God. We rise together and say the same words that our people have said for their loved ones and for all those who have no one to say Kaddish for them, to continue the blessings of their lives, and for community members and friends who have died recently or at this time in seasons past.