We greet the Sabbath with “Shabbat Shalom” as we meet family and friends on Friday evening or Saturday. The Torah teaches that God “created” the world as we know it in six days and rested on the seventh. The 4th Commandment (of the Ten Commandments) is to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” We therefore cherish the seventh day and the evening before it as a day of rest and worship. We share the spirit of Shabbat with family at home and in our sanctuary for Friday night services.
The Sabbath day is to be spent in study, rest, being with family and doing meaningful or relaxing activities. Our Shabbat service is made up of readings and songs as we reaffirm our belief in God, sanctifying His/Her greatness. We read from the Prophets, as their teachings impact our history and our present life.
The Friday night service is comprised of two main parts, Kabbalat Shabbat and The Ma’ariv Service.
Kabbalat Shabbat (Receiving Shabbat) is the time when we welcome Shabbat. The service usually begins with an opening song, followed by lighting candles which symbolize breaking the day from night. We read or sing selections from six prayers, representing the six days of creation. These praise the revelation of God’s creative powers and God’s sovereignty over all nature and all nations. Kabbalat Shabbat concludes with the Chatzi Kaddish (the Reader’s Kaddish), an expression of praise to God which acknowledges the divine sovereignty by all humanity.
The Ma’ariv Service
The Ma’ariv (Evening) Service starts with the call to worship, the Bar’chu.. The congregation rises to praise God; we bow at the waist as a sign of devotion to God. A prayer, Ma’ariv Aravim (Bringer of Evening), addresses the cycle of day and night.
Ahavat Olam (Eternal Love) is a prayer explaining God’s eternal love for the Jews having given them the gift of Torah. The Sh’ma (Hear O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One) is directly taken from the Torah (Deuteronomy). The Sh’ma is the most important of all Jewish prayers. It expresses our belief that one God created the heavens and the Earth and is the parent of all people.
V’ahavta (You shall love) instructs us to love God, to be devoted to Torah study and to remember our religious obligations. We then acknowledge God as the Redeemer of Israel, leading us out of Egypt and we celebrate that freedom with Mi Chamocha (Who is like You?). The words, taken directly from the Torah (Exodus) proclaim God’s power for splitting the Red Sea. Hashkiveinu (Give us a place to rest) is a final prayer that asks for God’s protection as we sleep, under a shelter (sukkah).
One of two songs, either V’Shamru V’nei Yisrael (The people of Israel shall keep) or Yism’chu (Those who keep Shabbat) call upon us to rejoice for the Sabbath and that each of us who honors the Sabbath will be rewarded with delight and goodness.
The Amidah (Standing Prayer) is traditionally recited three times a day (in each of the day’s three services). The Sabbath Amidah consists of a sequence of six prayers (three first that praise our Ancestors, God’s Deeds and God’s Sanctity, and three later, that acknowledge the Acceptance of Worship, Thanksgiving and hope for Peace) that surround the core prayer expressing the sanctity and themes of the holy day (K’dushat Ha Yom).
Following the prayer for peace (Shalom Rav) that concludes the Amidah, the Congregation has time for a silent prayer and reflection on the past week and the week to come. This quiet time is completed with a singing prayer for acceptance from God (Yih’yu l’Ratzon) or another prayer for peace (Oseh shalom).
A Prayer for Healing
Mi Shebeirach (May the One who blessed) is a prayer we offer for those who can’t attend our Shabbat service due to illness. We pray for God to be compassionate and for their health to be restored.
Aleinu begins the completion of our Friday evening service. This prayer is a sign of hope at each service.
We then acknowledge those who are no longer with us, and we rise as an entire congregation to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish, which again praises God’s sovereignty on earth and is recited at the end of each of the day’s services.
Finally, a closing song marks the completion of the service and the beginning of our day of rest. We gather in the Oneg (Delight) room at the back of the sanctuary for wine (sweetness) and challah (we break bread together). We end the evening with “Shabbat Shalom”, extending the wish of peace and rest to carry everyone over until the following weekend.