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Jewish Daily Prayer Services

Daily Prayer Services

Avodah Sheba-Lev

It is the custom to pray three times a day, corresponding to the three patriarchs, the three times of temple sacrifice (tamid offerings), and Biblical examples (e.g., Daniel) of praying three times in the day. These three times are accomodated by three prayer services offered on a daily basis.

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According to Rabbinic tradition, a minyan (an assembly of ten bar-mitzvah men) is required for corporate prayer services (Reform and Liberal Jews give full equality to women and therefore count them as part of a minyan). Most synagogues have a chazzan (cantor) who is a professional or lay-professional singer employed for the purpose of leading the congregation in prayer.

Devotion from the heart, called kavanat ha lev, is considered essential to true prayer. Kavanah implies concentration, worship, and single-mindedness. “Prayer without kavanah is like a body without a soul,” meaning that the attitude of “service of the heart” (avodah sheba-lev) is required when praying.


The Morning Service (Shacharit)

This begins very early in the morning. Similar to the evening service, the Shacharit adds Torah reading on Shabbat, holidays, Monday, and Thursday. An addtional service, called a Musaf, is also sometimes added. Bold sections are considered core to the service.

Preliminaries - The following morning blessings are sometimes recited at home rather than at the synagogue:

  1. Modeh Ani - The blessing recited upon arising.
  2. Yirat Adonai - Awakening to the LORD.
  3. Upon bathing - Blessing recited upon bathing in the morning.
  4. Donning Tzitzi - The blessing recited upon putting on tzitzit.
  5. Donning the Tallit - The blessing recited upon putting on the prayer shawl.
  6. Donning Tefillin - The blessing recited upon putting on phylacteries.
  7. Yetzer Hara - Prayer to overcome the evil inclination.
     

Birkat HaShachar - These additional morning blessings are often recited at the synagogue:

  1. Mah Tovu - Verses recited upon entering the synagogue.
  2. Adon Olam - Master of the Universe
  3. Yigdal - may He be Exalted
  4. Birkat HaTorah - Blessings for the Torah
  5. Birchot HaShachar - Morning Blessings
  6. The Akedah - Binding of Issac
  7. L’Olam Yehei Adam - Always should a man revere God
     

Warm Up for Prayer - The Pesukei d'Zemira (verses of song) section of services include a lot of Psalms and hymns and function somewhat like a “warm-up” for prayers:

  1. Kaddish - “Sanctification,” a prayer of praise recited by mourners.
  2. Barukh She’amar - Blessed is He who spoke
  3. Hodu - Give thanks
  4. Ashrei - Praiseworthy
  5. Yishtabach - Closing benediction
     

The Shema and its Blessings  - The Shema functions as a creedal formula for Jews:

  1. The Barekhu - Call to Prayer
  2. Birkat Yotzer - Blessing The Creator
  3. Ahavah Rabbah - Blessing Of Great Love
  4. The Keriat Shema
  5. Birkat Geulah - Blessing Of Redemption
     

The Amidah - The Shemoneh Esrei (or Amidah) is first recited silently, and then is recited again by the cantor:

  1. Shemoneh Esrei - The Amidah (“standing”) prayer is recited. On Shabbat and Holidays (Yom Tov), shorter versions are recited.
  2. Tachanun - “Supplication” recited immediately after the Amidah.
  3. Hallel - “Praise” selections from Tehillim (said on Rosh Chodesh and holidays).
     

The Torah Service - Torah reading (Keriat HaTorah) and aliyot (Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat) is normally next in the Shacharit seder:

  1. Birkat HaTorah - The Blessing of the Torah
  2. Opening the Holy Ark
  3. Torah Processional
  4. Torah Blessings and Readings
  5. Raising Of The Torah Scroll
  6. Haftarah Blessings
  7. Brit Chadashah Blessings
  8. Return of Torah to Ark
     

Conclusion - The Shacharit service usually ends with additional prayer and praise:

  1. Ashrei - Prayer taken from Tehillim 145.
  2. Uva L'Tzion is also recited (except on Shabbat and Yom Tov)
  3. Aleinu - Closing prayer of praise. “It is our duty to praise...”
  4. Ein Keloheinu
  5. Half Kaddish - “Sanctification”
  6. Prayer upon leaving the synagogue

The Afternoon Service (Minchah)

This service may occur during the early afternoon or be combined with the ma’ariv service. The Torah is read only on Shabbat and Yom Kippur.

  1. Ashrei - Prayer taken from Tehillim. The prayer Uva L'Tzion is also recited (except on Shabbat and Yom Tov).
  2. K’riat Shema and it's Blessings - On Shabbat and fast days the Torah is recited.
     
    • The Barekhu - Call to Prayer
    • Blessings before the Shema
    • The Keriat Shema
    • Blessing after the Shema
       
  3. Shemoneh Esrei - The Amidah (“standing”) prayer is recited. On Shabbat and Holidays (Yom Tov), shorter versions are recited.
  4. Tachanun - “Supplication” recited immediately after the Amidah.
  5. Aleinu - Closing prayer of praise. “It is our duty to praise...”
  6. Prayer upon leaving the synagogue

3. The Evening Service (Ma’ariv)

Since the Jewish day begins at sundown, this is technically the first prayer service of the day. This service includes preliminary prayers, Shema and its Blessings, Amidah, and Concluding prayers. Friday evening services are called Kabbalat Shabbat.

  1. K’riat Shema and it's Blessings - On Shabbat and fast days the Torah is recited.
     
    • The Barekhu - Call to Prayer
    • Blessings before the Shema
    • The Keriat Shema
    • Blessing after the Shema
       
  2. Shemoneh Esrei - The Amidah (“standing”) prayer is recited. On Shabbat and Holidays (Yom Tov), shorter versions are recited.
  3. Aleinu - Closing prayer of praise. “It is our duty to praise...”
  4. Prayer upon leaving the synagogue

In addition to these three daily services, a fourth additional prayer service (called mussaf, "additional"), is added on Shabbat and major holidays. A fifth prayer service (ne'ilah) is only recited on Yom Kippur.

Most siddurim (plural of siddur) contain the prayers for evening (Ma'ariv), morning (Shacharit), and afternoon (Minchah) services for Shabbat, holy days, and weekdays. A machzor is a prayerbook for the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).

Note: If you attend a service on Shabbat, the siddur used will probably be one for Shabbat and holy days.

Note that in addition to these prayer services, an observant Jew will offer up many personal prayers and blessings throughout the day, including blessings for meals and when going to bed (the bedtime shema).

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