Tefillah Tidbits

A Guide to Prayer and Synagogue Services
You can download a Tefillah Tidbits booklet here or a full page version here.

Numbers in bold refer to page numbers in the Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals. Other page numbers refer to the full Siddur Sim Shalom.

© Rabbi David J.B. Krishef, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Grand Rapids, MI, 2011

Welcome to Congregation Ahavas Israel

We hope this guide will enhance your understanding and enjoyment of our services. This guide is intended to introduce both Jewish and non-Jewish guests to our services. We look forward to meeting you following the service.

First of all, be aware that our Shabbat (or Festival) morning service is usually about 2 1/4 hours long, give or take 15 minutes. It is actually comprised of several distinct services, explained below. If you have arrived at 9:30 a.m. when we begin, you will notice that there are relatively few people present. We hope to have at least a minyan, a quorum of 10 Jews over age 13, required for a few of our prayers. However, we will begin with fewer than a minyan and skip those special prayers if necessary.

It is not uncommon in a traditional Jewish service for Jews to arrive in time for later parts of the service, skipping the earlier parts. It is also not uncommon for people to take breaks during the service. Feel free to visit the library, right next door to the small chapel or down the main hallway from the large Sanctuary, almost directly across from the women’s restroom. By the way, the men’s room is about half way down the main hallway. Next to it is an accessible unisex restroom, and on the other side is the women’s room. From the chapel, take a left out the door and a left at the first hallway to find the restrooms.

If you do leave or enter the room in the middle of the service, be aware that there are a few times, such as when the congregation is standing silently in prayer, when the usher might ask you to remain standing at the back so as not to distract worshippers. The most intense prayer in the service is known as the Amidah, a word which means “standing,” because it is said while standing with one’s feet together in intense concentration. It is customary not to speak or move from one’s place while saying the Amidah. If one comes into the sanctuary during this part of the service, one should remain in the back in order not to disturb the people praying. One should even avoid sitting down in front of a person saying the Amidah, in order not to disrupt their concentration. If you are not able to stand easily, you may remain seated.

We use two books during the service:

• A Siddur, a prayer book containing the traditional arrangement of prayers for Shabbat and/or weekday services, and

• A Humash, a book containing the weekly readings from the Torah and Prophets along with several commentaries.

Large print and Braille editions of the Siddur are available. We also have a telecoil (loop) assisted hearing system. If you have a compatible hearing aid, change the setting to t-coil; if it is not compatible, you may ask the usher for a headset.

Following the service, the congregation is always invited to a Kiddush. The word kiddush refers to a prayer over wine or grape juice sanctifying the Sabbath day. Occasionally, lunch will be served, but generally, the kiddush consists of wine or grape juice, cake, cookies, and other light foods. Visitors are always welcome.

Some people participating in the service this morning are clergy; most, however, are lay people. Our Rabbi, David Krishef, is a teacher, our spiritual leader, and the authority on Jewish law and tradition. Our Hazan or Cantor, Stuart Rapaport, is trained in music and liturgy to lead the service. The role of the usher is to greet people as well as to distribute aliyot and honors for the Torah service. If you are a Jewish visitor, the usher might offer you one of the honors. A Sh’liah Tzibur is any person representing the congregation, professional or lay, leading the service. A Gabbai is the person who corrects and prompts the Torah reader. The second Gabbai is known as the Gabbai sheni. You might also meet the president of the congregation who will share brief announcements at the end of the service.

Please be aware our community is respectful of a number of traditional Shabbat restrictions – we don’t write or use electronic devices including telephones, recorders, or cameras. We invite you to enjoy the service and talk with people following, but ask that you don’t take notes or use electronic devices in the building.

You’ll see two distinctive items of dress around you. All men and some women are wearing a head-covering known as a Kippah in Hebrew or Yarmelka in Yiddish. It is a sign of respect for the sanctity of the sanctuary. We ask all male visitors, Jewish or not, to wear a head covering. A kippah is optional for women, but women who lead services or come to the Torah to receive an honor must wear one. The other special garment is a tallit, a prayer shawl, traditionally worn by Jewish men (and women, in egalitarian congregations). The tassels on the four corners are reminders of God’s mitzvot, commandments. Non-Jewish guests do not wear a tallit.

We have two main worship areas – the large Sanctuary, and our smaller chapel. We use the Sanctuary on the first Shabbat of the month to host a special speaker, as well as on other weeks when we are expecting a larger attendance. At the front of the Sanctuary, you will see a bima, a raised platform. We have a lift in the room to the right of the bima to accommodate those in wheelchairs or who have difficulty managing stairs. Please let the usher know if you will be using the lift.

On the bima there is a shulhan (a Torah reading table) and an amud (a podium) from which the rabbi speaks. In the chapel, the shulhan fulfills both functions. In the Sanctuary, we often move the rabbi and cantor’s podiums off the bima to create a less formal and more intimate feeling in a large room. The cabinet at the front of the room is known as the aron or Ark – it contains the Torah scrolls. Above the Ark is a ner tamid, or eternal light.

Traditionally, Jewish prayer is oriented towards Jerusalem (in this part of the world, towards the East). In Israel, sanctuaries are oriented towards Jerusalem; and in Jerusalem, towards the Temple Mount.

Our services follow a fairly traditional format. Traditional Jewish prayer services are a blend of personal and communal prayer. Often, the prayers are said individually, but the prayer leader will chant portions of each paragraph or section out loud in order to enhance the communal nature of prayer by keeping the community synchronized. In Siddur Sim Shalom, those sections are denoted by a small square before the sentence (in Hebrew only).

A Spiritual Orientation to Jewish Prayer

by Rabbi Yitzhak Buxbaum

First of all, please feel that you’re among friends. Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself or to ask anybody here a question about anything happening.

You may want to just sit and watch or involve yourself in a way that seems comfortable.

If you come to the synagogue regularly, you’ll eventually learn all the different customs and how to participate fully. But even if you don’t know all that now, you can still participate and be elevated spiritually.

What’s the essence of the service — the purpose of the prayers, the singing, the ritual? Jewish tradition teaches that it’s a way to develop love of God, love of people, and love of yourself. We should also become aware of God’s love for us. Davvening (Jewish prayer) is a form of meditation. By entering a meditative mood during the service and coming into contact with your deepest self (your soul), you can then truly open yourself to other people and to God. The mystics teach that before a prayer-service it is good to utter one’s intention to fulfill the commandment “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s why it’s important for us to be friendly when we’re together in the synagogue. So relax and feel at home. This is God’s House, so it’s also your house.

The main task in prayer is getting close to God. Don’t worry overmuch about being in step with every detail of the synagogue service. Focus on the essence, which is to be in a meditative mood and open yourself to God. Only then can you meet God.

How does one meditate in davvening? First, resolve to take your mind off any worries or concerns about outside affairs, and to concentrate on what you are doing now, which is tending to your soul. Then, through the recitations, singing, Torah reading, and other activities, focus more and more on spiritual reality and on God, until, God-willing, you’ll have an experience. Initially, that means feeling meditative and calm, but eventually, that you will feel yourself to be in God’s presence. So, if you want to get the most out of your synagogue experience, use this time to meditate. You can meditate by reciting, by listening, by singing, or by thinking deeply. Be friendly and relaxed, but avoid excessive conversation in the sanctuary. Concentrate on the prayers in a meditative mood. Avoid looking around constantly. As in any form of meditation, you must control your glance to focus your mind. One easy way to do this is to focus your gaze on the page in the prayerbook. Feel free to look around from time to time, but with a spiritual purpose, to take in the religious activity happening around you. Close your eyes occasionally and picture yourself surrounded by God’s presence or imagine that He is right in front of you, so that He is looking at you and you are looking back. Reflect on the deeper meaning of your life. Think about loving God, people, and yourself.

Read prayers aloud or whisper them, moving your lips (in Jewish prayer, reading silently is not considered praying). Try to say the prayers with feeling; mean what you say. Reflect on the prayers and try to understand them. Don’t be surprised if some of them express ideas contrary to your own views. Part of your work in Jewish prayer is to become familiar with traditional views. If you encounter something in the prayers that disturbs you, don’t dwell on it. Focus on the parts that speak to you. Try to keep up with the congregation, but don’t worry if you lag behind. Don’t rush, and lose your meditative mood. If you skip a prayer here or there that’s also OK. If you lose your place in the prayerbook, just ask the person next to you. He or she will be glad to help.

If you don’t read Hebrew, read the English in the prayerbook. If you are reading the Hebrew without understanding it, you may want to read the English occasionally to reflect on what you’re saying. When reciting Hebrew prayers without understanding them, consider the words in the holy tongue as vehicles carrying your innermost thoughts and deepest spiritual longings to God. While uttering the Hebrew words, think thoughts related to the davvening and focus your mind on God. When the congregation sings a melody for a prayer, consider the spiritual message of the melody as primary and the words as secondary. Join in the singing and let the song carry your soul heavenward. If you feel comfortable doing so, it is a good practice, occasionally during the service, to utter short personal prayers for what you need or what a friend or a loved one needs. (Personal prayers may be expressed mentally.) You can also say such things as: “God, I want to learn about You and how to get close to You!” or, perhaps, if you have trouble with faith, say: “God, people say You exist, but I’ve never met You! Please reveal Yourself to me!”

Try to establish a continuous meditative mood throughout the service. If you avoid interruptions, distractions, and distracting thoughts, you will build up spiritual power, enter a meditative mood, and, with God’s help, “something will happen.” You will have a spiritual experience. Minimally, you’re guaranteed at least a taste of peace and joy.

We hope you enjoy the service in the deepest way.

To learn more from Rabbi Yitzhak Buxbaum, read his booklet Real Davvening: Jewish Prayer as a Spiritual Practice and a Form of Meditation for Beginning and Experienced Davveners. For excerpts and other Jewish spiritual teaching, see Yitzhak’s website at www.jewishspirit.com.

Basic Tefillah Structure:

The word Tefillah means prayer. The basic building block of Jewish prayer is the Berakhah, the blessing. The traditional berakhah formula begins with the words Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam …, “You are the Source of Blessing, Adonai our God, eternal sovereign of the universe …”

The service is divided into four parts:

• Pesukei D’zimra, consisting of a meditative warm-up

• Shaharit, consisting of the shema unit and an amidah

• Torah service, consisting of a reading from the Torah and the prophets

• Musaf, consisting of a second amidah

Prayers from each of these sections are described in more detail below.

Siddur Architecture:

A full traditional Siddur is arranged by two guiding principles: The first principle of organization is Tadir v’aino tadir, tadir kodem — Between an event which occurs frequently and an event which occurs less frequently, the more frequent event takes precedence. Therefore, weekday services precede Shabbat and Festival services.

The second principal of organization of the Siddur is to place services in time order. Thus the order within a weekday section is Shaharit (morning), Minha (afternoon), Ma’ariv (evening); and the order within a Shabbat section is Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming Shabbat), Ma’ariv, Shaharit, Musaf, Minha.

In many traditional Siddurim, blessings over food and Birkat Hamazon (Grace after meals) are found after weekday Shaharit, on the presumption that one would eat breakfast after Shaharit. Miscellaneous material, such as berakhot over sights and smells, the Brit Milah ceremony, and the wedding service are also often found in this section.

Prayer Movement:

The term for swaying back and forth that one sometimes sees in Jewish prayer settings is shuckeling. It is based on a verse from Psalms 35:10, “All of my bones shall say, “Adonai, who is like you, you save the poor from those more powerful, the poor and the destitute from those who would rob them.” The idea that all of one’s bones, one’s whole body, should be involved in praising God led to the custom of moving one’s whole body back and forth during prayer.

Birkot Hashahar – The Morning Blessings, page 65/10:

Birkot Hashahar consists of 14 opening berakhot, recited while standing. We continue with an early morning Shema and text study, followed by Kaddish D’rabbanan. This Kaddish traditionally follows text study, and may be said by all who have participated in the study of text, not just mourners. The next section, consisting of the Psalm of the Day and Psalm 30 – Mizmor Shir Hanukat habayit L’David, “A Psalm of David, a song for the dedication of the temple,” – page 81/50, is a bridge between Birkot Hashahar and Pesukei D’zimra.

Pesukei D’zimra, pages 83 – 106/54 – 94, 334 – 338:

The section of the service known as Pesukei D’zimra is designed to function as a meditative preparation to prayer. It begins with a berakhah beginning Barukh She’amar, “The source of blessing is the One who said,” and concludes with a berakha known as Yishtabah, “You shall always be praised.” Both are recited while standing. The section in between consists of Psalms 145 (better known as Ashrei) – 150, as well as other Psalm-like compositions.

Barukh She’amar and Tzitzit, page 83/54:

It is customary to hold one’s front two tzitzit during Barukh She’amar. In Barukh She’amar we mention Barukh thirteen times without mentioning Adonai, the name of God. To compensate for this omission, we take two tzitzit, each consisting of five knots and eight threads — 13. The Hebrew letters of God’s name, YHWH, are numerically equivalent to 26. Two tzitzit, 13 x 2, also equals 26, thus supplying the missing name of God.

Shema unit, pages 107-114/340 – 352:

The section of the service containing the Shema begins with Barkhu (an introductory call to communal prayer), and continues with two berakhot focusing on creation (notice the imagery of light) and God’s love. The Shema itself consists of three passages from Deuteronomy and Numbers. The section concludes with a berakha focusing on redemption, leading into the Amidah.

Barkhu, page 107/340:

The leader invites the congregation to join with him/her in prayer – Barkhu – “Let us acknowledge God as the Source of Blessing.” The congregation responds and the leader repeats, Barukh … – “God is the eternal Source of Blessing.” When saying Barkhu, stand with your feet together and bow slightly at the waist at the words Barkhu/Barukh.

Ahava Raba – page 111/346:

It is customary to gather your four tzitzit together from the corners of your tallit when you read the words vehavi’enu l’shalom me’arba kanfot ha’aretz, “bring us together from the four corners of the earth …” in anticipation of reciting the third paragraph of the Shema in which we read about the mitzvah of tzitzit.

Shema Yisrael – page 112/346:

The first paragraph of the Shema comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It is the central theological statement of Judaism. Therefore, it is traditionally recited with as close to perfect concentration as possible, by closing or covering one’s eyes when reciting the first line. The second line, Barukh Shem, is recited silently because it is an interruption of the Biblical verses.

Standing during the Shema – page 112/346:

One opinion in the Talmud is that we should stand for the morning shema, because we are supposed to recite it “when we get up.” A second opinion is that we should recite it as we are – either sitting or standing, but we should not change our position. In most traditional communities, the second opinion has been accepted as halakha, and we recite the Shema seated.

Ve’ahavta and Vehaya im Shamoah paragraphs – pages 112/346 – 348:

The first and second paragraphs of the Shema come from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 respectively. Thematically, the mitzvot of tefillin and mezuzah found in the first paragraph of the Shema are repeated in the second. The second paragraph adds a theology of communal reward and punishment, and a promise of long life on the land. On weekdays, when wearing tefillin, it is customary to touch and kiss your arm and head Tefillin at the words ot and totafot, respectively, in the first two paragraphs.

Vayomer – page 113/348:

The third paragraph of the Shema, from Numbers 15:37-41, contains the mitzvah of Tzitzit, intended to be a reminder of mitzvot. It is customary to kiss the Tzitzit at each of the three occurrences of the word tzitzit. At the end of the paragraph, join the last two words, Adonai Eloheikhem, to the first word of the next paragraph, emet, “Adonai your God is truth,” and kiss your tzitzit again.

Ga’al Yisrael Beracha – pages 113 – 114/350 – 352:

Kiss the tzitzit and release them after the line beginning Ledor Vador, “for all generations,” at the end of the first paragraph of the berakha. The words Ga’al Yisrael at the end of the berakha are not recited out loud by the sh’liah tzibur, prayer leader, so that the congregation can move from the berakha of ge’ulah, redemption, to the central prayer of the Amidah, without pausing to say amen.

The Amidah – pages 115a-b – 120/354 – 364:

The Amidah is the central prayer of every Synagogue service. It is the synagogue replacement for the regular daily offerings of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Amidah is known as the prayer par excellance. Traditionally, an individual prays the Amidah silently, and then the leader repeats the Amidah out loud for the benefit of those who cannot pray themselves. The repetition is called Hazarat Hasha”tz, meaning the leader’s repetition. Sha”tz is an abbreviation for Sh’liah Tzibur, the person representing the congregation in prayer (the ” symbol in a Hebrew word denotes an abbreviation).

The Text of the Amidah

The first three berakhot (page 115a-b/354) are identical in every weekday, Shabbat, and festival Amidah. The first berakha is known as Avot – Ancestors. In it, we refer to God’s relationship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah). The second berakha is known as Gevurot – God’s mighty acts. In it, we refer to acts of God’s power. The third berakha is known as Kedushat Hashem – Sanctification of God’s name. In it, we refer to the holiness of God. During the repetition of the Amidah, the Kedushah is recited here in place of this shorter version of the berakha.

The middle section of a weekday Amidah (page 117/358) consists of thirteen short berakhot, each one comprising exactly one petition on one theme. The middle section of a Shabbat and festival Amidah consists of a single berakha and is known as the Kedushat Hayom, “sanctification of the day.” In it, we refer to the theme of the day.

The final three berakhot (118-120/360-364) are identical in all forms of the weekday, Shabbat, and festival Amidah. Of these three, the first is known as Avodah – worship. In it, we ask God to accept our worship. The next is known as Modim – thanksgiving. In it, we thank God for the miracle of our lives and our relationship with God. The final berakha is known as Shalom – peace. In it, we conclude our prayer with a prayer for peace in the world.

The Amidah is customarily concluded with a prayer composed by Mar ben Ravina, a fourth century Rabbi of the Talmud – “My God, keep my tongue from speaking evil …”, including verses from Psalms 33:14, 34:15, and 37:27 (page 120/364). The prayer as found in a traditional Siddur also includes lines not included in Mar’s original version – “Act for your name’s sake …” and a line from Psalm 60 – “May the utterances of my mouth be favorable …“, and Oseh Shalom – O Maker of peace in the heavens ….”

The Choreography of Reciting the Amidah:

The customary posture when reciting the Amidah is to stand with one’s feet together, standing straight. Before beginning the Amidah, at the line Adonai sefatai tiftah, “Adonai, open my lips …,” take three small steps forward to symbolically enter the presence of God. At the beginning and the end of the first berakha one bows. The tradition method of bowing is to bend one’s knees at the word Barukh, bow slightly at the waist at the word ata, and finally straighten up completely before saying the word Adonai.

The Kedusha, the third berakha of the Amidah, is only recited when the shaliah tzibur is reciting all or part of the Amidah out loud. It is recited standing with the same posture as the main portion of the Amidah. At the words, zeh el zeh v’amar, bow left (zeh), right (zeh), and straight ahead (v’amar). At the words Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh, (holy, holy, holy) one rises up on one’s toes slightly. Some people also do at the beginning of the lines, Barukh Kavod, and Yimlokh. The Biblical source of these verses are passages in which Angelic beings are praising God. Since Angelic beings have wings, as in the visions of Ezekiel and Isaiah, raising one’s body on one’s toes physically mimics the actions of angelic beings flapping their wings. Less metaphysically, it also can represent going up a ladder towards higher levels of holiness.

Just as we bowed at the opening berakha of the Amidah, we conclude the Amidah with ritual bows, at the beginning and the end of the Modim berakha. On the words Modim Anahnu Lakh, “We proclaim that You …,” bow slightly at the waist. At the Barukh ata at the end of that berakha, bend one’s knees at the word Barukh, bow slightly at the waist at the word ata, and finally straighten up completely before saying the word Adonai.

Concluding the Amidah:

The Amidah formally ends at the end of the blessing for peace. However, it is traditional to add a few words of private prayer before concluding one’s prayer. Following one’s private prayer, at the words Oseh Shalom …, at the end of the paragraph, one should take three steps backwards to depart from God’s presence, and bow to the left, to the right, and straight ahead.

Reciting the Amidah – during Hazarat Hasha”tz

During the leader’s repetition of the Amidah, when he or she begins to recite the Modim berakha, the congregation recites the Modim d’rabbanan, found in the Siddur in small print following the regular Modim paragraph. At the first words, Modim Anahnu Lakh, one should bow slightly at the waist if standing, and lean forward and bow slightly in one’s chair if seated.

Reciting the Amidah – The Hekhe Kedusha

Sometimes, the Amidah is chanted as a Hekhe Kedusha, in which the Amidah is reciting out loud through the end of the Kedusha. If this is done during Shaharit, then the congregation joins the leader in chanting the beginning of the Amidah (in order not to interrupt the connection between the prayer for redemption after the Shema and the Amidah), and continues silently after the Kedusha. During Musaf, the congregation is silent during the first part of the Amidah, joins in the Kedusha, and then goes back to the beginning and prays the entire Amidah silently.

Hallel – pages 133 – 137/379 – 388:

Hallel is a collection of Psalms (113 – 118), recited on Rosh Hodesh, Biblical festivals, Hanukkah and Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Israel Independence Day). Hallel, meaning praise, reflects our gratefulness and faith in God for the privilege of celebrating the holidays. On Rosh Hodesh and the last six days of Pesah, Hallel is recited b’dillug, skipping the second half of Psalms 115 and 116.

Torah service – page 139/392:

After the Torah is taken out and the Ark is closed, the leader chants the lines Shema … (“Hear …”) and Ehad … (“One is …”), repeated by the congregation. Then everybody turns toward the Aron as the leader chants the line Gadlu … (“Proclaim …”), and all bow slightly at the waist.

Torah Portion:

A Parasha or Sidra is the section of the Torah read on a Shabbat morning. The Torah is divided into 54 Parashot. In order to finish the Torah in exactly one year if the year has fewer than 54 weeks, two Parashot may be combined and read together on several Shabbatot during the week. Many congregations divide each parasha into three sections and read one section each year for three years. This is called a triennial Torah reading cycle.


Tanakh, meaning Bible, is an acronym for the three sections of the Hebrew Bible:

Torah – Includes the books of Beresheet (Genesis), Shemot (Exodus), Vayikra (Leviticus), Bamidbar (Numbers), D’varim (Deuteronomy);

Nevi’im – “Prophets.” Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 minor prophets;

Ketuvim – “Writings.” Includes Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the Five Megillot [Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs), Ruth, Eikha (Lamentations), Kohelet (Ecclesiates), and Esther], Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

A Humash, or Pentateuch, is a book of Torah readings divided by Parasha along with the corresponding Haftarot, selections from the prophets.


An Aliyah is the honor of being called up to the Torah to recite the Berakha over a section of the Torah reading. The person taking an Aliyah is an Oleh (masc.)/Olah (fem.). The number of aliyot (plural) depends on the sanctity of the day: On Hanukkah, Purim, regular Mondays and Thursdays mornings, and Shabbat minha, there are three aliyot and no Maftir. On weekday Rosh Hodesh and Hol Hamoed there are four aliyot and no Maftir. On Festivals, including Rosh Hashanah, we have five aliyot and a Maftir. On Yom Kippur, we have six aliyot and a Maftir. On Shabbat, we have at least seven aliyot and a Maftir: Kohen or Rishon (1), Levy or Sheni (2), Shelishi (3), Revi’i (4), Hamishi (5), Shishi (6), Shevi’i (7).

Sefer Torah:

A Sefer Torah is a Torah scroll. The two wooden dowels around which the Sefer Torah is wrapped are called the Atzei Hayim, “Trees of Life.” The yad (“Hand”) is the pointer used by the Torah reader to keep his/her place without touching the scroll. The two piece finials on top of the Seder Torah are called Rimonim, “Pomegranates.” Some Torah have a one piece crown on top, called a Keter.

The Sifre Torah (plural) are kept in a cabinet in front of the sanctuary called an Aron or Aron Hakodesh, Ark or Holy Ark. In front of the ark there is usually a curtain, called a Parokhet. The honor of opening the Aron and taking out a Torah at the beginning and end of the Torah service is called Petiha.

Generally, we take out one Sefer Torah (Torah scroll) from which to read. On Shabbat or Festival mornings which have a special Maftir reading, the practice is to take out two (or occasionally three) Sifre Torah, so the service is not delayed by a lengthy rolling of the Torah from one reading to another.


The Maftir is a concluding aliyah of the Torah reading, usually a repetition of the final 3 verses of the Parasha, read in addition to the required number of aliyot. In order to avoid giving the impression that the prophetic section of the Hebrew Bible is of equal sanctity to the Torah, a link is made between a brief concluding Torah reading (Maftir) and a concluding reading from the books of the prophets (Haftarah). The person who reads the Haftarah also is given the Maftir aliyah to signify that the Haftarah is equal in importance only to the less important Torah reading. Both ‘Maftir’ and ‘Haftarah’ mean the same thing — concluding portion.


The honor of Hagbah is lifting the Torah after the Torah reading. The person who does Hagbah is the Magbi’ah (masc.)/Magbiha (fem.). The honor of Gelilah is rolling shut the Torah and dressing it. The person who does Gelilah is the Gollel (masc.)/Gollelet (fem.). The magbi’ah/ha holds up the Torah just long enough for everyone to see three columns, and then sits down. The gollel/et ties and dresses the Torah.


The tradition of chanting Torah, Haftarah, and other Biblical books is ancient, and the system of written trope found in the Humash is 6/7th century C. E. The choice of a particular cantillation on a given word is related to the word’s grammatical significance. Some trope accents are conjunctive, i.e., they connect words or phrases together; and others are disjunctive, i.e., they function like commas, semicolons, colons, and periods, dividing words and phrases. The music assigned to a trope carries out its grammatical function. There are many different systems for chanting trope. Torah, Haftarah, Lamentations, Esther, Ruth/Song of Songs/Ecclesiastes, and High Holiday all have their own distinctive style. In addition, Jews from different parts of the world may have distinctive styles.

Other Torah Service Prayers:

Mi Sheberakh – “May the One who blessed …” A prayer recited during the Torah service for those who have had an aliyah, for those who are ill, or for those who are celebrating a festive occasion.

Gomel – A special blessing recited after an aliyah by a person who has experienced a life threatening illness or accident, returned from a long journey, or for a woman after giving birth.


To say congratulations, nice job, or well done to someone who has led a part of the service or done a synagogue honor, say Yasher Koah. The literal translation is approximately “May you go straight from one strength to another.” Colloquially, it means “congratulations.” The appropriate response to a man is Barukh Tihyeh – “May you be blessed;” the appropriate response to a woman is Barukh Tih’yee.

Birkat Hahodesh – page 150/418:

On the Shabbat prior to the beginning of a new month, a special prayer is recited called Birkat Hahodesh, literally, “Blessing of the New Month,” although usually called “Announcement of the New Month.” Months in the Jewish year begin with the new moon, called Rosh Hodesh, and are celebrated with special prayers. Birkat Hahodesh tells the congregation on what day in the coming week the new month begins.

Musaf – page 155/428:

The different prayer services are substitutions for regular daily offerings of the Temple in Jerusalem. Shaharit corresponds to the daily morning offering, Minha corresponds to the afternoon grain offering. On Shabbat and Festivals, an additional (musaf) offering was made – thus the extra service on Shabbat and Festival mornings.

Conclusion — Ein Keiloheinu:

Ein Keiloheinu uses four names for God, in revelation order: Eloheinu, the most generic word for God; Adoneinu, God’s “personal name” which was formally revealed to Moses to remind him of the promise made to the patriarchs and matriarchs; Malkeinu, our sovereign, which is reminiscent of the Biblical period of the Kings; and Moshi’einu, our deliverer, which anticipates a future messianic redemption.

The verses in Ein Keiloheinu form an acrostic. The first letters of the first three verses spell Aleph (Ein), Mem (Mi), Nun (Nodeh) — “Amen,” a suitable conclusion for the service. The next two verses begin with the words Barukh and ata, the beginning of a new blessing, representing the idea that we never stop praising God – as soon as we finish one service or prayer, we begin another one immediately.


The primary function of the Kaddish is to conclude a service or a section of a service with a doxology, praise of God. Of the five distinct forms of the Kaddish, the two most common are:

The hatzi Kaddish, which concludes a section of a longer service and consists only of the two main paragraphs beginning yitgadal and yitbarakh.

The Kaddish shalem or full Kaddish, which concludes a service and has three additional lines after the two main paragraphs – titkabel, y’he sh’lama, and oseh shalom.

The most well known form of the Kaddish is the mourner’s kaddish, which comes both early in the service and near the end of a service like a full Kaddish, to give mourners a chance to say an additional kaddish. The Tit’kabel line, which asks God to accept our prayers, is omitted from this form of the Kaddish because one who has just lost a loved one is likely to believe that their prayers for their loved one’s healing have not been accepted by God.

The three least common forms of the Kaddish are:

  • The Kaddish D’rabbanan, recited after study, which substitutes a longer paragraph for titkabel, containing a prayer for the support of scholars.
  • The Kaddish D’ithad’ta, or burial Kaddish, which has an extended first paragraph, praying for the soul of the deceased in the world to come, and concludes like the mourner’s Kaddish.
  • A variation of the Kaddish D’ithad’ta, which includes the prayer for the support of scholars from the Kaddish D’ithad’ta, is recited at a celebration of the conclusion of the study of a section of Talmud or Mishnah.


Ahavas Israel prepared a three CD set, Shabbat@Ahavas Israel, containing all of the Shabbat evening and morning prayers including all those described in this booklet. Mp3 files from any part of the service are available by request. Contact Rabbi Krishef for more information at Rabbi@AhavasIsraelGR.org or 616-949-2840.