HMS; 5764-15 Prayer III: The Format of the Service

Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg

January 19, 2004 – Number 5764-15

Prayer III: The Format of the Service

Tephillot, (Jewish Prayer Services) all have the same basic structure. Like a letter, they all have an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. Depending on the service, however, there are many parts that can be added. In general, the simplest services are weekday tephillot, since they happen every day and we must take time from our schedule to pray. Shabbat and Holiday Services are somewhat longer since work and the daily routine are no longer an issue. High Holy Day services are the longest, since the nature of the day requires that everything else be put aside for the purpose of meriting life in the year ahead.
The daily Shacharit service has as its introduction, the Pesuke D’Zimra, verses of song and praise to G-d. The main body consists of the Shema and her blessings and the Amida. The conclusion contains Ashray, Aleynu and the Psalm for the day. The daily Mincha service (for the afternoon) has Ashray for the introduction, The Amida for the main body and Aleynu for the closing. The Maariv service, (for the evening) has a one paragraph introduction (V’hu Rachum) The Shema and her blessings for the main body (with an additional Amida that is not repeated by the leader as is done in the two other services) and the conclusion is the Aleynu.
There is a long standing custom that three days should not go by without some study of Torah. Therefore on Monday, Thursday and Shabbat we pause after the main body of the service to read and study Torah. There is also a Torah reading at Mincha on Shabbat so that as soon as we finish one Parsha (section) of the Torah, we begin the next section. That same section will be read on Monday and Thursday and completed the following Shabbat at Shacharit.
In general, the Amida stands in our service for the sacrificial service that was once done in the Temple in Jerusalem. We have substituted service at the alter for service of the “heart” that is, “prayer”. In Jerusalem, there were two sacrifices a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This is why we recite the Amida in the morning and afternoon tephillot. There never was a sacrifice at night, but the personal prayers of the Amida were so important that they were added to the Maariv service as well. Because this is not a “required” Amida, we do not repeat it out loud. On Shabbat and on Festivals, there was an extra sacrifice on honor of the day. For this reason we do an “additional” Amida focusing on the nature of the festival. This Amida follows the Torah Service for the day and is called “Musaf” (Additional). While it is recited individually as is the regular Amida, instead of petitions, it contains material on the sacred nature of Shabbat or of the Festival.
On Shabbat and Festivals, the Pesuke D’zimra is extended with special Psalms that speak to the nature of the day. Festivals also add the Hallel, a series of Psalms added after the main body of the service and before the Torah is read. These psalms are words of praise to G-d for giving us such festive celebrations.
On Rosh Hashana, the Musaf is extended to expound on the themes of the Kingship of G-d, That G-d remembers the past and verses relating to the sounding of the Shofar. On Yom Kippur, since there was an extra service when the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, there is an additional service, the Avoda Service, that describes that occasion. Kol Nidre is added to the Maariv of Yom Kippur to stress the Judgement aspect of Yom Kippur, and Neilah, a special service at the end of Yom Kippur expands on the theme of the gates of repentance closing. Thus there are seven separate sections to the Yom Kippur service.

Next week: Prayer IV: The Torah Service

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