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Learn our Shabbat Service

Frequently Asked Shabbat Questions

Etiquette Basics

  • Anyone who approaches the bimah is asked to wear a tallit and head covering.

  • Use of electronic devices (including cameras/phones) is not permitted.

  • If you are given an honor on the bimah, while the Torah is out, please do not turn your back to the Torah.

  • When the ark is open, you are expected to stand in a sign of respect. If you cannot, please do not do what is unsafe.

Following the Siddur (Prayer book)

Did you ever wonder what's going on when prayers are loud and then dissolve into mumbles and then go aloud again? Look at your prayerbook for guidance if you lose your spot! When you see bolded text or a little box at the start of a line, you can normally predict that the Cantor will pray aloud again. This is to ensure everyone is in the same place of the Hebrew text. That can be important if you are following along or learning Hebrew, but the most important thing is that you take this time to say what is in your heart.

The prayerbook is merely a guide.

When to stand?

Standing is an essential position in Jewish prayer unless you are unable or do not feel well. Don't worry if you can't or don't. The clergy or lay leader will guide congregants on when this would be appropriate if you are able. You will see mourners stand during the Mourner's Kaddish. We also stand during Barchu (p. 107).

We stand when the Ark is open and when the Torah is being carried around the room.

The "Amidah" (p. 115b or 156b) or "Standing Prayer" is a time when we stand in silent devotion before God. There are meditations to help you in the prayerbook, but this is YOUR time to speak the words of your heart.

When to bow?

You will not be told when to bow, but you will see others bowing during certain prayers. In the Aleinu prayer (p. 183), we say "v'anakhnu korim u'mistachavim u'modim" which is loosely translated to mean "we bend our knees and bow to give thanks" so that is one time you will see everyone bow in unison. It is traditional to bow during the Barchu (p. 107) and during the first part of the Amidah.

Do not bow if you have a health issue that makes doing so unsafe for you.

When the Torah comes around the room, you will see people taking the strings of their Tallit (called tzitzit) or their prayerbook (siddur) and touching those to the Torah and then they kiss the tzitzit or the prayerbook. By kissing the Torah in this way, we signify that it guides us in our Judaism and we are devoted to that. 

Likewise, you may see someone kiss a prayerbook if they drop it on the floor. Again, this is a way of showing respect as it contains words of the Torah.

Taking an Aliyah

When you approach the bimah to take an aliyah (which translates to "going up" to the Torah), you will wear a tallit (prayer shawl). Be prepared to share your Hebrew name with the Gabai (the person who stands to the side of the Torah) who will introduce you to the congregation. Once you are introduced, you will touch the Torah portion with the tzitzit (knotted strings) on the corner of your tallit. Then, you kiss the tzitzit, recite the blessing and the reader will chant the parsha (Torah portion for the week). After the recitation of the parsha, you will touch your tzitzit to the portion again, kiss the tzitzit and recite the final blessing. Finally, you will move to the other side of the bimah as you should never rush away from the Torah. Once the next reading is done, you can return to your seat. Often, people will greet you on your way back and say "Yasher Koach" which roughly translates to "way to go" or "congratulations" and "more power to you! or "may your power be enriched!"

It is customary to donate in recognition that you have been given an honor in any shul. Donations are just that. They are not required and are not given on Shabbat. Donations may be given via our tzedakah (charity) box at Sunday minyan or any other weekday that is not a holiday.

Shabbat Service Tunes

Cantor Sklar hopes that everyone can participate in our services and has provided us with some MP3 files to learn the tunes! If you want to learn more about how you can participate or practice prayers or blessings, contact Cantor Sklar. See our page on Torah and Haftarah Blessings as well.