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The Jewish worship service is mainly characterized with recitations which are in form of prayers repeated several times as part of offering meditation to God. The recitations are made possible with the use of a special Jewish book of prayer called siddur. Those Jews who are considered to be strict adherents of the religious faith are usually supposed to perform three prayer recitations on a daily basis. Moreover, they are expected to recite more prayers on the holy day of Sabbath alongside other momentous holidays observed by the Jews (Sagi 156).
The ideal prayer method is that which involves a team of believers who are about ten in number. They are referred to as minyan and they must be adults. However, there are some instances when prayers can be undertaken by single individuals in a synagogue.
In order to ensure a suitable length for prayer service and recitations in the synagogue, the Jewish place of worship has a specially employed professional who is charged with the duty of leading the recitations and singing s. Basically, the lay-professional who is also known as a hazzan ensures that the congregation is well lead through the prayer and worship session (Sagi 132).
When the prayer session is on, the act of moving the body to and fro is common among most Jewish believers. This is called shokeling. However, it is not a compulsory requirement for Jewish believers to sway their bodies and in some instances, the practice has been refuted as unacceptable by a section of the Jewish clergy.
One of the most important rule or requirement when prayer sessions are being conducted is the high level of concentration. There is a general belief that unless believers deeply stay focused and concentrated during prayer services, the impact of such prayers will not be felt both in flesh and also in the spiritual world. The act of concentrating is known as kavvanah.
Male believers who attend prayers at the synagogue are highly recommended to put on a piece of cloth covering their heads. This head covering may be in form of a hat which is often given near the front entry of the synagogue (Sagi 75). Similarly, both the Conservative and Orthodox synagogues also have put down a rule which directs both Jews and non-Jews to have a covering on their heads.
A visitor in a Jewish synagogue is also expected to perform certain rituals during the prayer sessions and on the same note, there are some practices which are largely considered to be unfit in the synagogue. There are rules which generally apply in a Jewish synagogue. Firstly, when the prayer and worship service is going on, both the congregation and visitors in the synagogue are expected to remain standing when certain recitations are being performed. This is meant to show reverence to God. Secondly, the act of bowing is very common in a Jewish place of worship. There are instances during the worship and prayer sessions when bowing is necessary. However, visitors to the synagogue are not supposed to bow. This is specifically done by the members of the congregation.
Another common practice in a Jewish place of worship is the dressing of a special cloth called tallit. It is a form of shawl meant to be adorned and used during prayers and recitations. Again, only the congregation and Jewish visitors are allowed to put on the prayer shawl.
The dressing code is given more attention in a Jewish synagogue. Dressing by both men and women should be suitable in the synagogue. For instance, women may be required to put on clothing which tends to cover most parts of their bodies. Hence, the use of long skirts is common.
Prayers in the morning
The morning prayers are referred to as shacharit. These prayers are recited when special clothing called tzitzit has been put on. Also included in the Morning Prayer dresses are tallit and tefillin. The prayers begin by reciting a few lines on blessings. Thereafter, the Torah is given the reverence it deserves based on the writings obtained from the Bible. Shema Yisrael is the next procedure during this morning prayers although the whole prayer is not recited but just the preliminary part (Sagi 89).
There are several verses which are recited from Psalms during the morning prayers. Additionally, some biblical verses which touch on praises are also recited. When this has been done with, the entire congregation which in this case is referred to as the public is invited to the prayer session which will not just be mere recitations but a thorough mediation on the Shema Yisrael. Thereafter, the main prayer service is ushered in which consists of a long series of prayer round totaling to 19. Supplications follow after this and finally, the morning service is concluded with a closing prayer.
Prayers in the afternoon
Prayer which is offered in the afternoon is known as Mincha. The book of Psalms and Numbers (chapters 84 and 28:1-28 respectively) form the basis of the afternoon prayers. The book of Malachi 3:4 is used to summarize the opening prayers of the afternoon. The prayer is then concentrated in the book of Psalms and later supplications are offered.
Prayers in the evening
The official call of the public to join in the prayer session marks the start of the evening prayers. The Shema Yisrael then dominates the prayer session. The congregation is then allowed to recite Heshkiveinu which attempts to beseech God to grant the believers a favorable and peaceful night (Jacobs 19). The ritual is also characterized with the addition of a few lines of blessings.
Friday Night Prayers
The holy day reserved for worship usually known as the Sabbath begins on Friday evening. During this time, the Song of Songs is considered to be a very important recitation. However, there are some congregations which observe the Kabbalat Shabbat. The latter is meant to welcome the holy day of prayer namely the Sabbath.
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During the Friday night service, there are a lot of recitations from Psalms which is quite symbolic and representative of what has been recited the whole week. The poem which follows is basically supposed to embrace the coming Sabbath. It is graced with lots of recitations from the book of Psalms. The men present in the congregation also have to recite their own part of the Friday night service in order to welcome the Sabbath (Baskin & Seeskin 214).
There are some conspicuous differences between the mid week prayer services and the Friday night service. On e such difference is the way the Hashkivenu prayer is concluded. Moreover, the Barukh is not included in the Friday night service.
Saturday morning prayers
The Sabbath prayer in the morning is carried out in a similar way as the morning prayers which are performed during the weekdays. However, Psalm 100 is not included in the recitations. The Torah reading is obtained from the symbolic ark which is then followed by community prayers (Jacobs 133). Some of the community members who are included in these prayers include the Israeli government and the defense forces of Israel. An afternoon service follows later.
There are a myriad of symbols associated with the Jewish religion. For instance, there is the use of number six. This has a symbolic representation of lack of perfection. On the other hand, number seven is associated with God and it signifies His holy nature. It is all about being sanctified and spiritually clean. Minerals and other natural elements also have different symbolic meanings. One such mineral is gold which symbolizes the divine and glorious nature of God. Brass held a symbol of being firm, stable or long-lasting (Jacobs 142).
The use of indigo or purple color both in the Jewish and non Jewish communities signifies royalty and power or authority. Hence, most religious clothing are preferably purple or indigo in color. The prayer shawls are usually dyed with blue color to represent the heavenly presence which in this case is denoted by the color of the sky.
The main Jewish festivals were also attached to religious symbols. For example, the Passover festival was celebrated to symbolize the new beginning of nature and hence the genesis of the Jews (Baskin & Seeskin 78).
In summing up this paper, it is imperative to underscore the fact that worship and prayer services among the Jewish congregation is marked with a series of practices and traditions ranging from recitations, standing, singing, bowing and adorning oneself in special prayer clothing. Besides, there are a myriad of symbols which the Jewish believers attach great importance to because they are all correlated to the religious beliefs and practice which have been observed for tens of hundreds of years.
Baskin, R. Judith and Seeskin Kenneth. “The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Religion, and Culture”, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print. Jacobs Louis. “The Jewish religion: a companion”, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Print.
Sagi Avi. “Jewish Religion after Theology”, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2009. Print.