Structure of the Service

Structure of the Service

We welcome you to prayer services at NSS Beth El. In order to make our services warm and welcoming and meaningful for you, we are providing this brief overview of our prayer service for Shabbat, weekdays and holidays. Whether you are a member wishing to enhance your prayer service experience, a visitor here for a simcha (a celebration), or someone who simply wants to know more about Beth El, we hope this information will be of value.

Below is a generic template for weekday and special (Shabbat, festivals [Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot, Purim, Hanukkah, Rosh Chodesh (new moon]) prayer services.

  1. Evening Service (Ma’ariv)
    • Shema and it’s blessings and related passages
    • Amidah
    • Aleinu
    • Mourner’s Kaddish
  2. Morning Service (Shacharit)
    • Morning Blessings
    • P’sukei d’Zimra (Verses of Song)
    • Shema and its blessings and related passages
    • Amidah (Standing Prayer)
    • Hallel (joyous praise in song) if appropriate
    • Torah reading (Mondays, Thursdays, Shabbat and holidays)
    • Ashrei (Psalm 145), Aleinu and other closing prayers,
      Psalms and hymns
  3. Torah Service as appropriate
  4. Additional Service (Musaf) (Shabbat and holidays only)
    • Amidah
    • Aleinu and other closing prayers, Psalms and hymns
  5. Afternoon Service (Minchah)
    • Ashrei (Psalm 145)
    • Amidah
    • Aleinu
    • Mourner’s Kaddish

Turning to our popular Shabbat Morning Services, we use the Siddur Lev Shalem (roughly translated as a prayer book containing a set order of daily prayers and offered with a full heart).  We provide the complete Shabbat Morning experience.

Shabbat Morning Services at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El

NOTE: Service Starts at 9:00 AM and ends between 11:30 and noon.

Preliminary Prayers

Pseukei D’Zimra – p. 103 in Siddur Lev Shalem (Preliminary Service)

This portion of the service is the introduction to the main parts of the service. The central portion is the Ashrei (Psalm 145) and the two preceding verses.

Shacharit Service – p. 147 (Morning Service- Around 9:15 AM)

The Shema and its Blessings – p. 149

The Shema is a declaration of faith, a pledge of allegiance to One G-d, an affirmation of Judaism.  It is the first ‘prayer’ children are taught and the last said by the dying.

The Amidah (standing prayer) – p. 159

The Amidah is a moment of personal meditation.  It always contains three introductory b’rakhot (blessings) and three concluding b’rakhot.  On Shabbat a middle b’rakha focuses on the holiness of the day (Our siddur – Siddur Lev Shalem).

Torah Service – p. 168 (Around 9:45 AM)

The Torah Service is central to Shabbat Morning services and is a visually interesting part of the service.  The reading for the Torah portion is found in the Etz Hayim (Tree of Life) available in the pews.  Each week a portion of the Chumash (Five Books of Moses) is read with the entirety completed each year.

  • Congregants open the ark (Oren Kodesh), the Torah scroll(s) is(are) handed to the Cantor and the Shema is chanted. When more than one is used the second Torah is carried by the rabbi.  The scrolls are marched around the congregation accompanied by song.
  • The Torah scroll is placed on a reading table on the bema. Two or three knowledgeable members of the congregation (gabbaim – persons charged with ensuring smooth operation of the service) are asked to stand around the table and facilitate the reading. A brief summary of the weekly reading is given by the rabbi. The makri (gabbai who calls out the names of those honored) oversees the reading and quietly corrects any reading errors.  Seven (or more) congregants are honored by being called to the Torah (aliyah).  A number of skilled congregants and/or guests read from the Torah scroll.  The first person called is a Kohen and the second a Levi.  This practice follows a mandate that in all sacred matters, the Kohen be given priority (Gitin 59 a,b) Each person called is a witness to the reading from the scroll.  The maftir is the concluding witness.
  • The scroll is lifted by the hag’bah and at least three columns of the scroll are shown to the congregation reminding us of the time when not all had books and the scroll was shown so that all knew that the correct section was read.
  • The scroll is ‘dressed’ by the g’lilah with an ornamental cover and set aside.
  • The maftir (person called to the Torah to witness the concluding section of the Torah reading) is present for the final portion of the Torah reading and then chants the prophetic reading whose message is tied to the weekly reading from the Torah or to a special occasion.
  • Shortly thereafter, the scroll is again marched around the congregation before being returned to the ark. This concludes the Torah Service.
  • Immediately thereafter the sermon is given (Around 10:45 – 11:00 AM).
  • If there is a b’nai mitzvah, the charge to the celebrant comes immediately after the sermon (Around 11:00 – 11:25 AM).
  • A prayer for those who serve the community, a prayer for our country (in English), a prayer for those in the American armed forces (in English), a prayer for the State of Israel and a prayer for the Israel Defense Forces (in English) follow and conclude this part of the service.

Musaf p. 185 (Additional Service) – Around 11:00 – 11:30).

On Shabbat (and festivals) an extra sacrifice was offered the Temple.  Since its destruction, we offer a gift of prayer to mark the specialness of the day by adding an additional service called Musaf which is built around the Amidah.

Concluding prayers including Aleinu, Shir Ha Kavod (Song of Glory) and Mourner’s Kaddish complete the service.  Announcements are read, Kiddush is said and we wish each other “Shabbat Shalom” and go into the social hall for a Shabbat meal.

NOTE:  If you would like additional information, there are many sources available.  We found the following of particular value.

  1. R. Hayim Halevy Donin, “To Pray as a Jew”, 1980.
  2. R. Isaac Klein, “A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice”, `1979.
  3. Tracey Rich, “Judaism 101”,
  4. Our Shabbat and Festival Prayer Book – Siddur Lev Shalem (2016)

You can always feel comfortable at a North Suburban Synagogue Beth El service.  There are ushers and other congregants more than happy to help with any and all questions.  Or, consult Chapter Two (pp. 24-65) of Donin: “To Feel at Home in the Synagogue: Knowing What to Do”.