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  #1  
Old 06-22-2008, 02:20 PM
dalej42 dalej42 is offline
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What happens in a Jewish temple or synagogue?

What is a Jewish worship service like?
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  #2  
Old 06-22-2008, 02:29 PM
beowulff beowulff is offline
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The answer varies widely depending on the type of congregation - very Orthodox services are conducted mostly in Hebrew, Conservative about 50-50, and reform mostly in English.
The type of service also varies quite a bit depending on when you are attending - there are different services for time of day, Sabbath, and holidays.
When I was a kid (the last time I went on a regular basis), Friday night services were around 45 minutes long. The service was in mixed English and Hebrew, and the Rabbi gave a sermon in English. There is a prayerbook that one follows the service with, and it has the original Hebrew, English translation, and transliterated Hebrew.

What do you want to know specifically?
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Old 06-22-2008, 02:49 PM
elmwood elmwood is offline
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From the perspective of someone who converted from Lutheran-Missouri Synod to Reform Judaism, the big differences will be ...

1) Reform congregations use varying amounts of English. The sermons will always be in English. The most important prayers will always be in Hebrew or, in some cases, Aramaic. Otherwise, your mileage may vary.

2) Not as much congregational calisthenics (sit, stand, kneel, sit, kneel, sit, stand, kneel, etc) as among Christian congregations. You stand for a few prayers, and when the Ark is opened and Torah scrolls are revealed.

3) When people file into the sanctuary, there's a lot of conversation; there isn't the "sit and shut up" atmosphere of mainstream Christian congregations. It's okay to arrive late. Services at every Reform congregation I've attended start informally; Rabbi tells the congregation "shabbat shalom", congregation responds, the rabbi may say a few lines about the weather, direct attendees to introduce themselves to their neighbors, and so on. Services end with announcements made by the congregation president, followed by prayers. There is often an "oneg shabbat" afterward; congregants meet in the lobby for coffee, cookies, and other treats.

4) The choir and organist are often hidden. The cantor is always visible to the congregation.

5) Many large synagogues have two sanctuaries; a very large main sanctuary that is used for major holidays and bar mitzvahs, and a smaller sanctuary used for Friday and weekday services. On high holy days, at my synagogue, there can be four simultaneous services.

6) The order of service or liturgy won't be printed in the program. Rather, the prayerbook is followed. It can seem chaotic, but there is an order to the liturgy; I'll let some other poster explain it.

7) No varying hymns; you won't see 64, 92, and 234 one week and 21, 164 and 78 the next. For the most part, weekly services will be the same from week to week, although there may be minor variations.

8) No collections.

9) Services will be about an hour long; somewhat longer if there's a bar mitzvah. My advice: go to Friday services, which are shorter, more informal, and which almost never have bar mitzvahs.

10) No problem if you're not Jewish. Just stand when everybody else is standing, sit when everybody else sits, turn to the appropriate pages in the prayer book when the rabbi prompts, and you'll be fine.

Last edited by elmwood; 06-22-2008 at 02:52 PM..
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Old 06-22-2008, 02:54 PM
dalej42 dalej42 is offline
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Just curious. My church is offering a class with a Rabbi that will discuss Jewish-Christian relations. I realized I had no idea what a Jewish worship service was like. Are there hymns? What scripture is read? Is there a lectionary? Is there a homily or sermon? What language is used? Is there a focus, such as the eucharist in Christian churches? Are there seasons, such as Lent, Advent, Easter are seasons in Christian churches?
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Old 06-22-2008, 03:17 PM
elmwood elmwood is offline
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> Are there hymns?

Well, not really. There are liturgical songs that come up every so often (Lekhah Dodi is a common one), but it's not like a mainstream Christian congregation, where there will be different hymns every week.

> What scripture is read?

One Torah portion (first five books of the Bible) every week, with the entire Torah read over the course of a calendar year. (Simchat Torah is the day when the last portion from Deuteronomy and the first from Genesis is read. It's a rather festive holiday.)

> Is there a lectionary?

The equivalent would be a siddur, or prayerbook.

> Is there a homily or sermon?

Yes. In Reform congregations, it won't be as God-oriented as in mainstream Christian congregations; social justice, Israel, and current events are frequent topics.

> What language is used?

English for the sermon and "filler" parts, Hebrew or Aramaic for the most important prayers, English or Hebrew for others.

> Is there a focus, such as the eucharist in Christian churches?

The Shema. (You can learn more about the Jewish liturgy at http://www.jewfaq.org/liturgy.htm)

> Are there seasons, such as Lent, Advent, Easter are seasons in Christian churches?

Yes. Some of the hoildays (High Holy Days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Passover, Hanukkah, etc) are mini-seasons in themselves. There's the Counting of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot; not really as important among Reform Jews as Lent and Advent are among mainstream Christians.

Last edited by elmwood; 06-22-2008 at 03:20 PM..
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Old 06-22-2008, 03:32 PM
elmwood elmwood is offline
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> Is there a lectionary?

To clarify, there is a schedule where a specific Torah portion is read on a certain week. In siddurs, there are different orders of service for different days and times of day (the Friday service will be somewhat different than the Saturday service, and a Saturday morning service will be somewhat different than one on Saturday evening), and often they will contain various exceptions; "If it's both X and Shabbat, read this, but if it's only X, read just this", "If it's not X, skip over this part", etc.

I've never received a Lutheran-style order of service pamphlet at any synagogue, Reform, Conservative or Orthodox. You may be handed a pamphlet with the Hebrew calendar date, synagogue news, names of the rabbi and cantor conducting the service, names of those who will be remembered when Kaddish is read, and so on, but not a step-by-step, page-by-page guide to the service.
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Old 06-22-2008, 05:14 PM
GilaB GilaB is offline
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What services are you interested in, particularly? There are various different Orthodox services depending on the time of day (morning, afternoon, or evening) and day of the week (Sabbath vs. not, plus variations for holidays.) Orthodox men are supposed to pray with a minyan (a quorum of ten adult Jewish males) three times daily, morning, afternoon, and night, although the latter two are frequently grouped together and done in sequence at the very end of the afternoon and the very beginning of the night. This is very different from the church-once-a-week pattern that many people seem to have with regard to church.

Some general thoughts on Orthodox services, in no particular order:
  • All prayers and Torah readings are in Hebrew, except for a few in Aramaic, although some US synagogues (depending on their orientation) may read a prayer for the US government and/or the military in English during Sabbath and holiday morning services.
  • Ashkenazim (Jews descended from those in Eastern and Central Europe), Sefardim (Jews from the Mediterranean Basin), and Mizrachi (Jews from the Middle East) Jews have somewhat different customs and formats, but within each group, the services follow a set pattern for that particular kind of service, which will be contained in the siddur, or prayer book. I am Ashkenazi, and have spent my life going to Ashkenazi synagogues, but the services aren't incredibly different, and I can follow what's going on very easily in a Sefardi synagogue.
  • As an example of the set pattern thing, all Ashkenazi non-holiday Friday night services will follow the same format of prayers in the same order, with very minor variations depending on the customs of that particular community and a few depending on the time of year. (For example, there's an extra Psalm tacked on to the end of all services between the beginning of the month before Rosh Hashana through the end of Sukkot.)
  • The hymns don't vary, but the tunes might - L'Cha Dodi is sung during every non-holiday Friday night service, but I've heard it done with at least a dozen different tunes, and tune choice is up to whoever is leading that service.
  • There are no instruments in an Orthodox synagogue, and I've only once been to an Orthodox synagogue with a choir (composed exclusively of men), although there are a few. My father was part of a choir in his synagogue when he was a boy.
  • There is a cycle of Torah readings whereby the whole thing is read (in Hebrew, from a Torah scroll, in a particular chant) in order over the course of all of the non-holiday weeks of the year. Holidays have their own special portions and are not part of the cycle. Only first part of the weekly reading is read during morning services on Mondays and Thursdays and afternoon services on the Sabbath, but the whole thing is read (divided into seven portions, with a different man called up to recite blessings before and after each portion) on Sabbath mornings.
  • I would argue that the focus of any service is the Amida (or standing prayer), since not every service contains the Shma. During the morning and afternoon prayers, the Amida, also called the Shmona Esrei (or '18,' in reference to the fact that until another blessing was added after the destruction of the second Temple two thousand years ago, the weekday Amida used to have eighteen blessings), is recited both quietly by every member of the congregation, then out loud by the person leading services.
  • Unlike many Conservative and Reform synagogues, most Orthodox synagogues do not have a professional cantor other than during the High Holy Days. To a certain degree, every man is expected to be able to lead services, although there are definitely people who are more willing, or have better voices, and who thus tend to end up doing it a lot. Some very wealthy Orthodox synagogues hire cantors who have especially good voices, but it's relatively unusual. The High Holy Day services are much longer and more complicated, and many Orthodox synagogues will hire somebody particular (frequently a respected community member with a good voice) to do them in recognition of the fact that it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare them well.
  • There is usually, but not always, a sermon after the Torah reading on Sabbath and holiday mornings. It's in whatever the vernacular is locally, although many Hasidic communities worldwide have kept Yiddish as their vernacular and thus use it for sermons. The sermon is not the point of the service, and usually lasts for 10-15 minutes. My synagogue has a very long-winded rabbi who can sometimes go on for 20-25 minutes, which most of the community finds burdensome, to say the least.
  • The atmosphere tends not to be as silent and decorous as that in churches. People will come in as the service progresses, although men tend to be there earlier than women, who have no obligation to pray with a group. Although one technically shouldn't talk at all in synagogue, there are certain prayers during which people might get chatty with their seatmates, particularly during the longer Sabbath and holiday services. Children below seven or eight will probably be playing outside for most of the time, but coming in and out to see/talk to their parents.
  • There's separate seating, with either a barrier between the men's a women's sections, or a balcony for women.

If you're curious, I can go through an overview of a particular kind of Orthodox service, but I think this post is long enough (what I wouldn't give for the old Happy Orthodox Man smiley here).

elmwood, my impression is that a lectionary contains a cycle of Biblical readings used in services, rather than prayers. I think the equivalent of a lectionary would be a chumash, which contains the Pentateuch, divided into the weekly portions, plus the Haftoras (portions of the Prophets that are read after the Torah readings on Sabbath morning), and frequently the Megillot (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, which are read on various holidays), collected into one volume.
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Old 06-22-2008, 05:19 PM
GilaB GilaB is offline
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Also, I forgot to mention - an Orthodox house of worship is never referred to as a temple, although that's usually the name used by Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist congregations. Orthodox people hold that there is only one Temple, the one destroyed twice in Jerusalem (most recently in 70 C.E.), and our current houses of worship do not replace it. Most Orthodox people I know tend to refer to their house of worship as a 'shul' (literally, Yiddish for 'school,' but it's evolved to mean 'synagogue') among other Orthodox people, and as a 'synagogue' when speaking to everybody else.
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Old 06-22-2008, 06:45 PM
elmwood elmwood is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GilaB
Most Orthodox people I know tend to refer to their house of worship as a 'shul' (literally, Yiddish for 'school,' but it's evolved to mean 'synagogue') among other Orthodox people, and as a 'synagogue' when speaking to everybody else.
Slightly off-topic: in Reform usage, a "shul" usually refers to a very small synagogue, usually Orthodox.

Many synagogues have two names; an English name and a Hebrew name. Synagogues with fairly simple Hebrew names (usually the "Beth Something" variety) often don't have English names. In Cleveland, for example, there's ...

Fairmount Temple: Anshe Chesed
Park Synagogue: Anshe Emeth Beth Tefilo
Suburban Temple: Kol Ami
Taylor Road Synagogue: Oheb Zedek
Green Road Synagogue: Anshe Marmaresher

... and many, many more.
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Old 06-22-2008, 07:21 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GilaB
During the morning and afternoon prayers, the Amida, also called the Shmona Esrei (or '18,' in reference to the fact that until another blessing was added after the destruction of the second Temple two thousand years ago, the weekday Amida used to have eighteen blessings), is recited both quietly by every member of the congregation, then out loud by the person leading services.
If I may hijack slightly:

A Jewish friend recently came back from Israel and gave Mrs Piper and me a gift - its a stylized hand (three fingers pointing down, the thumb and little finger slightly curved and identical in size). It's decorated in ornate enamel, and in the centre of the palm there's a cartouche with the Hebrew letters for "18".

My friend started to explain the significance of the 18, but we both got distracted, and we never got back on topic.

Would that be a reference to Shmona Esrei? Is there a name for this type of stylised hand? If it is a reference to the Shmona Esrei, is there a site where I can find out what the 18 blessings are?

Thanks!

[/hijack]
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Old 06-22-2008, 09:02 PM
beowulff beowulff is offline
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In Hebrew, letters are numbers also. The word "life" adds up to 18, so you will often see Jews contribute to charity in multiples of 18.

Last edited by beowulff; 06-22-2008 at 09:02 PM..
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Old 06-22-2008, 09:16 PM
Green Bean Green Bean is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elmwood
Slightly off-topic: in Reform usage, a "shul" usually refers to a very small synagogue, usually Orthodox.
Not necessarily.

I'm a secular New York reform Jew, and "shul" is used to refer to any type of synagogue.

Of course, Yiddish vernacular usage in American English varies a lot between regions and groups. I don't doubt that "shul" is used the way you say in your experience, but I definitely would beware of making generalizations about the connotations of Yiddish words and expressions.


p.s. Isn't anybody gonna tell the OP about the squid?
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Old 06-22-2008, 09:40 PM
Green Bean Green Bean is online now
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And in the interest of adding something useful to the discussion:

One thing I find interesting about Jewish services is the way the torah itself is treated as a holy object. It's "dressed" in a special covering and decorated with ornaments...scroll down to torah ornaments for a description. You have to stand up when the ark (torah cabinet) is open. You aren't allowed to touch the paper (for good reason--skin oils can damage it over time), so there's a special pointer that you use to read from it.

Sometimes, it is carried around the congregation so people can touch it!

In my experience, the actual torah is not brought out for all services, such as informal Friday night services. (of course, each congregation/group's MMV) As far as I know (and maybe someone can correct me if I'm wrong) an actual torah is not required for any of the Jewish services. A torah is big, bulky, fragile, and very expensive. Of course you'd want to have one, but not having one is not an impediment to practicing Judaism. Which is certainly very practical, considering that Judaism has survived all sorts of deplorable historical conditions!
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Old 06-22-2008, 10:08 PM
633squadron 633squadron is offline
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Originally Posted by dalej42
Just curious. My church is offering a class with a Rabbi that will discuss Jewish-Christian relations. I realized I had no idea what a Jewish worship service was like. Are there hymns? What scripture is read? Is there a lectionary? Is there a homily or sermon? What language is used? Is there a focus, such as the eucharist in Christian churches? Are there seasons, such as Lent, Advent, Easter are seasons in Christian churches?
I will leave aside Reform Judaism. It split off from the rest of Judaism in the early 19th century, in an effort to make German Jews more assimilated into liberal German culture. They do many things differently. I was raised Reform, but I now consider myself a Conservative/Reconstructionist.

Judaism has no rules for formal services on *any* day, though by custom and rabbinical teaching we do certain things on certain days.

Every day, three times a day, an observant Jew says a set of standard prayers. By rabbinical teaching, more prayers are added if this Jew is in a minyan of 9 other men. I am not *sure*, but I think this is meant to encourage Jews to stick together and pray together. It supposedly comes from the story of Lot and the cities. It is considered better to pray in a minyan than outside one.

The focus of any prayer or service is giving thanks to G-d, acknowledging G-d's power, and asking G-d to come close to us.

A secondary focus is Torah.

Three times a week, a minyan reads from the Torah. This continues a tradition that supposedly goes back to the days of the Babylonian exile, roughly 550 BCE! The Torah is split into parashot (pieces). In the Hebrew calendar, each week has its own parshah. Whoever is capable of reading Torah in the minyan reads. Others may simply say prayers before or after reading. There are other rules and traditions.

Also, a haftarah is read; this is a portion from the other parts of the Hebrew canon. We do not call it the "Bible"; it's comonly called Tanakh, an anagram of the Hebrew letters that stand for Torah (law), nev'vim (prophets) and kituvim (writings).

Special parshahs are read on a "holiday" or special Shabbat. They usually relate to the nature of the holiday. For example, on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, the parshah in which G-d gives instructions for Yom Kippur is read.

A "service" in a "temple" is simply an extension and fancying-up of the daily prayers plus the order of prayers and whatnot surrounding the reading of Torah. That's it. If the service is not on a Saturday, some things happen and some don't. Same for a weekday.

At the heart of this is that a good observant Jew should learn how to say the prayers, learn what they mean, and learn how to observe the commandments in everyday life. A group of 10 trained, observant men should be able to conduct a service themselves, whether or not they are rabbis! Judaism is supposed to be (mostly) a do-it-yourself religion. It's not some special guy leading the rabble (we hope); it's a teacher leading those with less or more of their own knowledge.

A congregation is what some liberalized groups call the evolution of a minyan from 10 men to the entire community of men, women, and children. A Temple is the Reform Jewish term for the building/group, but I don't like it. I don't agree with the Orthodox that we need to bring back the original Temple, and I don't *like* the word. Conservative Jews call the group a Congregation. Orthodox Jews call it a minyan, and unfortunately that does imply that women have a lesser role.

I'd love to come up with a Hebrew word for Congregation.

Music-
Most prayers are sung to traditional melodies, although modern Jews of traditional bent have invented new melodies as well. Reform Jews use a choir and organ, which I do not like. Traditionally, instruments are *not* used. This is explained as a sign of mourning for the vanished Temple. I like the idea, because adding instruments makes it a performance instead of a participation.

We have seasons around the holidays, too, but if I explained all that I'd run out of time.

Ask questions, even ones you think are "dumb" or "personal". Understanding is key. Despite what some traditional prayers say, we are all children of the Almighty. I am sure that in the eyes of G-d we are all Jews and all Christians. Anything else would not befit G-d.
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Old 06-22-2008, 10:51 PM
633squadron 633squadron is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Green Bean
And in the interest of adding something useful to the discussion:

One thing I find interesting about Jewish services is the way the torah itself is treated as a holy object. It's "dressed" in a special covering and decorated with ornaments...scroll down to torah ornaments for a description. You have to stand up when the ark (torah cabinet) is open. You aren't allowed to touch the paper (for good reason--skin oils can damage it over time), so there's a special pointer that you use to read from it.

Sometimes, it is carried around the congregation so people can touch it!

In my experience, the actual torah is not brought out for all services, such as informal Friday night services. (of course, each congregation/group's MMV) As far as I know (and maybe someone can correct me if I'm wrong) an actual torah is not required for any of the Jewish services. A torah is big, bulky, fragile, and very expensive. Of course you'd want to have one, but not having one is not an impediment to practicing Judaism. Which is certainly very practical, considering that Judaism has survived all sorts of deplorable historical conditions!

I hesitate to call it holy. It's wrong to worship Torah. All of the things you mention are done out of respect and thanksgiving, just as you would do for a person you respected who had done much for you and your community. People express their veneration for Torah by kissing it (not touching it).

The Torah scroll is brought out when the service calls for reading from Torah. Friday night service is a modern American thing, and reading Torah on Friday night is *very* American. Reading from Torah *is* a commandment for some services, but something is better than nothing, so there's nothing wrong in having the service even if you don't have Torah.

By halacha (traditional rules and regulations) a Torah must be constructed a certain way, written a certain way, handled a certain way, etc. They are big. They are incredibly expensive; so much so that many congregations buy an existing one. There were at one time many more Torahs than congregations. The Nazis killed all the Jews but saved many of their Torahs, for reasons that are beyond comprehension. Other congregations fell apart after those days. Many big congregations in the US have more than one.

A Torah is also *heavy*. One part of Torah reading is pulling apart the two sides of the scroll and lifting the entire thing (without tearing it) overhead to show the entire congregation. I've done it once or twice. Not easy, especially when you're dreading that it's gonna rip in half.

Reading from Torah is a wonderful experience. You learn new words, new chanting, and new ideas. By reading and studying the Hebrew, you get a sense of what Torah is really about. It's direct, uncomplicated, poetic, ironic, and wonderful, and it has survived in *written form* for 2500 years (or, depending on who you ask, at least some parts of it have).
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Old 06-23-2008, 12:37 AM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 633squadron
I hesitate to call it holy. It's wrong to worship Torah. All of the things you mention are done out of respect and thanksgiving, just as you would do for a person you respected who had done much for you and your community. People express their veneration for Torah by kissing it (not touching it).

The Torah scroll is brought out when the service calls for reading from Torah. Friday night service is a modern American thing, and reading Torah on Friday night is *very* American. Reading from Torah *is* a commandment for some services, but something is better than nothing, so there's nothing wrong in having the service even if you don't have Torah.
I went to a Conservative shul, on the Reform side. (Men and women sat together.) We'd never kiss the torah - you kiss the end of your tallis and touch that to the Torah. In our shul only people really qualified read it, to avoid stumbling and mistakes, I guess. For a bar mitzvah the bar mitzvah boy would sing the blessing before and after, and then sing the haftorah piece. (Mine was Malachi.) All this in Hebrew.

As for shuls, I'm from New York also and it was used for all temples. In fact, in "Christ and Moses," Lenny Bruce specifically mentions "Reform shuls."
How's that for a cite?

Oh, and we never had an organist or a choir. We had a good cantor, and the one before him, who had retired and only came back for High Holy Day services, was the singer Steve Lawrence's dad. (Real name Leibowitz.)
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Old 06-23-2008, 12:51 AM
elmwood elmwood is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elmwood
Slightly off-topic: in Reform usage, a "shul" usually refers to a very small synagogue, usually Orthodox.
As was pointed out by a couple, it's not the usage in the NYC area, and probably many other parts pf the country. In Cleveland, though, whenever I've heard the term "shul", it's usually in the context of a small Orthodox congregation.
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Old 06-23-2008, 08:38 AM
Green Bean Green Bean is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 633squadron
I hesitate to call it holy. It's wrong to worship Torah. All of the things you mention are done out of respect and thanksgiving....
You're absolutely right. "Holy" was the wrong word to use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 633squadron
People express their veneration for Torah by kissing it (not touching it).
I guess customs here vary too. Voyager notes that in his experience, people would kiss the ends of their tallises and touch those to the Torah. People in the synagogue I grew up in (Reform, and informal at that) generally didn't wear tallises. They would frequently kiss their fingers and then touch the Torah, or just touch it.

Last edited by Green Bean; 06-23-2008 at 08:40 AM..
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:28 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Reform services will be similar (very similar, in my experience) to Christian services: prayers read or sung by the congregation together, some English, some Hebrew. A portion of the Torah (first five books of bible) might be read (depending on the service) and there might be some reading from another section of the Hebrew bible, and a sermon. There will usually be a short time for silent individual prayer.

Conservative and Orthodox services will be nothing like a Christian service. The concept is that prayer is an individual responsibility, but that we get together in a group to re-inforce our prayer (and there are some prayers that cannot be said alone.) The services will be almost entirely in Hebrew. While there will be some group singing, mostly individuals will read the prayers to themselves; the prayer-leader will sing the last line or so of each prayer to try to vaguely keep people together.

There is a fixed order to each service (three services a day, seven days a week, with occasional "extras" attached usually to morning services sabbath and holidays.) The torah is read on Sabbath, and on Monday and Thursday mornings, and on holidays. (Reform and a few Conservative congregations add torah readings on Friday night.)

The prayers themselves include readings from psalms, and songs/poems/prayers written over the centuries. We stand for some prayers because of their importance, we stand when the ark is open, and there are a very few moments when we bow from the waist. There is no kneeling by the congregation.

As noted by others, the Torah is not a "holy" object to be worshipped, but to be respected. Thus, we stand when Torah is paraded around. I was taught that we do not "kiss" the Torah, but we touch it with our prayershawl fringe (tallit) or a book, and bring the words to our mouth: it's like a kiss, but symbolically deeper. At the end of reading, for instance, the Torah scroll is held up open, and the congregation asserts, "This is the Torah that Moses put before the Children of Israel, from the mouth of God and the hand of Moses."
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Old 06-23-2008, 10:19 AM
plnnr plnnr is offline
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Please enlighten an ignorant Episcopalian:

What are the "little square hats" called and what do they stand for?

What is the practice of bowing or rocking called and what does it signify?

Thanks for helping fight my ignorance.
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Old 06-23-2008, 11:03 AM
elmwood elmwood is offline
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> What are the "little square hats" called and what do they stand for?

Tefillin. Usually not seen in Reform services.

Quote:
Tefillin, (Hebrew: תפילין), also called phylacteries, are a pair of black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with biblical verses. The hand-tefillin, or shel yad, is worn by Jews wrapped around the arm, hand and fingers, while the head-tefillin, or shel rosh, is placed above the forehead. They serve as a "sign" and "remembrance" that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. According to Jewish Law, they should be worn during weekday morning prayer services.

The sources provided for tefillin in the Torah are from vague verses. The following verse from the shema states: "And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes"
> What is the practice of bowing or rocking called and what does it signify?

Davening. ("Daven" is Yiddish for "pray".) It's intended to help one concentrate on their prayers. From what I've seen, the more Orthodox the congregation, the more wild the rocking.
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  #22  
Old 06-23-2008, 11:48 AM
GilaB GilaB is offline
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Davening just means praying, and you can daven while staying stock still. The term for the swaying is shukling, although it's not actually used much in an Orthodox context, where people tend to do it the most. Actual bowing happens a few times during the services (there was a thread on this some months back), mostly during the Amida, not constantly, and is something different.
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  #23  
Old 06-23-2008, 11:59 AM
Scuba_Ben Scuba_Ben is offline
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Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven
There is no kneeling by the congregation.
In the interests of completeness, I will note the one time kneeling and prostration happen: On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the additional service for the holiday includes the Grand Aleinu (the original location of the text now used as the closing prayer of each service). This prayer includes the line: "We bow and prostrate {I'm having trouble translating the third verb modi'im} before the King of Kings." At this line, the hazzan or other leader of prayer (and in many Orthodox places, much of the congregation) do exactly that: Go down on their knees and lay out on the floor. (The same ritual is also done in some places during the high confessionals in Yom Kippur's retelling of the Temple service, as a memorial to the people doing precisely that back in the Temple's day.)
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  #24  
Old 06-23-2008, 12:04 PM
plnnr plnnr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GilaB
Davening just means praying, and you can daven while staying stock still. The term for the swaying is shukling, although it's not actually used much in an Orthodox context, where people tend to do it the most. Actual bowing happens a few times during the services (there was a thread on this some months back), mostly during the Amida, not constantly, and is something different.
I was refering to the rocking back and forth and not actual bowing, but I didn't describe it well in my post.
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