When you are gearing up for Shabbat, Fridays can be a little…rushed. Everything has to be done in order to light those candles on time. For many, going to synagogue on Friday night really marks the beginning of Shabbat. You leave one plane and enter another. Seeing your friends and neighbors and wishing them a “Good Shabbos…Shabbat Shalom” connects you back to community and to being a Jew.
Even those who do not formally pray during the week often attend services on Shabbat. The Friday night service contains three sections:
Mincha (the afternoon service)
Kabbalat Shabbat (literally, “receiving the Shabbat”)
Maariv (the evening service)
1. Mincha consists primarily of the Shmonah Esrei (the Silent Standing Prayer), which literally means “18,” for it originally comprised 18 blessings. It takes about 15 minutes to complete, in total.
2. Kabbalat Shabbat is a special set of Psalms designed to create the proper atmosphere and attitude to welcome Shabbat. In northern Israel centuries ago, Jewish mystics used to go into the fields as the sun set, singing the song “Lecha Dodi” to usher in the Shabbat. This section of the service also takes about 15 minutes.
3. Maariv is special for Shabbat and includes the Shema and the Silent Standing Prayer. The Shema is the ultimate in Jewish prayer, beginning with our credo:
Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad / Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One
The Shema is said in our prayers every morning and evening, and even young children are taught to recite it before bedtime.
In the event that one cannot make it to synagogue, most parts of the service can be said at home. The ArtScroll Prayer Book has laid out in great detail the procedure and explanation of prayer and can easily be followed, with or without a congregation. If you would like to acquire a prayer book, the Aish rabbis are ready to help. Please contact us.
Remember: Prayer can be in any language, so choose one in which you feel most comfortable. However, try and brush up on the basics of Hebrew, as the songs and communal prayers can be even more inspiring when said as “one” with others.