AustinRabinovitzRitualsHebrewis a language that defines what is in the Torah which was written 2000 yearsago by Moses.
The religion of Judaism was the very first religion in the World.The traditions of Jewish prayer and customs that were celebrated when thereligion was created are still followed in modern times. Hebrew is a verysacred language that is looked upon as the basis of religion and respected bymost. Having Jewish rituals in a synagogue is the most sacred because that iswhere the Tanakh is, the Hebrew scriptures including the Torah.
Theritual I observed took place in a synagogue called Beth Israel. It is locatedoff Crondall Lane near the 7-11. The day was Monday, December 4th.The time was 5:40PM-6:40PM. I selected this ritual of a Minyan service becauseI wanted to know what the order of this service represents and why they mustfollow a certain order.
I hoped to learn the details of each blessing in theservice along with why everything happens from what I see. Theneighborhood around the synagogue is a quiet one and very safe. There is aschool right across the street from it (Stevenson University) which makesthings safer.
There are office buildings which is also quiet. There are woodsbehind the synagogue and a radio tower about a few hundred feet from it. On theproperty is a beautiful building which serves as a synagogue as well as aHebrew school with a daycare.
There are stained-glass windows right when youpull up and the name Beth Israel in Hebrew printed on it. The structure of thebuilding is well kept and looks clean and tidy. The organization is well asthere are signs guiding you wherever you need to enter the building. When youenter, you see plaques on the wall to the right with all the people who havedonated to the congregation and people who mean a lot to the congregation. Rightafter that wall is a room which is oval shaped that has plaques memorializingall those who have died who belonged to the synagogue or are family members ofpeople who belong to the synagogue.
When people go in there, tears can flow outfor all the emotions that run through your mind. The chapel is after that whenyou walk through a gathering area. In the chapel is rows of seats that are allconnected but separated by arm rests. Most of the seats are comfortable withcushions. On the back of each seat are two books.
One is the Siddur. This hasmost of the prayers which we say in shul. There is Hebrew on the right side andEnglish on the other.
The pages start from the back of a normal book and finishon the cover. The Hebrew text is also written from right to left. Themorphology of the text comes from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet. This alphabetwas written from right to left. The other book is called the Tanakh. This bookhas the whole Torah written in it and some of it is said in shul while otherparts of it is said during silent prayer.
There are also stained-glass windowsin the shul. They surround the bema and they also have Hebrew languageinscribed on them. The windows are a combination of colors making a brightshine in the shul. Most synagogues have a Bema, which is a platform in themiddle of the sanctuary from which the Torah and Prophets are read.
The Bemahas a podium. The podium in a synagogue outside of Israel is supposed to faceIsrael to pray toward Israel. Synagogues in Israel have the podium facingtoward Jerusalem, which is the capital of Israel.
The most important feature ofthe sanctuary is the Ark. The Ark is a cabinet in the wall that holds the Torahscrolls. The Ark is called the Aron Kodesh (the holy cabinet). During prayer, there is a Rabbi facing the congregation.Usually, the Rabbi is a Man, but in certain circumstances the Rabbi can be aWoman. Over 50 years ago, it was extremely rare that you could find a womanrabbi.
They would not exist or barely exist. Nowadays, women rabbis areaccepted at times. The rabbi faces the congregation. He leads the prayers andis in charge of the service. He usually has a deep, echoing voice that you canhear from far away. The Rabbi is the most valuable person in the Shul. Heprovides leadership, guidance, and education.
The congregation, the people inthe audience follow along as the Rabbi guides us through the prayers. Somepeople know the prayers very well while others either don’t say the prayers ortry to say as much as they know. The Rabbi reads from the scripts and the Torahthat are placed on the podium while the audience reads from copies of thescripts called Siddurs.
The Rabbi uses a tool called a Yad to read from theTorah. This is needed because the Torah is written on parchment and if humanskin touches the ink, it can smear. The Scripts that the Rabbi reads from areall in Hebrew. The Siddur contains the Hebrew text as well as the Englishtranslation. I was lucky to lead a short interview with the Rabbi.
I asked himwhat the meaning of a Minyan was to him. He told me that the meaning of thisritual reminds us of our religion. We have a daily tradition which we havefollowed every day for thousands of years of which we are supposed to praythree times a day. The frequency of these prayer sessions remind us of ourpride for Judaism that we value very much. My role as an outsider was a personsitting in the back with a notebook who might be Jewish or might not because Iwas not singing along with the prayers. I was wearing a yarmulke though. Peopleoccasionally looked at me to see what I was doing. They saw that I was takingnotes and didn’t suspect anything else.
The only effect I had on the otherpeople in the room was that they diverted some of their attention beinginterested in what I was doing. The service we were in was called a Minyan. A Minyanin contemporary Judaism refers to a prayer service. There is a specific orderof which everything is performed in a Minyan service. Before we even show up tothe service, we are supposed to put on our clothes. There is a dress code in asynagogue.
The men are supposed to wear black pants with a belt. As well asblack socks and dress shoes. Men are also supposed to wear a dress shirt with ajacket. Every man in the shul is supposed to wear a yarmulke or a black hat.The men who are over 13 or have had a Bar Mitzvah, are supposed to wear aTallit. This has a prayer on it telling everybody that you are a man. The womenin the shul are supposed to wear a dress at least covering their knees. Anyclothing above the knees is forbidden.
The women have the choice to wear a headcovering as this is said in Jewish law. The price of clothing for both men andwomen in shul should be non-expensive. It can be expensive if you so choose butit is very acceptable to wear non-expensive clothing. The goal is to be modestfor what you are wearing. When entering the shul, you are supposed to come inreasonable quiet and file in to your seats.
The seating is not assigned excepton the high holidays which include Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. There is nostanding for the Rabbi coming in. The service just begins when the Rabbi startstalking at the podium on the bema.
The service starts with Barechu which is acall to prayer. The cantor, a Jewish musician orprecentor trained in the vocal arts who helps lead the congregation in songfulprayer, calls out “Bless the Lord, The Blessed One”, then the congregationresponds with “Blessed is the Lord, the Blessed One forever and ever”. Afterthat, the Cantor repeats the congregations’ response. Then there is ablessing prior to the Shema. This blessing is called Revelation.
It goes as “Deepis Your love for us, Lord our G-d, boundless Your tender compassion. You taughtour ancestors life-giving laws. They trusted in You, our Father and King. Fortheir sake graciously teach us, Father, merciful Father, show us mercy; grantus discernment and understanding. Then will we study Your Torah, heed itswords, teach its precepts and follow its instruction, lovingly fulfilling allits teachings.
Open our eyes to Your Torah, help our hearts cleave to Yourmitzvot. Unite all our thoughts to love and revere You. Then shall we never bebrought to shame. Trusting in Your awesome holiness, we will delight in Yourdeliverance. Bring us safely from the ends of the earth, and lead us in dignityto our holy land. You are the Source of deliverance. You have called us fromall peoples and tongues, constantly drawing us nearer to You, that we maylovingly offer You praise, proclaiming Your Oneness. Praised are You, Lord wholoves His people Israel.
” Then they have the Shema. The Shema goes as “Hear OIsrael, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One”. Then there is a separationbetween sections called the Chatzi Kaddish (Half Kaddish).
This is as follows,”Exalted and hallowed be G-d’s great name, in the world which G-d created,according to plan. May G-d’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime andthe life of all Israel – speedily, imminently.To which we say: Amen.Blessed be G-d’s greatname to all eternity.
Blessed, praised,honored, exalted,extolled, glorified, adored, and laudedbe the name of the Holy Blessed One,beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing, praise, and comfort.To which we say: Amen.Then they have theAmidah. The Amidah is recited while standing and with the feet together.
Theliteral meaning of Amidah is “standing”. The Amidah contains 19 blessings. Theblessing are as follows. Avot (“Ancestors”), Gevurot (“powers”),Kedushat ha-Shem (“the sanctification of the Name”),Binah (“understanding”), Teshuvah (“return”,”repentance”), Selichah, Geulah (“redemption”),Refuah (“healing”), Birkat HaShanim (“blessing foryears of good”), Galuyot (“diasporas”), BirkatHaDin (“Justice”), Birkat HaMinim (“thesectarians, heretics”), Tzadikim (“righteous”), Bo’neYerushalayim (“Builder of Jerusalem”), BirkatDavid (“Blessing of David”), Tefillah (“prayer”),Avodah (“service”), Hoda’ah (“thanksgiving”), Sim Shalom (“GrantPeace”); After that is the full Kaddish. It is the Chatzi Kaddish but withthe addition of “May the prayers and supplications of all Israel be accepted bytheir Father who is in Heaven; And say, Amen. Then there are memorial prayers. After that isthe Aleinu (It is our duty to praise G-d). The Aleinu is “It is our duty topraise the Master of all, to ascribe greatness to the Author of creation, whohas not made us like the nations of the land nor placed us like the families ofthe earth; who has not made our portion like theirs, nor our destiny like alltheir multitudes.
But we bow in worship and thank the Supreme King of kings,the Holy One, Blessed be He, who extends the heavens and establishes the earth,whose throne of glory is in the heavens above, and whose power’s Presence is inthe highest of heights. He is our G-d; there is no other. Truly He is our King,there is none else, as it is written in His Torah: “You shall know andtake to heart this day that the Lord is G-d, in the heavens above and on earthbelow. There is no other.” And the service ends with the Mourner’sKaddish.
The Mourner’s Kaddish is recited following the death of a parent,child, spouse, or sibling. It is customary to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish inthe presence of a congregation. This is added to the Full Kaddish. The additionis “In the world which will be renewed and where He will give life to the deadand raise them to eternal life and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and completeHis temple there and uproot foreign worship from the earth and restore Heavenlyworship to its position and may the Holy One, blessed is He, reign in Hissovereign splendour”. The order of this service was created by TalmudicRabbis in the year 200. The Talmud is the basis for everything that has to dowith Jewish Law. It is widely quoted in rabbinic literature. I have learned everything that I wanted to know aboutthis ritual and about the experience I wanted to have observing this ritual.
Ilearned the specific order of the prayers during a Minyan service and why theyhave to be in this order. I learned what these prayers mean and what functionthey have in the Jewish religion. My ideas changed a little bit from my initialassumptions. The set-up of the chapel was a little bit different from what Iexpected. I originally expected the bema and the podium to be in the back ofthe chapel closer to the Torah, but the podium was right in the center of thechapel. My research was very effective as I have gained every aspect of themeaning of a Minyan ritual and the sights and sounds of the building and thesynagogue.