Enhancing Shabbat Services

In many ways the Shabbat morning service is the most important element in the life of any synagogue. It is the most well attended service of the week; it potentially attracts a cross-section of the community; it defines the character and identity of the congregation; and it serves the spiritual needs of the shul. For all these reasons it is important to constantly evaluate the service to ensure that it is meeting all those needs, and others, in the best way possible.

To that end a Shabbat Service Committee was formed and it met the week before Passover. After much spirited and fruitful discussion we agreed that our service should always adhere to 3 goals: Spirituality, Informality, and Efficiency.

Spirituality is mainly defined by the ru’ach - the singing and high level of congregational participation in the service. It’s also defined by the prayers and the Torah reading and ensuring that we can focus on them and their meaning for our lives.

Informality is characterized by my greeting you at the door and wishing you Shabbat shalom. It’s the congregation sitting in the round and the service happening in the middle within easy access to all. It’s the dressy casual attire and the knowledge that a question can be asked at any time.

Efficiency means that the service will end at the appropriate time. It means that parts of the service will flow easily from one to the next. It means that distractions and redundancies in the service will be eliminated.

As a result of this understanding of our service the following EXPERIMENT will occur during April. On April 10, 17, and 25 the shabbat morning will be structured as follows:

9-9:30 - Optional weekly Torah portion discussion
9:30-9:50 - Shacharit - the morning service including the Shema and the amidah
9:50-11 - Torah service, Torah reading, and haftorah
11-11:30 - Musaf and concluding songs
11:30-11:50 - announcements and sermon, discussion, program, or speaker
11:50 - 12:30 - kiddush

Note: The service time is experimentally being changed to 9:30. For those who wish I will be leading a Torah study session prior to the start of the service. The preliminary service has for centuries been understood as a warm-up for the service. Please recite some of those psalms before coming to the service. Especially focus on pp. 83 and 96-97 in our Sim Shalom prayerbook.

I hope you find these changes helpful and that they enhance your Shabbat morning experience. I will talk about this in more detail during the Passover service on Tuesday morning April 6.