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Can you give me a quick primer for the Shabbat morning services?

by Rabbi Herschel Finman


Library » Mitzvot » Prayer » Synagogue | Subscribe | What is RSS?


As with the weekday service, the Shabbat Shacharit morning service is divided into four sections: preliminary readings, pesukei d'zimra – Songs of Praise, Shema and its blessings, and the Amidah. Each section of the Shabbat prayers is longer than its weekday counterpart. (The amidah is the exception to this rule, as we will soon explain.)

Practically speaking, on Shabbat we have more time to devote to our prayers. But more importantly, G-d intended the Shabbat to be a day of spiritual recharging; a day when we refresh our relationship with the Creator. This is primarily accomplished through spending added time in communion with G-d.

Preliminary Prayers

The preliminary prayers include twelve additional chapters of Psalms which are not included in the weekday prayer (19, 33, 34, 90, 91, 98, 121-124, 135, 136). These chapters laud G-d’s greatness and are “mood-setters” designed to put us in the proper frame of mind for the Songs of Praise, Shema, and the amidah.

Additionally, an in depth understanding of these particular Psalms reveals a distinct connection between each of them and the ideas represented by Shabbat.

In many synagogues, the Shabbat Preliminary Prayers conclude with the Ha’aderet Veha’emunah hymn.1   This hymn, “borrowed” from the angels’ songs of praise, affirms that all praiseworthy attributes are only true and perfect when applied to G-d.

G-d intended the Shabbat to be a day of spiritual recharging; a day when we refresh our relationship with the Creator
Songs of Praise

The Songs of Praise commence with the Baruch She’amar blessing and conclude with the Yishtabach. The bulk of the Songs of Praise – Psalms 145-150 and the relating of the story of the Exodus and the splitting of the Red Sea, complete with the repetition of the Az Yashir which was sung by the Jews upon emerging from the sea – is the same as the weekday Songs of Praise.

The Shabbat addition to the Songs of Praise is the Nishmat which directly precedes the Yishtabach blessing. This prayer, of ancient origin,2   expands on the aforementioned theme—the miracles which accompanied the Exodus.3  

The Barchu which follows the Yishtabach is the bridge which connects the Songs of Praise with the next section—the Shema and its blessings.

The Shema

The Shema and its blessings are more or less the same as in the weekday service. On Shabbat the El Adon hymn is added, and in most congregations is sung by the congregants in unison. This hymn, as well as the Hakol Yudocha prayer which precedes it, further develop the primary theme of the Shema blessings—G-d’s greatness and His absolute dominion over all the supernal creations.

El Adon is followed by L'El Asher which describes the greatness of Shabbat. The rest of the Shema blessings and the Shema itself are the same as weekday.

The Amidah

The Amidah is shorter on Shabbat than weekdays. During the week the Amidah is comprised of 19 blessing; three of praise, thirteen requests and three of thanks. It is improper to make personal requests on Shabbat as, “the gates of request are closed.”

Shabbat is a day of rest. Even thinking of mundane affairs is prohibited. The thirteen middle blessings are replaced with one longer blessing which extols the greatness of Shabbat.

The repetition of the Amidah4   includes the Kedusha which, in addition to its standard weekday text, also includes a request that the Moshiach come and bring the Jewish people back to Jerusalem. (Do not worry about the inappropriateness of making requests on Shabbat. That only applies to personal requests not communal ones).


  • 1. In other “nuscha’ot” (prayer text versions), this prayer is only included in the High Holiday liturgy.
  • 2. Some say that this prayer was composed by Rabbi Shimeon ben Shatach, of Hasmonean times.
  • 3. This is also why this prayer is part of the Haggadah service recited on the nights of Passover.
  • 4. See “Why does the chazzan repeat the amidah?” . (,2068712/Can-you-give-me-a-quick-primer-for-the-Shabbat-morning-services.html)


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Shabbat » A Day of Rest
Mitzvot » Prayer » About

(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Sections of the prayers involving confession and asking for forgiveness. Tachanun is omitted from the prayers on the festive days of the Jewish calendar.
Av Harachamim
A solemn piece of the Sabbath prayer service. In this prayer we ask G-d to avenge the blood of Jewish martyrs throughout history. This piece is omitted if Sabbath falls out on a festive day.
The seventh month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which arrives in early autumn, has more holidays than any other month: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.
The Jewish Supreme Court. The court would convene in a designated chamber in the Holy Temple, and was comprised of 71 of the greatest scholars of the time. Continued after the destruction of the Temples, but was dissolved in the 5th century when due to Roman persecution the seat of Torah scholarship relocated from Israel to Babylon.
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Rosh Chodesh
The "Head of the Month," Rosh Chodesh is observed the first day of every Jewish month. If the previous month had 30 days, then the last day of the previous month is also observed; hence a two-day Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is a semi-holiday, marked by Torah-reading and special prayers.
Morning prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Section from the prophetic writings that is read at the conclusion of the Torah reading on the Sabbath, Jewish holidays and fast days. The Haftorah contains a message similar to the weekly reading, or speaks of the current holiday.
The additional prayer service added (after the morning prayers) on Sabbath, Biblically mandated holidays and the first day of the Jewish month.
Plural form of "Shabbat." Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Torah Portion
The Five Books of Moses are divided into 54 portions. Every Sabbath morning we read one portion. Several weeks during the year a double portion is read, in order to accommodate the Torah's completion on the Simchat Torah holiday.
The Book of Psalms. One of the 24 books of the Bible. Compiled by King David; mostly comprised of poetic praise for G-d. A large part of our prayers are culled from this book.
Table at the center of the synagogue upon which the Torah is placed when it is being read.
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
A prayer sanctifying G-d's name which is sprinkled throughout the daily prayers and is recited by the leader of the services. This prayer is also recited by mourners during the first year of mourning, and on the anniversary of the death.
The most fundamental Jewish prayer, recited twice daily. This prayer, of Biblical origin, professes the belief in G-d's absolute unity.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
A stewed (usually meat) dish served hot on Shabbat afternoon. Since it is forbidden to cook or warm up food on Shabbat, the cholent sits on the stove-top from before sundown Friday evening.