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What is Shacharit?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

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A. Shacharit is the daily morning Tefillah. The word Shacharit comes from the Hebrew word Shachar, or morning,  commemorating the Tamid Shel Shachar sacrifice offered in the Holy Temple every morning.

B. Since we don't have the Temple offerings and sacrifices today, we offer our prayers instead. As the prophet Hoseah says1 "And we will render the prayer of our lips in place of the sacrifice of bullocks".

C. Shacharit was invented by Abraham, the first Jew, who would regularly connect to G-d in the morning time, and taught his descendants to do likewise.


What are the contents of Shacharit?

1. Verses of Praise

The standard introduction is the first of Shacharit’s three sections, entitled Verses of Praise, or Pesukei D’zimra (pronounced peh-SOO-kay d-ZEEM-rah) in Hebrew. Pesukei D’zimra is mostly composed of chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) describing G-d’s greatness and His involvment in the world.

2. Shema

Coming right before the Amidah, Shema is the expression of the most absolute Jewish belief and the second-most important part of Shacharit. The word Shema is Hebrew for hear, and is the first word of the eternally famous verse “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad,” which means “Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One.” That opening verse is followed by three paragraphs quoted directly from the Torah describing how a Jew is to interact with G-d, and vice versa.

Abraham, the first Jew, would regularly connect to G-d in the morning time, and taught his descendants to do likewise
3. The Amidah

The Amidah (pronounced ah-MEE-dah) is the central, critical section of Shacharit, around which the other sections were built. In the times of the Temples, when full tefillah services were not required, tefillah consisted of the Amidah only. The Amidah, which means “standing” in Hebrew, is a series of 12 requests of G-d recited silently while standing at attention, as if before a king, introduced by three praises of G-d and capped by three thank-yous. Because of the eighteen sections, the amidah is also known as the Shmoneh Esrei, meaning “eighteen” in Hebrew (although it’s really nineteen, because of one extra request added later). These nineteen sections are:

a) The Shield of Abraham (Introduction Part I),

b) The Resurrection of the Dead (Introduction Part II)

c) The Holiness of G-d (Introduction Part III);

d) Request for clear thinking…

e) …Repentance…

f) …Forgiveness…

g) …Redemption…

h) …Health and healing…

i) …Climate beneficial for agriculture…

j) …Ingathering of the exiles…

k) …Justice…

l) …Destruction and rehabilitation of our enemies…

m) …Good things for good people…

n) …Restoration of Jerusalem

o) …Reinstatement of the Davidic dynasty…

p) …Acceptance of one’s prayers;

q) Restoration of Temple sacrifices (Conclusion Part I),

r) Champion of our Lives (Conclusion Part II), and

s) The Prayer for Peace (Conclusion Part III).

4. The Ending Prayers

The prayers wind down with the recitation of the Tachanun, and several other prayers -- famous amomg them the Ein K'Elokeinu and the Aleinu. On Mondays, Thursdays, and certain other days of note -- such as Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah -- the Torah is taken out and a small section of the weekly Torah Portion is read.  Also recited is the special song (Psalm) of the day which the Levites would sing each day of the week in the Holy Temple.

Footnotes

  • 1. Hoseah 14:13
TAGS: shacharit

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Mitzvot » Prayer » About

Torah
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.
Tachanun
Sections of the prayers involving confession and asking for forgiveness. Tachanun is omitted from the prayers on the festive days of the Jewish calendar.
Chanukah
An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.
Amidah
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.
Shacharit
Morning prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Hashem
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
Tefillah
Prayer. The Jewish Sages instituted three daily prayers, and an additional prayer on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.
Jerusalem
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.
Psalms
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.
Tehillim
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.
Temple
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.
Yisrael
1. Additional name given by G-d to Patriarch Jacob. 2. A Jew who is not a Kohain or Levi (descendant of the Tribe of Levi).
Shema
The most fundamental Jewish prayer, recited twice daily. This prayer, of Biblical origin, professes the belief in G-d's absolute unity.
G-d
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.