Shabbat Service Overview

Pesukei d’zmirot

This part of the service introduces the themes and structures that inform the rest of the service.  It is composed of Psalms chanted by the chazan (the prayer leader).  “It is meant,” says Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, “to arouse the spirit.”


At the barkhu, we bow.  The barkhu is the moment when the prayer service formally begins.  We are moving from the purely emotional to a more spiritually engaged part of the service.

The Shema

The shema functions as the central Jewish statement of belief about the nature of G-d and, indeed, about the nature of universe itself.  Through it, we seek to unite to our highest possibility.  In The Sabbath, Heschel suggests that “nothing is as hard to suppress as the will to be a slave to one’s own pettiness.  Gallantly, ceaselessly, quietly, man must fight for inner liberty.”

The Amidah

The amidah is the central section of the morning prayer service.  It is recited first silently by the worshipper and then repeated aloud by the chazan (prayer leader) and the congregation.  Rabbi Steinsaltz says that the worshipper is like a person admitted into a royal audience; thus, even when surrounded by a large entourage of people, one addresses the king in one’s own words, and the king addresses him alone with his private, personal reply.”  So even if we can’t read or understand Hebrew, we can engage in personal meditation.

Torah Service

The Torah is then chanted aloud with specific melodies in Hebrew.  Torah scrolls are handwritten (with a goose or other bird quill) on parchment.  The scroll contains no vowels, punctuation marks, or musical symbols (t’amim).


The Haftorah is the completion of the Torah service.  It is read after the Torah reading proper.


This is the final part of the Sabbath service.  another version of the amidah is recited.


Blessings over wine and bread.