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Shabbat in the Synagogue

Worship Services

Tot Shabbat. Many synagogues host worship services, specially designed for families with young children. on either Friday evening or Saturday morning. These intergenerational services often feature storytelling and music, and are an easy way to learn about Judaism as a family and to learn more about the style and warmth of the synagogue you are visiting.

Kabbalat Shabbat. On Friday evening, medieval Jewish mystics in the Israeli town of Safed went to the field outside of town dressed in white clothing to welcome Shabbat. They pictured Shabbat arriving as a bride who they accompanied to the synagogue with singing. They called this "Kabbalat Shabbat," Hebrew for the "reception of Shabbat." Jews have taken on their custom of singing a series of psalms on Friday evenings as part of a short service of about an hour. Some congregations offer an oneg Shabbat (enjoyment of Shabbat), an elaborate snack with a social atmosphere, after the service. Some offer snacks before the service for those who have rushed from work and arrived without dinner.

Shabbat morning services. Morning worship includes a reading from the Torah which may include a youngster's first reading, marking their bar or bat mitzvah. There may also be a sermon or a teaching (d'var Torah) on the Torah reading of the week.

There are always guests at morning services who are strangers to the liturgy. If you have trouble following, ask someone to be your buddy and help you track the pages, though in many congregations the service leader will announce them. People like to be experts and they will be happy to help you.

At the end of the service, in many congregations, there is a light lunch served after the blessing over the wine (Kiddush) by the service leader.

In some congregations, there is a Saturday afternoon service (minchah) that is shorter than the Saturday morning service. It features a shorter Torah reading of the portion for the coming Shabbat.


Return to the Guide to Shabbat and Havdalah for Interfaith Families Resource Guide.


Hebrew for "Sabbath joy," the term for the light refreshments served after a Shabbat service. Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." Hebrew for "sanctification," a blessing recited over wine or grape juice to sanctify the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. The Jewish Sabbath, from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. The afternoon prayer service. A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them.

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