Shabbat Prayers and Unity with G-d

Shabbat Prayers and Unity with G-d

February 09, 2011 Back

One of the more complicated questions regarding Shabbat is how to observe it properly.  This question has numerous facets, from not performing work to studying the Torah and dressing in a different manner than one does during the rest of the week.  One facet that is overlooked is the different prayers that are said during Shabbos that make the day inherently different.

There are some additional prayers said on Shabbat in addition to the regular services.  These prayers include Kabbalat Shabbat and Mussaf as well as a public Torah Reading during the Morning Prayer service, also known as “davening” in Yiddish.  Keep in mind that the regular services are different in their content as no personal requests are made during Shabbat services as such requests are considered to be part of the weekday liturgy and inappropriate for a holy day.

Kabbalat Shabbat and Acceptance of Shabbat

Kabbalat Shabbat is known as the prayer that one says to accept Shabbat.  It consists of several chapters from the book of Tehillim, or Psalms.  The most well-known part of this prayer is the Lecha Dodi poem that composed by the 16th century poet and Kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz that is sung right before the official acceptance of Shabbat when the two final Psalms are said.  There is no set tune for Kabbalat Shabbat or Lecha Dodi although the vast majority of congregations use a tune that will arouse the soul and enable Jews to begin Shabbat in the proper manner, with serenity and joy.

Traditionally, Kabbalat Shabbat was not a wide-spread practice and was limited to groups of pious Jews who added this section to their prayers.  However, it became common practice because the constant migration of Jews between communities and now is a traditional part of the prayers.

Kiddush and Sanctification of the Day

While Kabbalat Shabbat is the public declaration of the beginning of Shabbat, there is still a tradition for each household to have a family member – usually the man – to make a blessing over a cup of wine or grape juice called Kiddush.  This tradition over time became established practice in Jewish Law and is now considered to be the requirement for Shabbat to officially begin.

The significance of Kiddush is that it is the official beginning of Shabbat.  The blessing made quotes the verses in Genesis which speak about Shabbat as well as the Exodus from Egypt.  These themes are important because these separations are those which make the Jews and Shabbat special and holy.

Mussaf and Remembering the Temple

During the Shabbat morning prayer services, the Mussaf service is said.  This section of the Shabbat Morning Prayer service, also known as Shacharit, is perhaps the most poignant section as it contains a prayer for redemption and the rebuilding of the Temple so that the traditional sacrifices brought on Shabbat may be reinstated.

Havdallah and the Departure of Shabbat

At the end of Shabbat, a ceremony nearly identical to Kiddush is made known as Havdallah.  Havdallah means “separation” and it is ceremony in which Shabbat officially ends.  Havdallah can be an emotional experience for many much like Kabbalat Shabbat if they internalized the divine message of Shabbat successfully and managed to remove themselves from weekly concerns.  It is for this reason that many people have elaborate Havdallah ceremonies with music instruments and singing.

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