Shabbat Inspiration

Friday Night prayers (at the Synagogue or at home)
Date Uploaded: 
Tuesday 14th September 2021

The Friday night service is one of the most musical and lively prayer services. A fuller description and explanation of the prayers can be found in the Siddurim (prayer books), so the following is just a very brief summary.

The proceedings begin with Mincha, the weekday afternoon service (p.170). This is a short service beginning with Psalm 99 (introduced by the word ‘Ashrei’) which leads into the Amida – the quiet, standing prayer which is a mix of praise to God, requests for our needs and thanksgiving. This prayer is then repeated by the prayer leader or chazzan. The prayer service ends with the Alenu prayer which is a mission statement of the Jewish people and the Mourner’s Kaddish.

At this stage, many communities sing Yedid Nefesh, a slow haunting love song about our relationship to God.

It is then time to start Kabbalat Shabbat (p.258), the prayer service that welcomes and receives Shabbat. It's made up of a series of six psalms representing the first six days of the week prior to Shabbat.  This leads to the uplifting 16th century song, ‘Lecha Dodi’ (p.266), which welcomes Shabbat like a bride. We then complete this part of the service with two more psalms.

After Kabbalat Shabbat, the special Shabbat Maariv (evening service, p.274) follows. Its highlights are the Shema prayer and an Amida prayer which focuses on recognizing God as the Creator of the universe. The custom in many British shuls is to end the service by singing ‘Yigdal’, a stirring song recounting Maimonides formulation of core Jewish beliefs. 

If you are not a regular at the Friday night service, do not worry! Relax and soak up the atmosphere of the prayers which take us on a journey from the stresses of the week to the beauty, majesty and tranquillity of Shabbat.  Even if you cannot get to a synagogue, you can say almost all of the Friday night prayers at home even without a minyan (quorum for prayer).  Just follow the instructions in the siddur, skipping prayers just recited by the chazzan/leader.

If you have questions, contact your local rabbi or local community

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, The United Synagogue’s Israel Rabbi

This series of ‘Shabbat Inspiration’ from US Living & Learning aims to show what generations of Jews, and now much of the world, sees in our special day of rest, how we can benefit better from it individually and how we can expand and develop its role in our own communities