Guide to Ritual. Where We Worship

The Sanctuary

The sanctuary is used for High Holy Days and for Shabbat morning worship, as well as for other occasions with a large number of participants. At the front of the sanctuary is a platform called the bimah. At its center is the reading table where the Torah scroll is read and where the person or people leading prayers usually stand as does the person delivering the D’var Torah (sermon) for the day. To the congregation’s left is the Rabbi’s podium. To the right is the podium for the Cantor. In the most elevated location at the center of the bimah is the Holy Ark, in which are kept a collection of handwritten parchment Torah scrolls. Each scroll is covered by an ornamental and protective cover called a Torah Mantle. Decorative crowns and spindle ornaments called Rimonim rest on the shelves or on the Torah scrolls, as do ornamental breastplates. Each scroll contains the same text – the Five Books of Moses, hand written in Hebrew calligraphy. On Shabbat morning, Shabbat afternoon as well as on Monday, Thursday mornings and on the morning of the first day of each Hebrew month and other festive days, at least one of the scrolls is taken from the ark and paraded around the sanctuary. It is then laid on the reading table. A series of people are called to the bimah for an Aliyah. The Aliyah involves saying a blessing before a passage of Torah is read and a blessing after it is read. Then the person performing the Aliayh receives a blessing.

The Minyan Room

The Minyan Room is a small sanctuary used for worship services when there are fewer participants, notably for the daily morning and evening minyans. There is one podium and a smaller ark, but the purpose and the activities are the same as in the larger sanctuary. Occasionally, for logistical or spiritual reasons we hold services in another room of the building or even outdoors. When that is the case, a portable ark holds the Torah scroll.

The Books We Use

The Siddur or prayerbook may be found on a table by the entrance to the sanctuary or in the rack in the back of the pew. We recite and sing prayers in Hebrew for the most part, but an English translation is available usually on the facing page. Books open from right to left.

The Chumash, the larger, red volume, contains the Five Books of Moses divided into 54 weekly portions.Hebrew for portion is Parashah. Following each portion the editors have inserted the section or sections from the Prophets that are linked to that week’s Torah portion. A selection from the Prophets is called the Haftarah. On Shabbat morning, the Haftarah is read right after that week’s Torah portion. The Chumash also contains rich introductory material, translation and footnotes.

Holiday Prayerbooks special to that holiday are set out for use for the Three Pilgrimage Festivals.. For High Holy Days congregants are expected to bring their own prayerbooks, though a few loaners are available.

What We Wear

Men are expected to wear a head covering, a kippah, when in the building. Bins of kippahs are available near each entrance. Women are expected to wear head covering if they will be on the bimah. They may wear a hat, a kippah or pick up a bit of lace and a bobby pin from the rear counter to pin to their hair.

Many people wear a prayershawl, (tallit) during Shabbat (Saturday) morning services as well as during the other services at which Torah is read: Saturday afternoon, Monday and Thursday morning

Who Does What

In egalitarian worship–Men and women may sit together and may serve in any ritual or organizational capacity.

Congregational participation is encouraged. We are a singing synagogue.

Any Jew who knows the prayers may lead a part of worship services, by prior arrangement. Those who would like to lead a part of the service are urged to contact Rabbi Panitz to find a time, or to learn the part. Non-Jewish spouses or friends may take part in worship services by being called to the Torah as the partner of a Jewish person who is sharing that honor, or by being asked to read one of the prayer that asks God’s blessing on our Country or that prays for Peace.

Shabbat Restrictions and Food

  • Cell phone and electric devices should be turned off during worship services.
  • In keeping with Sabbath restrictions, we do not permit the use of cameras or recording devices during Shabbat or High Holy Days. Also writing is discouraged.
  • Food and drink are not permitted in the sanctuary for practical reasons. Cough drops are acceptable. Those who will be on the bimah should not be chewing gum.
  • All food served at Temple Israel is kosher and is under the supervision of Rabbi Panitz. Any food brought into the building to be shared with others must be checked in by the staff to verify that it is kosher.