Shabbat Service Leader General Guidelines
Shabbat is of great importance to the Jewish people, and leading a Shabbat service is an honor that must be treated with dignity. People are at services because they wish to honor and celebrate the Shabbat holiday. As leader it is important that you also demonstrate respect for the holiday as well as the congregants.
It is acceptable to have co-leaders. Pre bar/bat mitzvah age children may assist their parent(s) or other adult(s) with leading the service but should not plan on leading the service on their own.
If you plan to have the congregation help lead the service it is best to arrange for your “volunteers” in advance, rather than calling on them spontaneously during the service, as some people are not comfortable participating in the Shabbat service in this manner. We suggest that you ask people to participate by handing them a card indicating the page number and passage prior to the start of services. This makes the honor a bit more formal and also gives the person the opportunity to decline the honor.
Friday Evening Services
Shabbat evening services should be planned for a maximum duration of one hour and should begin promptly at 7:00 if at all possible.
One major decision for the service leader is which Siddur (prayer book) to use. For Friday evening services there are two options:
Likrat Shabbat is a gender-neutral Conservative siddur that has been in use at Brith Sholem for many years. It does not contain full transliteration of all Hebrew text, but the primary congregational elements in Hebrew are transliterated. There are multiple editions of Likrat Shabbat on the foyer bookshelf (the most up-to-date is the “Enhanced” edition).
Mishkan T’filah is a Reform siddur published in 2008. It includes both Friday evening and Saturday morning services with full transliteration of all Hebrew passages. Both siddurim include alternative and additional readings in English, as well as songs to use throughout the service. Brith Sholem has two versions of Mishkan T’filah: The standard edition is larger and contains services for festivals as well as Shabbat. The smaller, Shabbat-only edition is cross-paginated, so the leader can call out page numbers from the standard edition with confidence that the congregation will be able to locate the page in either edition.
In addition to the standard elements of the worship service, the leader is responsible for a D’var Torah. This may be a summary and guided discussion of the week’s Torah or Haftarah portion or possibly a Jewish holiday that falls during the week. Service leaders often look to the internet for divrei Torah to share (see, for example, the resources available from the URJ, torah.org, learningtorah.org, and JTS).
The service guides below include templates that you can use to develop a “running sheet” that reflects your preferences (more or less music, more or less Hebrew, etc.). Just right-click and Save to download the template of your choice.
Saturday Morning Services
For Saturday morning services, we also have two choices for prayer books: Mishkan T’filah and the Conservative Siddur Sim Shalom.
The elements of a Shabbat morning (Shacharit) service differ somewhat from those of a Friday evening service, but the two have much in common.
The biggest difference is the inclusion of Torah reading during the Saturday morning service. We follow Jewish tradition in dividing our Torah portion for any given week into between 3 and 7 readings, although we rarely read the entire parashah: instead, each reading may consist of as few as 3 verses. Before each reading, an honoree is called up to the bimah by his or her Hebrew name to offer the blessing over the Torah reading. The same individual may read/chant in Hebrew from the scroll or another individual may do the reading.
Typically, the final (3rd or 7th) honoree also reads or chants the weekly Haftarah portion (the reading from the books of the Prophets that corresponds to the weekly Torah portion) and offers the blessings before and after the Haftarah reading.
The service guides below serve as templates that you can use to develop a “running sheet” that reflects your preferences (more or less music, more or less Hebrew, etc.) for your Saturday morning service. Just right-click and Save to download the template of your choice.
Service host responsibilities (Click to view, or Right-click and Save to download the list of tasks for Service Hosts.)