Religious Communication: Spring '14

Religious Service #2: Jewish Faith Tradition


Institution: Congregation Ahavath-Achim

When: Saturday, 22 March, 8:30am

Location: 3501 South Donnybrook, Tyler, TX

MapQuest Directions: Click here

Contact: Rabbi Learner

Shalom [from] Barbara Forzano :

"Upon entering the synagogue, you might be greeted with one of two greetings ... either "good Shabbos" or "Shabbat Shalom," along with a handshake.  These are both typical greetings and both are wishes that you have a good and peaceful Shabbat.

When you enter the synagogue, you will see a tree on the front wall with brass leaves.  This is our Tree of Life, which is used to honor people or commemorate events.  It serves as a way to acknowledge others and is a fundraiser for the synagogue.  The Torah is also called the Tree of Life and the saying above the tree on our front wall refers to the Torah.

As you walk down the hall to the right of the entrance, you will see, on your left, yahrzeit boards.  These boards are used to remember our loved ones who have passed away and also serve as a fundraiser.  The plaques have the person's name and date of death in both English and Hebrew and the date reflects both the Gregorian and Hebrew calendar dates.  At our Friday evening service, the list of people who have passed away during the coming week is read.  If those people have a Yahrzeit plaque, the light next to their name will be turned on and left on until the following Friday.  If you will notice, the first panel has a list of poeple who have the same date of death.  These are all family members who perished in the Holocaust.  In services, when you hear the leader ask those who are saying the Mourner's Kaddish to stand, this is when the relatives of those people on the list will stand and recite a special prayer.  This is recited twice during the Saturday service.  For the Mourner's Kaddish to be recited there must be 10 adult Jews in attendance. 
At the far end of the hall we have a six branched menorah that commemorates the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.  This menorah remains lighted at all times.
On your right is the entrance to the sanctuary.  To the left of the entrance will be the booklets that you will need for services, along with an 'order of services' sheet.  You will each need 2 booklets and the extra services sheet.  The services sheet refers to the black prayerbook, called a Siddur.  The other book is a Chumash and contains the contents of the Torah, the five books of Moses, along with writings of the Prophets.  To the right of the sanctuary entrance is a bin with several kippahs or yarmulkes, which are to be worn by all males while they are in the synagogue.  These are worn to show respect or reverance for God.  To the right of the bin is a cupboard.  This holds the tallits, that are worn by adult Jews.  All adult male Jews are commanded to wear one and it is an option for Jewish females.
Once in the sanctuary, you will see stained glass windows.  They were donated by different families several years ago and commemorate our major holidays, along with Shabbat and the Messianic Era.  The front of the sanctuary is called the Bimah and the table on the left side is called the Bimah table and this is where the Torah scroll will be opened and read during services.
The ark is in the middle of the wall and the doors are decorated with Jewish symbols, as well as a cityscape of Jerusalem.  The ark contains the Torah scrolls and you will need to stand whenever the doors and curtains are opened.  The Torah contains the holy word of God and we stand in its presence, out of love and respect.  Once the scroll is seated, you will be instructed to sit down.  We have 5 scrolls and each one is covered with a cloth cover and adorned with a silver breastplate and crown.  When the Torah is taken out for the reading, it is carried around the synagogue in a procession, so that all the worshippers have a chance to kiss the Torah, which is another gesture of love and respect.  When the Torah is returned to the ark, the procession goes in the opposite direction from when it was removed and gives the worshippers a final chance to kiss the Torah, before it is put away until the next Shabbat.
Above the ark is the Ner Tamid, eternal light, which remains lighted at all times.  Our sages interpreted the Ner Tamid as a symbol of God's eternal and imminent Presence in our communities and in our lives.  It is also related to the constantly burning incense at the altar in front of the original ark.
To the right of the ark is a seven branched menorah, which is described in the Torah.  The ark door decoration also contains a seven branched menorah.  This depiction is taken from the menorah in Jerusalem and more accurately follows the description from the Torah.
To the left of the ark is a saying in Hebrew.  The translation is "know before whom you stand."
At the end of our service, we go into the social hall and do a prayer over wine or grape juice, called Kiddush, which sanctifies the Shabbat.  We are commanded to remember Shabbat; but remembering means much more than merely not forgetting to observe Shabbat. It also means to remember the significance of Shabbat, both as a commemoration of creation and as a commemoration of our freedom from slavery in Egypt.  Below is the blessing."

Barukh atah Adonai Elohaynu melekh ha-olam, borei p’riy ha-gafen. (Amein)
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. (Amen)

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Michael E. Eidenmuller.
Department of Communication.  
The University of Texas at Tyler.  All rights reserved.