RELIGION LIBRARY

Judaism

Rituals and Worship

Sacred Space

Title: Prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/89241789@N00/3863784850/The mandatory, thrice-daily Jewish devotional services—Shacharit (morning), Mincha (afternoon), and Maariv (evening)—may be recited privately by any individual in any space uncontaminated by either filth or the presence of idolatrous icons. However, the ideal setting for all religious worship, including the daily prayers, is the synagogue in the presence of a minyan, or minimum quorum, defined by traditional rabbinical Judaism as consisting of ten adult men (adults being those who have undergone the rite of entry into adulthood, known as the Bar Mitzvah, at the age of thirteen). The Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements today have all embraced gender egalitarianism in devotional life, and thus count women as part of the minyan.

Title: Deuteronomy 6:4 from the Hebrew Bible: the Shema Yisrael Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yanivba/1260004645/While the three essential elements of the traditional liturgy for all daily, Sabbath, and festival services—namely the recitation of Psalms, the Shema Yisrael (Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One), and the eighteen benedictions of the Amidah, or silent-standing devotion—are essentially the same whether recited privately or in the presence of a minyan, there are certain rituals and prayers that can only be recited with this required quorum. These include the public reading of the weekly Torah portion—a central feature of Shabbat morning services—and the Kaddish, or mourners' prayer. Therefore, prayer with a minyan, known as tfilah be-tsibur, or communal devotion, is considered preferable, and for mourners it is mandatory.

First (and most important) words of the Shema, from Deuteronomy 6:4
Hebrew: Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad
English: Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One
The first portion of the Kaddish
May His great name be exalted and sanctified is God's great name
in the world which He created according to His will!

May He establish His kingdom
and may His salvation blossom and His anointed be near.

During your lifetime and during your days
and during the lifetimes of all the House of Israel,
speedily and very soon! And say, Amen.

Title: a Torah scroll, necessary ingredient for a “holy space” Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lawriecate/3370859327/

While communal services with a minyan are most commonly held in synagogues (the Greek term for the original Hebrew, beit knesset, or House of Assembly), which are today often referred to as temples by Reform and some liberal Conservative congregations, any "clean" room (i.e., one not defiled by any form of filth or idolatrous images) that contains Torah scrolls and in which a minyanworships attains the status of a Makom Kadosh, literally a Holy Space, suitable for public prayer. There is nothing intrinsically holy about synagogues, beyond the presence of the Torah and the quorum of worshipers using it as a place of religious devotion. This is largely because all traditional synagogues,Title: Temple Sholom (a Reform synagogue) in Chicago Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zol87/4051101096/ both in Israel and the Diaspora since the destruction of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, have been considered but temporary places of worship-in-exile; these will ultimately become entirely superfluous once the Jerusalem Temple is re-built, during the Messianic Era. Reform Judaism initially rejected this traditional messianic outlook, and partly for that reason began to refer to synagogues (a term connoting a utilitarian meeting house, as opposed to a place of intrinsic sanctity) as temples.

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