The Siddur -

Introduction to the Jewish Prayerbook

Jewish prayer is connected with times and seasons: the time of the day, the day of the week, the ordinary day (yom khol) and the sacred day (yom tov), the ordinary seasons and the festival seasons (mo'adim), special events (such as a brit milah (circumcision and naming of a child), a bar or bat mitzvah, a Jewish marriage, a Jewish death), and so on.

The Hebrew word for prayerbook is Siddur, which comes from a Hebrew root (Samech-Dalet-Resh) meaning "order." The Siddur, then, is a book that sets forth certain Hebrew prayers in a very specific (time-based) order. There are many types of Siddurim available, but they all share a similar underlying structure.

Observant Jews pray in formal prayer services three times a day, every day (corresponding to the sacrifices once offered at the Temple). Accordingly, most (weekday) Siddurim include Tefillat Shacharit (morning prayers), Tefillat Minchah (afternoon prayers), and Tefillat Ma'ariv (evening prayers). In each case, one prayer - the Shemoneh Esrei (also known as the Amidah) - is recited. The last prayer to be said each day is the Keri'at Shema al hamitah (the bedtime Shema). Shabbat Siddurim are ordered in accordance with the routine of Shabbat. Since it begins in the evening, the first set of prayers concern candle lighting and welcoming the Shabbat.

The Shemoneh Esrei
The Shemoneh Esrei is the central prayer of all four Jewish services: Shacharit (morning), Minchah (afternoon), Ma'ariv (evening), and Musaf (additional). Sometimes called the Amidah ("standing"), the prayer is recited silently while facing the Aron Kodesh (the ark that houses the Torah scrolls).

Jewish Daily Prayer Services
Jewish daily prayer services include prayers that are read from a Siddur. There are many types of Siddurim tailored for the needs of a given synagogue and its doctrinal persuasions. For example, there are Orthodox Siddurim, Conservative Siddurim, Reform Siddurim, Reconstructionist Siddurim, and Messianic Siddurim. A Machzor is a prayerbook used for the Jewish holidays.

Note that this page is under construction...

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