These are the prayers that we recite or sing during our worship service on Saturday mornings. They will be available as an audio file soon.
But first, a note about the transliteration. The transliteration is designed so that if you read it in English, you will be pronouncing the Hebrew words. In order to do that, you need to know how certain English letters are used to represent the Hebrew sounds. The letters “ch” together, for example are not pronounced like “church.” They are prounounced as a sort of throaty gutteral sound from the back of the throat. Think of it as that phlegmy sound you associate with the Semitic languages.
So here is a guide to the transliteration that I have used. Hopefully it is simple enough to follow.
The English letter “i” is pronounced as a long “e.”
mi is pronounced mee
li is pronounced lee
The English letter “a” is pronounced as “ah.”
Ba is pronounced bah
la is pronounced lah
The English letter “0” is pronounced as a long “oh.”
Bo is pronounced boh.
lo is pronounced low.
The English letters “ei” is pronounced as a long “a.”
mei is pronounced may
lei is pronounced lay
The English letters “ai” is pronounced as a long “i,” or as a “y.”
mai is pronounced my
lai is pronounced lie
I hope that this makes it easier. Now, on to the prayers!Shema and V'ahavta
The Shema is taken from Deuteronomy 6:4. It has become the central creed of the Jewish faith. As believers in Messiah, we look to Yeshua for His interpretation. Mark 12:29 shows us how important Yeshua thought about this passage. He stated that the Shema was the first of all the commandments. To it, He attached the passage called the V’Ahavta, which are the verses from Deuteronomy 6:5-9. They are given below.
The first line of the V’Ahavta is what Yeshua quotes along with the Shema in the passage in Mark. The melody that we use has been handed down, and as with anything that has been handed down, may have local nuances that you won’t find in other synagogues. This is what is called a min hag, or loosely translated, a local tradition. So do not be concerned if at a caertain place the melody goes up a little, and you are used to going down a little. Hopefully, they blend together and create a gentle harmony. But if not, God hears in perfect pitch!
At our synagogue, we read from the Torah, we read a portion from the Haftarah, and we read a portion from the B’rit Chadashah, the New Covenant, or New Testament. Prior to reading from the scroll of the Torah, we recite a blessing.Blessing Before the Torah Reading
Now, with this prayer, there is a responsive section. The first line, Bar’chu et Adonai ha-m’vorach, is recited by the one who is going to do the reading. The second line is then recited by the entire congregation. After the entire congregation recites the second line, the reader will repeat the second line before continuing to recite the rest of the blessing. It has become tradition to recite the last line, Baruch atah Adonai, notein ha-torah together, though it is not customary.
After the reading of the Torah, another blessing is recited, which is very similar.Blessing After the Torah Reading
Once again, while it has become a tradition in our congregation to repeat the last line with the reader, it is not customary, and you may or may not find a similar practice in other synagogues.
At the conclusion of the Torah reading, we lift up the Torah scroll for the congregation to see. It may not be possible for everyone to see the scroll while it is being read, but afterward, a minimum of 3 columns of text are revealed, which will include the passage that was read in Hebrew. As the Torah is held aloft, we chant a blessing called V’zot Hatorah, which means, “This is the Torah.” It is taken from two sections of Scripture. The first part is taken verbatim in the Hebrew from Deuteronomy 4:44. “This is the Torah which Moses placed before the children of Israel.” The last portion of the blessing is taken from the final words of Numbers 9. Numbers 9:23 concludes with, “at the command of the Lord, by the hand of Moses.”V'zot Ha Torah
If the V’zot Hatorah blessing closes the Torah reading, the Eitz Chayim prayer closes the formal Torah service. The blessing beings as the Torah scroll is rolled closed and redressed by the assigned people. During this prayer, the Torah is rolled, the sash is placed around it to keep it snug, the mantle is placed back on the scroll to protect it, and the yad, which is the pointer that is used by the reader so as not to touch the parchment itself, is placed back on the spindle.
Eitz Chayim literally means the tree of life, however, it is also used to refer to the two spindles that the Torah scroll is attached to. So when the Torah is lifted up, it is being held by the eitz chayim. And when we say it is a tree of life to those who take hold of it, we are refering to the Torah. And as believers, we understand that the Torah is a symbol of Yeshua, Who is the Living Word. And surely whomever grasps hold of Yeshua has certainly grasped hold of THE Tree of Life!
The first part of Eitz Chayim is taken from Proverbs 3. Proverbs 3:18 says, “It is a tree of life to whose who take hold of it, and happy are those who support it.” Proverbs 3:17 says, “Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.” The second part of the prayer comes from Lamentations. Lamentations 5:21 says, “Turn us, Lord, to You, and let us return. Renew our days as of old.”
We invite you to join us on Shabbat and take part in the liturgy of Mount Sinai, as we return to the days of old, renewed by our faith in Yeshua as Messiah. You will find that Yeshua is the center of all that we do, even the liturgy. And if Yeshua is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, as we know Him to be, then if He is at the center of anything, it brings life. Come experience that life for yourself!