Prayer is a language that each of us speaks and hears in a different way.


Throughout the worship service, the prayer leader will direct the congregation about when to sit and when to stand (as people are able). If you are not familiar with the service, it is practical to follow what others are doing if you’re able. Of course, if you are not able to rise or remain standing comfortably, you are not obligated to do so.

The congregation will be asked to rise at these points in the service:

  • During the singing of the last verse of “L’cha Dodi,” which perhaps has more melodies associated with it than any other liturgical text, the entire congregation will turn to the back of the sanctuary (or wherever the doors are located) and, when the ushers open the sanctuary doors, will bow to welcome the Sabbath Bride.
  • For the Bar’chu, which is the call to prayer. It is customary to bow when reciting the first word, Bar’chu, and stand straight upon reciting the third word of the prayer, Adonai. (In some congregations, the ark will be opened for this prayer.)
  • During the Amidah (Standing Prayer), which is the central portion of a Jewish worship service. The congregation may recite the beginning portion of this prayer together before continuing and concluding individually, in which case each congregant sits down when finished. Or, the entire prayer may be recited together, in which case the prayer leader will invite the congregation to rise for the Amidah and to sit when it is finished.
  • Whenever the ark is opened. In some congregations, it is customary to read from the Torah on Friday nights, even though the traditional Torah-reading days are Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. The Torah service (explained more fully below) begins when the Torah is brought out of the ark and carried throughout the congregation so that worshippers can touch it as a sign of love and respect. The prayer leader will instruct the congregation to be seated once the Torah cover and the other decorative items have been removed from the scroll and the cover has been placed over the scroll as a sign of respect. After the scroll has been read, the congregation will rise as the Torah is dressed, and again when it is returned to the ark.
  • For the Aleinu prayer, which often immediately follows the return of the Torah to the ark, so worshipers may already be standing at this point in the service.
  • Kaddish: Includes the recitation of names of those who are being remembered because they have died within the last week (shiva) or month (sh’loshim), or because it is the yearly anniversary of their death (yahrzeit). Depending on the community’s custom, congregants who are in mourning or observing a yahrzeit may be asked to rise (if they are comfortable doing so) when the name of their loved one is read. The leader may then invite others to add names of people they are remembering before everyone is asked to rise for the Kaddish.

Although it does not involve sitting or standing, at some point during the service (during the Torah service, if there is one in the congregation on Friday nights), the leader will read a list of names (mostly in English, although there may also be some names in Hebrew) and/or ask people to call out names of people who are sick and in need of healing – physical, spiritual, or emotional. After the names have been spoken, the congregation will recite or sing a prayer for healing which is known as the Mi Shebeirach.


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