Mincha signifies the afternoon service. On Shabbat this service is particularly poignant because unlike the weekday Mincha service, we read from the Torah. Additionally, Shabbat Mincha marks the beginning of the transition from the sanctity of Shabbat back to our weekday routine.
Shabbat Mincha services at Temple Beth Sholom begin with the singing of Ma Tovu (p.61) which is customarily recited upon entering the sanctuary. As the Ark is opened the congregation rises we declare our sense of both awe and humility as we enter a house of worship.
The Tallit Ceremony
When the congregation is seated, the Rabbi and Cantor will invite the Bar or Bat Mitzvah student to stand at the foot of the bima for the presentation of the tallit (prayer shawl) and/or the recitation of the She'he'hiyanu blessing by our Bar or Bat Mitzvah's parents. The She'he'hiyanu blessing is a special one which marks unique lifecycle events or other events that are happening for the first time.
The service continues with the recitation of Psalm 145, more commonly known as Ashrei led by our Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Tradition teaches that King David is the author of the Ashrei and the entire Book of Psalms.
After the introductory verses, the Ashrei follows the Hebrew alef-bet, each line beginning with the next letter, forming an alphabetical acrostic, a mnemonic device to make the Psalm easier to memorize. Only one letter, nun, is missing, and Jewish tradition has a number of explanations for its absence. One explanation suggests that the letter nun is the first letter of the Hebrew word nofel meaning "to fall". Since this word hints to the destruction of Israel the author excluded the nun.
Many Jews today pay special attention to the line beginning with the letter pey - Poteach et yadeach u'masbia l'chol chai ratzon, "You open Your hand; Your favor sustains all the living." Some have taken on the practice of actually opening their palm and looking at their hand when reciting this verse. While this line is additionally understood as a promise of God's everlasting care and attention, other interpretations suggest that we can see this opening of hands as a mandate for our partnership with God, ensuring that we too, do our part to open our hands and sustain others.
The Torah Service
With the conclusion of Ashrei, and the recitation of the Hatzi Kaddish (p.229), we begin the service for removing the Torah from the ark. As the Ark is opened, the congregation rises and the Rabbi and Cantor will remove the Torah we will be using for the Mincha service from the ark, as we sing Vaychi Binsoah HaAron.
It is customary for Jews to read from the Torah on Monday morning, Thursday Morning, Saturday Morning (Shabbat) and during our Mincha service on Shabbat afternoon. The Torah portion of the week will be introduced by our Bar or Bat Mitzvah who has spent time studying the portion (parasha) and considering how it connects to his or her life. The Torah reading will also be chanted by our Bar or Bat Mitzvah and is divided into three different sections. Each of these sections is called an aliyah (literally, a going up to the Torah). Any individual who receives an aliyah recites the required blessings both before and after the Torah reading. Having an aliyah is a special privilege reserved for Jewish adults.
The third aliyah is reserved for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah and is the first time he or she approaches the Torah as a Jewish adult. When a Bar or Bat Mitzvah has their aliyah to the Torah, it is a very joyous occasion and is followed by singing Siman Tov u'Mazel Tov, wishing the new adult, their family and the entire community, much luck and joy.
At the conclusion of the Torah reading, the congregation is requested to rise as the Torah is lifted and wrapped. When the congregation is standing the Rabbi and Cantor will invite the Bar or Bat Mitzvah and his or her parents to the bima to stand in front of the open Ark. It is during this very special moment, in front of friends and loved ones that the Bar or Bat Mitzvah is blessed by the rabbi and cantor using the words of the Priestly Blessing:
May Adonai bless you and guard you.
May Adonai show you favor and be gracious to you.
May Adonai show you kindness and grant you peace.
With the completion of the blessing, the Ark is closed and the congregation turns to the conclusion of the Torah service.
Before it is returned to the ark, the Torah will again be taken in front of the congregation. It is customary for members of the community to reach out and touch and kiss the Torah with the corner of their siddur (prayer book) or tallit (prayer shawl) to show the Torah proper deference and respect. When the concluding prayer of the Torah service is completed the Torah is returned to the Ark.
The Amidah, or Silent Devotion, can be found in your siddur on pages 234 through 239. It is customary for the congregation to remain standing throughout this devotion, which provides a few minutes for silent prayer and reflection. The words of the Shabbat Mincha Amidah reflect on the unique peace and tranquility that we can experience on Shabbat and sanctify Shabbat as a day that is sanctified and set apart.
The Cantor leads us as we begin the first two pages of the Amidah together which include the first three blessings of the Amidah as well as the Kedushah (p.235) The Kedushah is the heart of the Amidah and can only be recited in the presence of a quorum of ten - a minyan. Chanting the Kedushah together as a community marks a unique moment where we stand in God's presence; our feet together, not walking around or chatting with our neighbors, we concentrate on the proclamation of God's holiness found within the text - Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh - Holy, Holy Holy are You. With the conclusion of the Kedusha the congregation continues their personal recitation of the Amidah silently until we join together to sing Oseh Shalom (p.246)
The service continues with the recitation of the Kaddish Shalem (p.247) which indicates that the majority of the mincha service has concluded. Each of our services concludes with the singing of Aleinu (p. 248) led by our Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and the recitation of the Kaddish Yatom - the Mourner's Kaddish. (p.249)
With the conclusion of the Mincha service, the Rabbi will take a few moments to address the congregation with a sermon connected to the Torah portion that was just read and make the presentation of the Congregational Certificate to the Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
The Ma'ariv Service
We now transition from the afternoon service (Mincha) to the evening service (Ma'ariv). The Ma'ariv service begins with the call to prayer Barchu led by our Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Following the Barchu are two blessings which lead us into the Shema. (p.282)
Recited twice daily, at our morning and evening services, the Shema is our declaration as witnesses, formally affirming God's sovereignty and our acceptance of the commandments.
Immediately after our recitation of the Shema, we continue with a blessing which praises God as the eternal redeemer of the people Israel and recounts God's actions in freeing the Israelite slaves from Egyptian bondage. The second blessing after the Shema is centered on the potential fears we may have when facing the darkness. Like children who may be afraid of the dark, the Hashkiveinu asks God to guard and protect us from any other potential darkness that may impact our lives.
The Silent Amidah (p.286-291) provides with a few moments of quiet reflection at the end of the day. Each of the 19 blessings within the text of the Amidah invites us to concentrate on a different theme.
Just as in the Mincha service we conclude the Ma'ariv service with the recitation of Aleinu and the Mourner's Kaddish, before concluding with the Havdalah service.
The Havdalah service formally concludes Shabbat, and incorporates many of the same elements with which we began Shabbat. In the same way that we welcome Shabbat by lighting two candles, during the Havdalah service we use a candle that is braided with multiple wicks. By making Kiddush at the start of Shabbat, we sanctify its presence with wine, similarly we sanctify Havdalah by using wine. Another important blessing that is made during Havdalah is the blessing over the spices. Traditionally, it is understood that these spices are to help sustain our souls for the upcoming week until we reach Shabbat again.
We welcome Eliyah Hanavi, Elijah the Prophet. It is customary to conclude the Havdalah service by wishing friends and loved ones a Shavua Tov! Good wishes for the upcoming week.