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August 29, 2015 | 14th Elul 5775
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Torah Reading on Friday Night

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  1. I am chair of a worship renewal task force at our synagogue and we are beginning a discussion regarding Torah reading at Friday night Shabbat services. The minhag of our synagogue has always been to have the main congregational Shabbat service, including reading the Torah, on Friday night.

    We are a large synagogue though and we offer several Shabbat services in order to accommodate the different needs of our congregation. For example, we have a family service once a month on Friday nights. On those nights, we also offer an alternative adult only service. One of the issues we are discussing is do we need to read Torah at the family service or should we instead tell Torah related stories in order to keep the service shorter and keep the attention of the children? Another issue we are discussing is should we continue to read Torah every Friday night or perhaps, when there is b'nei mitzvah service on Saturday and Torah is read, it is not necessary to read Torah on Friday.

    900 families

  2. We read the Torah on Friday Night whether or not we will be doing it again for a bar/bat mitzvah on Saturday. Even though we have a salaried cantorial soloist, our Rabbi always conducts the entire Friday night service, except when assisted by Saturday morning's bar/bat mitzvah candidate.

  3. [W]e have a Torah service every Saturday morning and we also do a Friday night Torah service once monthly as part of our rotating alternative service schedule along with monthly Tot Shabbat, Youth service, and Blue Jeans services.
    1200 units

  4. Our congregation does not read Torah on Friday evenings, and has not in the thirteen or so years that we have been members.

    We do hold a Shabbat morning service every week. It is lay led, with members of the congregation also reading Torah (three to seven lines only) and sharing a short d'var. When there is a bar/bat mitzvah (about twenty to twenty-five weeks of the year) this service is still held, unless the family has been part of the Saturday minyan community and specifically asks all to join them. The average attendance is between twenty-five and thirty people.

    This has been a wonderful opportunity for many to have the honor of reading Torah. It has challenged many to take a new step in their Jewish learning.

    750 member units

  5. [Our temple] has consistently held Shabbat Morning service for the past fifty years at which the Torah is read. I do not believe we have had Torah reading on Friday Night in all that time.

    Our Shabbat morning service is held regardless of whether there are b'nei mitzvah or not. The b'nei mitzvah are given many of the aliyot of the Torah Service, but not the first which is reserved for members of the congregation who wish to participate. Sometimes the bar/bat mitzvah are given small additional roles in the service, but we work hard to maintain the service for the congregation while including the b'nai mitzvah and their families. It is a balance that shifts from time to time.

    Once a month our Torah Study group has its own minyan on Shabbat and the Torah is read there as well--this is before the main service and life cycle events are not part of it since we want to keep the main service as the congregation's service. B'nei mitzvah are taught that they are joining the congregation and that their "service" is for the congregation and they are participants. It is not their private service.

    It usually works out well.

  6. [Ours] is a very small congregation. The Torah is read (but not the haftarah) during Friday night services which are held twice a month regularly. When a bar/bat mitzvah occurs is on the Torah and haftarah are read that Saturday morning (or evening for a Havdalah service) and not at the Friday night service the evening before.

  7. Our large congregation (over 1400 families) typically has a Kabbalat Shabbat service at 6 at which we do not read Torah, and a 7:45 service at which we do. Also a Shabbat morning service at which we do, and which is held whether or not there is a bar/bat mitzvah. When "late Friday services" were instituted at our congregation some 28 years ago, the then new rabbi (now emeritus) reasoned that, by and large, the Friday night congregation were likely to be different folks from the Saturday morning congregation, and that everyone should have the opportunity to hear Torah, regardless of whether their Shabbat worship was at 8 pm or 11 am. Made sense to me then, makes sense to me now.

    Meanwhile, I applaud the congregation that gives the bar/bat mitzvah a role in the regular Shabbat morning service, symbolized by the inclusion of an aliyah for someone not connected to the bar/bat mitzvah. [Our temple] has maintained the integrity of the Shabbat morning service even when there is a bar/bat mitzvah, but nonetheless the regulars tend to feel much more at home on the weeks when there is not one. I am always unhappy about a congregation that does not hold services on Saturday morning unless there is a bar/bat mitzvah--and I feel only slightly better about congregations that have their regular Shabbat morning minyan, and a separate service for b'nei mitzvah. (Of course, that slippery slope leads to the Minchah (late afternoon) b'nei mitzvah--which I find palatable only if the congregation regularly has Minchah, whether there is a bar/bat mitzvah or not. Is there such?)


  8. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-6

                How are customs evolving (or what were they before hand) regarding Torah reading on Erev Shabbat? Does anyone have any idea what percentage of Reform congregations read Torah on Friday night? Has anyone on this list had any experience with their congregation changing from reading to not reading--or the other way around?


  9. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-6

                We read on Friday nights when there is a bar/bat mitzvah that Saturday (which is most Fridays during the year--we have 90-100 b'nei mitzvah per year).

    We have experimented with not reading on Fridays when we have a "Family" service geared for families with younger children. It shortens the service by twenty minutes.


    900+ family units
  10. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-6

                We read Torah on most Friday nights. We started that about fifteen or more years ago.  We felt that this is the time when the congregation comes to services, and if we did not read on Friday night, the members of the congregation would not be a part of this service for most of the year.

    We do not read on "Family Service" night, which is geared for the children, but the rabbi does do a Torah walk with them, which they all really enjoy.

    If there is something "special" going on we do not read from Torah because of the time.


    500 + families
  11. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-6

                We're a very tiny congregation -- fewer than forty families -- and we don't have a full-time rabbi. We also don't have a Shabbat morning minyan, except for the occasional bar/bat mitzvah (one this year).  On Friday nights when we have a student rabbi, which is usually twice a month between Rosh Hashanah and Pesach, we usually have a Torah service. On lay-led weeks, we don't -- usually someone gives a brief d'var Torah.

  12. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-6

                Ours is also a very small (around forty families), primarily lay-led congregation that ordinarily has a Shabbat morning service only when there is a bar or bat mitzvah (between two to six in an average year). We read three to six verses of Torah during each of our Family Services (once a month), especially in order to provide an opportunity for our children to experience seeing and hearing the Torah being read, and to help them learn both what a Torah service entails and to learn proper Torah etiquette. We have an ever-growing cadre of Torah readers, not only because of our post-b'nei mitzvah teens, but also because more and more of our adults are discovering the pleasure and the challenge of reading from it. (This past High Holy Days season, we had eleven member readers for the various aliyot, ranging in age from 13 through 55. Our visiting rabbi read the rest.) On the very occasional Shabbat that we have a rabbi visit, he or she will usually read a few verses of Torah.

    It is part of our minhag that on every Friday night a brief d’var Torah on the parsha hashavua is given. Some members read the parsha and write their own, others use the large variety of online writings that are available.

  13. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-6

                On informal nights (6:00 pm, 1st & 3rd Friday) we are flexible, depending on what else might be going on. We try to keep the service to 50-60 minutes. On regular Fridays (2nd & 4th) we read Torah and haftarah. When there is a bar/bat mitzvah on Saturday, Torah and haftarah are, of course, read. Other Saturdays, also quite informal -- we are again flexible, but there is always study of the parashah., and frequently the haftarah is read by a serious adult student of haftarah.

    400+ member units
  14. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-6

                We read Torah on Friday nights, except if there is a bar/bat mitzvah on Saturday, or a Family Service. We have been doing that for many years. It appears that most congregants like the format. If it weren't for the Friday night readings, most of us would never hear the Torah being read except on the High Holy Days.


    285 units
  15. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-6

                We read Torah at each Erev Shabbat service, i.e. twice a month. Once by our student rabbi and once by me.

  16. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-7

                I am at a congregation now which has a custom of reading Torah on Friday nights. By possible coincidence (unless the percentages are really skewed this way), all the congregations I served as a student rabbi and the previous congregations I served as an assistant and solo rabbi read Torah every Friday night. But: First, there was some movement in my previous congregation towards an earlier Kabbalat Shabbat service over the summer, with no Torah reading. And: In my current position, we have a hazzan with……Conservative training, and a colleague with Reform ordination who grew up in a Classical Reform congregation which, to my surprise, never read Torah on Friday nights. And all of his previous rabbinic experience was in places without Torah readings……I have since learned that there are many Reform congregations which do not read Torah on Friday night--not as a new trend, but an old custom. They simply never have done so. Which opens up for us the question of "what is Reform practice," versus just "what is the practice of this congregation."

    Here is the current situation. The hazzan and my colleague have introduced a great deal of new music and new material at the beginning of the service, ranging from the opening Psalms of Kabbalat Shabbat (they did all seven at one point; we have cut back from that) and a preference for all nine stanzas of Lecha Dodi. This powerful and compelling music is also something we see happening elsewhere. (My problem with it from a practical point of view not the "amount" of Hebrew involved, but that, at first, it "frontloaded" what was "unfamiliar" Hebrew; but we have settled into a sort of "usual" practice and those people still coming appreciate this.)

    Plus: This is a congregation that has expressed an opinion (not unanimously, of course) that it likes and appreciates formal sermons……

    Plus: This is a congregation which, as I said above, is used to a Friday night Torah reading.

    The result is that our 8pm service often ends close to 10pm. And the people who are there, by and large, don't seem to complain. (There are some, of course, who have simply stopped coming; we don't know the number but, as in many places, for a while at least, overall attendance was up, which meant that more new people were coming because of what we were doing than previous people had stopped coming. If anyone knows a way to keep all the people who used to come and attract new people at the same time--publish, you'll be famous.) But it is still, often (in my own opinion), "too much" of a good thing.

    The old is good, the new is good, and starting services one week at 7:30, one week at 8, one week at 6 and the final week at 8 didn't work (even when we did send out a refrigerator magnet).  (Our current practice is 7:30pm first Friday, 8pm all others--and we just introduced a fourth Friday 6:15pm lay-led Kabbalat Shabbat service, with a pot luck dinner at 7pm, without canceling the later 8pm service. Will see how that goes but our hope is that some people from both services will come together for the pot luck).

    I am trying to figure out how to "square this circle," and the only long term solution I see is dropping the Torah service. (Although it sounds like hubris to drop the Torah reading on Friday night and keep a sermon; the other solution might be to drop any teaching/preaching, but since we have at least two services at which Torah is read most Shabbat mornings, sometimes four, and never less than one, I am inclined towards this solution.)  But that might not work either.

  17. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-7

                We read from the Torah at every 8pm Shabbat service, except during the summer. Once a month we also have a 6:15 Kabbalat service and a 6:45 junior congregation service at which a d'var is given but we do not read from the Torah. We have a Shabbat Morning Service each week which generally has double b'nei mitzvah, and Torah and haftarah are always read. We are about 500 families. Our congregation is extremely participatory, but we are for the most part a Friday night congregation. We have just started a Shabbat morning youth service led by post b'nei mitzvah. We have a hard working ritual committee and a great committee chair. We are also fortunate to have a wonderful and dynamic rabbi.

  18. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-7

                Our Friday evening services are mostly at 8:15 pm (7:30 once a month) and include a Torah reading, generally by the officiating rabbi, but not a haftarah reading. The rabbi usually gives a sermon (not necessarily on the parashah) or a d'var Torah, although we sometimes have guest speakers on a variety of topics. Several years ago, we started having our Friday evening services during July and August and on secular holiday weekends at 6:15 pm. On those evenings, we do not read Torah; generally the rabbi conducts a participatory study of the weekly parashah.  There are many views in the congregation about the desirability of 8:15 services versus 6:15 services, and on whether or not an evening Torah reading is a good idea. We have solved this, as with many other issues, by trying to meet everyone's needs, at least a little, while not engaging in any dramatic change.

    Most Saturday mornings during the school year there is a bar/bat mitzvah (generally a double) and the Torah and haftarah are read by the b'nei mitzvah, who also present d'vrei Torah.  We also have a monthly lay-led morning service throughout the year at which the Torah is read by one of our substantial list of congregants who can do so and is accompanied either by a d'var Torah, a discussion or both. We generally do not read haftarah at the lay-led service. We also have a monthly morning Tot Shabbat at which Torah is read by either our student cantor or a parent and there is an appropriate story.

    We have Torah study every Saturday morning all year, regardless of whether or not there is a bar/bat mitzvah or lay-led service. Torah study is led by one of our rabbis or, occasionally, our cantor. It is usually followed by a short service that does not include a Torah reading.


    (about 1200 families)
  19. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-7

                Most of the time, our Friday services start at 8:00 and include Torah (but not haftarah).  We read one aliyah and are on a seven-year cycle. We include a sermon or d'var Torah (or, occasionally, talk from a pulpit guest). The service generally runs about 75-80 minutes, occasionally going up to ninety.  We do abridge Kabbalat Shabbat to make that happen.

    We alternate between services 2 and 3 in Gates of Gray.

    On the first Friday of the month we have "Mostly Musical Shabbat", with (as the name implies) lots of singing, and music from our home-grown band instead of the piano or organ.  We do not read Torah or have a sermon on that night. The service starts at 7:00 and ends by 8:15, which allows more families with small children to participate. It is not, however, a children's service; it's for everyone. We've been doing this for almost a year and it's very popular.

    (We always have at least one service on Shabbat morning, so Torah gets read then regardless of what happens Friday night.)


     ~860 households
  20. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-8

                We have not read Torah on Friday night for at least as long as I have been a member, which is now going on sixteen years. The only exception is the once or twice a year I do a Storahtelling within Friday night worship.


    680 member units
  21. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-8

                [Our congregation] never read the Torah on Erev Shabbat until about ten years ago, when the then "new rabbi" broached the idea and the worship committee agreed with him. Now we always read the Torah except for a few lay-led summer services, when the lay leader makes the decision.


    480+ Households
  22. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-8

                We used to read Torah on Friday nights. Our rabbi at the time saw his primary duty to teach Torah. Congregants in larger numbers were in shul on Friday night than on Saturday morning. He felt it was important to read Torah at a time when several hundred people were there versus Saturday when there might be several dozen congregants. So we were reading Torah Friday night and Saturday morning.

    We have a new rabbi and he does a straight Kabbalat Shabbat service. He gives a d'var Torah on Friday night and we read Torah when there is b'nei mitzvah and have an additional study (we do a regular Tanach study before service every Shabbat morning) during the service when there is none.

  23. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-8

                Our congregation……has changed from reading Torah only on Saturday mornings to reading Torah on both Friday night and Saturday morning. This came about with a change to a new rabbi. Our service lasts just over an hour and begins at 7:30 pm and includes a lot of music, almost all of it sung in Hebrew and beginning with L'Cha Dodi (but not nine verses--only four).  The rabbi usually does a sermon although it is relatively brief and usually related quite closely to the Torah portion. The Torah reading Friday night is usually fairly brief just a few lines which the rabbi translates as he goes. There is no haftarah reading. On Saturday morning there is a more extensive Torah reading, and the service lasts about an hour and a half, but generally no haftarah reading. Following the Torah reading there is a discussion on Saturday morning about the Torah portion--the rabbi generally starts the discussion with a few leading questions. Before the service which begins at 10:00 there is a Torah study class which runs for an hour beginning at 9:00. This class started about a year and a half ago and began with Bereishit. We cover a few verses every week. The rabbi reads and translates, and we discuss the differences in translation as well as every conceivable aspect of the text, historical, theological etc. There is a steady group of students--some stay for the service; some do not. Others come just for the service.


    170 member units
  24. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-9

                At our small synagogue, we primarily have Friday night services. Therefore, we do have Torah readings every Friday night during the year, except in summer, when services are lay-led. At that time, the leader can determine whether to have an English Torah portion or some other d'var Torah. We recite the haftarah whenever we do not have an early "family" service, which occurs about four to six times a year.
  25. April 2007 Digest 067

                …It has been our custom to read Torah on Friday night. We occasionally have Saturday services…probably four a year. We barely can get a minyan even when we do a bar mitzvah guided service…I find reading Torah on Friday much better for our synagogue as Saturday many of our children do other things, therefore synagogue is not a priority...


    About 178 Families
  26. April 2007 Digest 067

                One question…is how much overlap there is between the Friday group and the Saturday group. If they are separate "communities" you might want to read Torah both times--and even if there is some overlap, perhaps solve the repetition problem by reading different verses each session (…assuming that when you read, you don't do the entire parashah.). Of course, that creates the burden on the reader of a double preparation.

                I've heard the justification for reading Torah on Friday night that most congregants will come to services only once per Shabbat, and those that choose Friday should not be deprived of hearing Torah read. The popularity of my congregation's Kabbalat Shabbat service, at which Torah is not read, suggest to me that the time and length of the service are more important to worshipers than the content.

                …The one thing I would worry about is having your Saturday service lose relevance because it's not the exclusive time for hearing Torah.

                You might want to ask your Friday night regulars how they would feel about the addition of a Torah service--including how they would feel if it made the service twenty minutes longer. Serve the people who come--don't expect adding the Torah reading to stimulate attendance…


    1075 units
  27. April 2007 Digest 067

                …We have always read/chanted Torah on Friday nights, which is our primary Shabbat service (8:00 p.m.). When there is a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, either at 10:30 Saturday morning or, occasionally, at 5:00 p.m. on Shabbat afternoon (with Havdalah), we also read/chant Torah. We only read/chant haftarah at morning or afternoon Shabbat services. The temple I grew up in…also read Torah at the Friday evening service. It had been my impression that this was the standard for Reform temples (no one called them "synagogues" in those days!) and was one of the changes that Reform or American Reform had made.

                We probably average…fifty people for a regular Friday night service. The third Shabbat of each month is a Family Service which starts at 7:30, uses a simpler siddur and is a shorter service; the weekly parashah is not usually read at this shorter service. We only have Shabbat morning services when there is a Bar/Bat Mitzvah and, as in many other congregations, almost all the attendees are those invited by the family. We have Torah Study every Shabbat morning from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. with a loyal core of about ten people...


    Approximately 310 Families
  28. April 2007 Digest 069

                We are a very small congregation and have services only on Friday night (with Torah study every other Saturday and Talmud study every other Sunday). We have always had our Torah service on Friday night and only have Saturday morning service when there is a Bar/Bat Mitzvah service, attended by many members. We almost never have a problem with a minyan, getting 18-23 members at a typical Friday night where there is nothing special happening. The Torah service is looked forward to by those coming on Friday night.


    55 families
  29. April 2007 Digest 069

                We are a small Reform synagogue. We have two Shabbat services a month plus holidays and Sat. Bar/Bat mitzvah on Sat. morning, sometimes Sat. Eve which are not all that often. We read Torah on Friday evenings otherwise it would not get heard. We only read one portion including translation. We do the processional before the reading. If we have a student service, we do not read Torah on that Friday night. If it is a special theme service/holiday service that night, we may not read Torah. And if it is the night before a scheduled bar/bat mitzvah, we do not read Torah that night. We start at 7:30 pm and yes, time is a consideration, which is why only one portion. Services plus oneg usually go until 9ish. We usually do have a minyan. Occasionally during very bad weather we fall short, in which case the rabbi may read from the Chumash instead. This does not happen often at all, maybe once, maybe twice a year. There are some Torah study sessions on some Saturdays and/or Sundays.


    66+ families
  30. April 2007 Digest 074

                We read Torah on the third Friday eve of the month only. I prepare three to eight verses for one aliyah. Our only Saturday service is on the third Saturday following that Friday eve. This morning service is informal, followed by small Kiddush and Torah study.

                I "inherited" this minhag and my congregation prefers to keep it that way.


    80 family units



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