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Judaism

What is a synagogue used for?

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08/14/2017

Synagogues are used for worship, education and study.

Public prayer services are part of halakha (Jewish law) and tradition (Talmud, Berakhot 26a).
Prayer is an important form of communicating with God, and maintaining a relationship with Him; and it is also good for the health of the soul, to which Torah, prayer and religious observances are a form of nourishment.

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04/14/2017

Synagogues are where Jews hold services of public worship, three times a day, every day of the year. Anyone may lead the prayers, but on Sabbath and festivals this is traditionally done by a specially trained chazan. In addition to worship, synagogues may be used for the occasional communal function, and have always been used for teaching Torah.
According to our tradition, we can pray privately when necessary, but communal prayer in the synagogue has a much stronger effect (Talmud, Berakhot 7b-8a). Praying also strengthens the spiritual level and the bonds within the community.

The importance of prayer:
Prayer services are part of halakha (Jewish law) and tradition (Talmud, Berakhot 26a); and the Torah records several prayers of our forefathers.
Prayer is an important form of communicating with God, and maintaining a relationship with Him; and it is also good for the health of the soul, to which Torah, prayer and religious observances are a form of nourishment. Judaism sees it as centrally important to thank God, to recognize that He is the source of prosperity, and to be close to Him.
How do Jews pray?
The Jewish prayer-book has a structured order. Prayers are ancient, and often are sung or chanted. Some prayers are said in unison (such as Shir Hakavod), and some are not. Some prayers are said more than once per day (such as the Shema), some once a day (such as Yotzer Ohr), and others are said only on Sabbath, festivals or certain occasions. Some prayers are said aloud (such as Kaddish), some are sung (such as Lekha Dodi) and some are to be whispered (the Amidah). Most of the services are in Hebrew, but a couple of prayers are in Aramaic (such as Brikh Shemei).


While praying, Jews either sit, or stand, depending on the prayer. There is also some bowing forward (in the Amidah and Aleinu), but Jews today do not kneel except once a year on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
In between the prayers, Kaddish is said; and the Torah is read on many occasions (over two hundred times a year).
While formal prayer services are held in the synagogue three times each day throughout the year, many other blessings (such as those over meals) are said in the home.

  • See also the Related Links.

Link: What is the Jewish prayerbook?

Link: When are synagogue services held?

Link: What is the purpose of the "eternal light"?

Link: Which way does the Holy Ark face?