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What is Shacharit?

A. Shacharit is the daily morning Tefillah. The word Shacharit comes from the Hebrew word Shachar, or morning,  commemorating the Tamid Shel Shachar sacrifice offered in the Holy Temple every morning.

B. Since we don’t have the Temple offerings and sacrifices today, we offer our prayers instead. As the prophet Hoseah says1 “And we will render the prayer of our lips in place of the sacrifice of bullocks”.

C. Shacharit was invented by Abraham, the first Jew, who would regularly connect to G-d in the morning time, and taught his descendants to do likewise.

What are the contents of Shacharit?

1. Verses of Praise

The standard introduction is the first of Shacharit’s three sections, entitled Verses of Praise, or Pesukei D’zimra (pronounced peh-SOO-kay d-ZEEM-rah) in Hebrew. Pesukei D’zimra is mostly composed of chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) describing G-d’s greatness and His involvment in the world.

2. Shema

Coming right before the amidah, Shema is the expression of the most absolute Jewish belief and the second-most important part of Shacharit. The word Shema is Hebrew for hear, and is the first word of the eternally famous verse “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad,” which means “Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One.” That opening verse is followed by three paragraphs quoted directly from the Torah describing how a Jew is to interact with G-d, and vice versa.

3. The Amidah

The Amidah (pronounced ah-MEE-dah) is the central, critical section of Shacharit, around which the other sections were built. In the times of the Temples, when full tefillah services were not required, tefillah consisted of the Amidah only. The Amidah, which means “standing” in Hebrew, is a series of 12 requests of G-d recited silently while standing at attention, as if before a king, introduced by three praises of G-d and capped by three thank-yous. Because of the eighteen sections, the amidah is also known as the Shmoneh Esrei, meaning “eighteen” in Hebrew (although it’s really nineteen, because of one extra request added later). These nineteen sections are:

a) The Shield of Abraham (Introduction Part I),

b) The Resurrection of the Dead (Introduction Part II)

c) The Holiness of G-d (Introduction Part III);

d) Request for clear thinking…

e) …Repentance…

f) …Forgiveness…

g) …Redemption…

h) …Health and healing…

i) …Climate beneficial for agriculture…

j) …Ingathering of the exiles…

k) …Justice…

l) …Destruction and rehabilitation of our enemies…

m) …Good things for good people…

n) …Restoration of Jerusalem…

o) …Reinstatement of the Davidic dynasty…

p) …Acceptance of one’s prayers;

q) Restoration of Temple sacrifices (Conclusion Part I),

r) Champion of our Lives (Conclusion Part II), and

s) The Prayer for Peace (Conclusion Part III).

4. The Ending Prayers

The prayers wind down with the recitation of the tachanun, and several other prayers — famous amomg them the Ein K’Elokeinu and the Aleinu. On Mondays, Thursdays, and certain other days of note — such as Rosh Chodesh and chanukah — the Torah is taken out and a small section of the weekly Torah portion is read.  Also recited is the special song (Psalm) of the day which the Levites would sing each day of the week in the Holy Temple.