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    Favourite Shabbat service – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Which is your favourite Shabbat service – Friday night, Shabbat morning, Musaf or Minchah?

    Gottlieb-Jews_Praying_in_the_Synagogue_on_Yom_KippurA. It’s a matter of personal choice, and every Shabbat worshipper will have his or her own answer.

    I know there was a time when I felt my congregation, who habitually only came in time for the Torah reading and Musaf, were missing out on the magnificent Shabbat morning prayers; and I made the radical suggestion (tongue-in-cheek, and probably not very halachically) that we should start with Musaf, which does not have such majestic content, then proceed to read the Torah and haftarah, and conclude with a Shacharit service.

    The only response I got was the question, “But what about the Kiddush? When are we to have the Kiddush?” So I gave up and left things as they were.

    There is a very good argument in favour of calling the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service, with its emphasis on the beauties of Creation, the best service of the week.

    A Chassidic teacher, Rabbi Chayyim of Tchernowitz, used to say that for him the most important Shabbat service was Minchah, the afternoon prayers. Not only is it short and full of joy and delight, but it begins in the relaxed mood engendered by the preceding hours of Shabbat, and it yearns for the sabbatical unity of soul between God and Israel to continue for ever.

    Despite this there could even be an argument that the Sabbath-night Havdalah is the best service, because it tells us that it is time, now that our spiritual energies have been re-charged, to move back into the world and get on with enhancing the Creation.

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