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Candle Blessing

Candle blessing (sung)
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Lighting Shabbat Candles


Candles are lit on Friday evening to mark the beginning of Shabbat. Traditionally, two candles are lit to represent the words of the commandments relating to Shabbat – "Remember (זכור; zachor) the Sabbath day to sanctify it" (Exodus 20:8), and "Keep (שמור; ​shamor) the Sabbath day to sanctify it" (Deuteronomy 5:12). One candle is for "Remember" and one is for "Keep."

Some families have a different tradition – to light one candle for each member of the family or to have every family member light their own pair of candles.

​The candles can be lit in any order. After lighting the candles, many people have the custom of waving their hands over the candles three times and then drawing their hands over their eyes before reciting the blessing. This can signify many things: drawing God's presence close to us on Shabbat, being aware and grateful to the light in our lives and to our ability to add light to the world on Shabbat or taking the time to reflect on the six days of the week that lead to Shabbat.

The blessing is then recited – either spoken or chanted. After reciting the blessing take a moment to look into the flickering lights, draw a breath, feel the rest of Shabbat surround you and transport you into a time beyond time. Shabbat shalom.

Candle blessing (read)

Modeh Ani

Modeh Ani (read)
Modeh ani (sung)
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Saying Modeh Ani

We wake up each morning with "I offer thanks to You…"  Modeh or Moda ani should be the first words on our lips. It begins our day with gratitude for the fact we are alive. Don't curse the alarm clock when you get up. Instead, thank God! Say the words of this prayer as the first thing you do when your eyes are open. Feel the peace and calm of beginning the day recognizing what a miracle it is just to be alive. Starting the day this way opens our hearts to the blessing of being alive and we prepare ourselves to treat others with humility and kindness.

Mah Tovu

Mah tovu (read)
Mah Tovu (sung)
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Mah Tovu

Mah Tovu is our opportunity to express gratitude for our family, our friends and our entire community. It allows us to remember that we are not alone in the world,  that we have our close circle of people that share our journey  and that at all times we have God by our side.

Nissim B'chol Yom

Nissim B'chol yom (read)
Nissim B’chol Yom (sung)
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Nissim B'Chol Yom
Blessings for Daily Miracles

This series of morning blessings were originally recited in the home as a part of the daily routine of getting up and getting ready for the day. Eventually, the blessings were brought into the daily morning worship service of the synagogue. 
You can see within each blessing the particular morning routine to which it refers:

1) A blessing for hearing the rooster crowing in the morning (the pre-modern equivalent of the alarm clock!) and greeting the new day with a optimism and appreciation.

2) A blessing for opening the eyes upon awaking.

3) A blessing for throwing the covers off of the bed in preparation for getting up.

4) A blessing for standing up on two feet.

5) A blessing for feeling the ground under the feet.

6) A blessing for taking the first steps of the day.

7) A blessing for having and putting on clothing.

8) A blessing for feeling fully awake and rested.

9) A blessing for rubbing the sand out of the eyes.

10) A blessing for gratitude for being physically whole.

11) A blessing of gratitude for being physically and spiritually free.

12) A blessing of gratitude for being a Jew.

Most of these blessings serve as a moment of recognition for an activity that we would usually regard as mundane but in reality is a small miracle we should be grateful for. Whether it is the ability to walk, having clothes to wear, or feeling fully awake, each blessing elevates something mundane into the realm of the sacred. In reciting the blessings, we recognize that every moment of our lives is an opportunity to notice the presence of divinity and the miracles that surround us. What an awesome and awe-inspiring way to start the day!


Candle Blessing
Modeh Ani
Nissim B'chol Yom
Mah Tovu
La'asok b'divrei Torah

La'asok B'divrei Torah

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La’asok b’divrei Torah (read)
La’asok b’divrei Torah (sung)

La’asok B’divrei Torah - The Blessing for the Study of Torah

This blessing is different from the blessing before the ritual of reading from the Torah during the Torah service. This blessing reminds us that studying is not something we do just to become more knowledgeable, but rather that study is itself a spiritual act. We should always aspier to keep growing as individuals. By studying, we become closer to our ideal vision for ourselves and by that, closer to the image in which God created us. We make a blessing before we study Torah to remind ourselves that we are not studying this ancient text just because it is historically significant (even though it is), just because it is literarily magnificent (even though it is), and not even just because it helps us understand Jewish law (even though it does). We study Torah because it sanctifies our lives and helps us discover meaning and purpose in life. Studying Torah draws us closer to God.



Ashrei (read)
Ashrei (sung)
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Reciting Ashrei

Ashrei (literally meaning happy) is one of the most often repeated prayers in Jewish tradition. In Orthodox practice, a person recites Ashrei at least three times a day, twice in the morning service and once in the afternoon service. In our prayer book, Ashrei is recited only once in the morning service.

Ashrei is made up mostly of Psalm 145. The words of Ashrei mostly praise God for making our lives joyful, for ruling the world with justice, and for providing for all our needs.

At Temple Judea we repeat the first part of the prayer again and again allowing people to share, between repetitions, things in their lives they are grateful for. We recognize that gratitude is not something we are born with, it’s something we have to learn and have to practice every day! Our rabbis ordered us to try and find 100 hundred different things we are grateful for every day!  So this repetition and reciting Ashrei can be not only a meditative experience, but one that helps us become better and more grateful people. The specific words of the prayer are not as important as the pleasure of joining with other voices in familiar song.



Hall’luyah (chorus only) sung

Hallelu in Hebrew means give praise, Yah is the way we refer to God. This prayer, known as the last of the Psalms (number 150) is a great last opportunity every morning and afternoon to express gratitude to God for all the blessings we have in our lives.

It mentions many different musical instruments that were used in the Temple in Jerusalem to praise God, reminding us that we are all “a musical instrument” that each of us is unique, and that each of us has their own voice to use when praising God.

Chatzi Kaddish

Chatzi Kaddish

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Chatzi Kaddish (read)
Chatzi Kaddish (sung)
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The Chatzi Kaddish

There are many forms of the prayer called Kaddish. The Chatzi Kaddish (or "Half Kaddish") is probably one of the oldest prayers that Jews recite. Its purpose is to mark the separation between sections of the service. In our Shabbat morning service, we recite the Chatzi Kaddish following the end of the introductory sections of the service and right before the Bar'chu, the "Call to Prayer."

The Chatzi Kaddish is in Aramaic, not Hebrew. In the time of the ancient rabbis, Aramaic was the common language spoken by most Jews. The presence of this Aramaic prayer in the prayerbook shows that the ancient rabbis recognized the importance of praying in the vernacular, the common language of the people. In our congregation, we do the same thing when we recite some of our prayers in English.



Barechu (read)
Barechu (sung)


The Chatzi Kaddish mentioned above marks a moment of transition in the service. We recite it before the Bar'chu  to signal worshippers that we have concluded the "spiritual warmup" section of the service and we are about to move into the first major section of the service, called "The Shema and Its Blessings." We respond by standing in attention and setting a personal intention within our hearts for our prayers.

Once we stand - The Bar'chu is recited in a "call and response" format. The prayer leader commands the congregation, "Bless Adonai who is blessed!" and the congregation responds, "Blessed is Adonai who is blessed forever and ever!"

When we say the word Bar’chu, we bend our knees and bow forward. This is done as a sign of respect as well as humbling ourselves in front of a power we recognize to be bigger than us.

The words of the Bar’chu do seem a bit odd. Why should we bless God if, as the words of the prayer say, God is already blessed now and forever?

The answer may be that we do not bless God in order to change God. God is already the source of all blessings, whether we acknowledge it or not. It is not in our power to change God in any way. Rather, we bless God in order to change ourselves. When we state, "Blessed is Adonai," we recognize that we are blessed by God. By acknowledging God's gifts to us: the world we live in, minds that can understand, hearts that can feel compassion, and our very lives,  we become more understanding and more compassionate human beings who live with a sense of gratitude and obligation to God.



Shema (sung)
Shema (read)


The six Hebrew words of the Sh'ma, "Hear O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One," “Sh’ma Israel Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad” are regarded as the central statement of Jewish faith. Probably the most important and most well-known prayer that most Jews can recite.

Yet, it can be interpreted and understood in many ways. In declaring She'ma, we state that there is one God who is the source of all morality. There is such a thing as right and wrong in the universe because there is one God who sets one standard for all.

The Sh'ma also teaches that God is One – the oneness that unites all reality. There is nothing that God is not. Everything and everyone that inhabits reality is a reflection of God's presence. 

For many people it is a reminder that we are ONE with God, created in God’s image and having a spark of God within us (our soul).



V’ahavtah (read)
V’ahavtah (sung)
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The prayer that we call "V'ahavta" is actually the continuation of the Sh'ma.

Traditionally, the Sh'ma consists of three biblical passages from the Torah. The first passage, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, states the obligation to love God with all our being (heart, mind and soul). The second passage ,Deuteronomy 11:13-21, is not included in the prayer book of the Reform Movement; it describes God's reward for obeying the commandments and the punishment for disobeying. The third passage, Numbers 15:37-41, begins with the commandment to wear tzitzit, the fringes on the corner of the tallit (not included in our prayer book) and ends with "L'maan tizk'ru…," the section that states the obligation to remember and do all of God's commandments. 

​Traditionally, the Sh'ma is recited twice each day, in the morning and evening worship services. This reflects the commandment within the passage to recite the words "when you lie down and when you rise up." The passage also includes the commandment to put a mezuzah on the doors of our homes ("…inscribe them on the doorposts of your house…").

It might occur to you that the commandment to love God in this passage is difficult to understand and to fulfill. How is it possible to order someone to have an emotion? How can love be commanded? 

Here is one way to understand the commandment.

We recognize that, when people love each other, they do things for each other that deepen the love between them. For example, when I prepare a meal for the person I love, or when I wash the dishes after the meal, I do so, in part, because I know that it will make my partner happy. That makes me feel happy, too, because I enjoy meeting the needs of the person I love. Doing things like that makes me love my partner even more.

It is the same in our relationship with God. When we do what we know God wants from us – the mitzvot – it makes God feel good and it makes us feel good too. Doing mitzvot deepens the love we share with God. You may experience this yourself when you do something to help a person in need. It feels good to do things that are good, in part because it makes you feel closer to God.

The commandment to "love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might" can be understood as a commandment to do the mitzvot with a feeling of joy and love. When you perform a mitzvah in this way, it deepens your love for God. The commandment to love God is not just an order to feel a particular emotion. Rather, it is a commandment about the attitude you have when you do things that draw you closer to God. Loving God and deepening your love for God is a choice you make every day through your actions.

Mi Chamocha

Mi Chamochah

Mi Chamocha (read)
Mi Chamocha (sung)
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Mi Chamocha

The words of this prayer appear in the story of the Exodus, when the people of Israel crossed the sea of reeds, escaping from the Egyptians, they raised their voices in song declaring that there “Is no one like Adonai among all Gods.”

It is a daily reminder of the idea of redemption – that we are free people, that we have free will to choose love over hate, goodness over evil and compassion over cruelty. We are free to worship God and to follow God’s commandments – things we could not do as slaves.

It also reminds us that just as the people of Israel overcame their fears and the challenge of having to cross the parted sea (Just think how frightening this was for them) so can we overcome every challenge in our lives, if we learn to march together and to have faith in God.

Avot V'imahot

Avot V'imahot

Avot V’imahot (read)
Avot V’imahot (sung)
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Avot V’Imahot

The opening blessing of the T'filah is called Avot v'Imahot, which literally means "Fathers and Mothers." The blessing connects us with the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and the matriarchs – Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. We remember that we are part of the covenant with God that started with these ancestors. 

In the words of the blessing, God is identified separately for each ancestor. We say, "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…," rather than just saying, "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…" A rabbinic teaching says that this is because God is understood differently by each of us and God connects differently to each person. By saying, "The God of…," for each ancestor, we remember that there is no one correct way to think about God.



G’vurot (read)
G’vurot (sung)
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The second blessing of the T'filah is called the G'vurot, which means "Strength." The blessing acknowledges that God has power over our lives, focusing on two areas where we most immediately think of God's power: the weather and death.

In ancient times, the weather was a matter of life and death every day. If the rain did not fall at the right time of year, the crops would not grow, and people would die. That is why the words of the blessing change over the course of the year; we pray for the right weather that is needed in each season. In our contemporary world, we also realize the power the weather has over our lives.


Our mortality is the second major theme of the blessing. We human beings are temporary, and we realize that death is the common fate of everyone who lives. The blessing refers to God as the source of life and death. When we think of God's power in our lives, we also think about the fragility of our lives, about how life is a gift from God, and how death is part of the reality of the world.

The traditional version of this blessing made the theme of life and death even more clear. The older version of the blessing uses the words in parentheses that speak of God who "revives the dead." The Reform Movement originally changed those words to "gives life to all" in both the English and the Hebrew. The early Reformers rejected the traditional language because it refers to the idea that God will bring all those who have died back to life at the end of time – a literal belief that is rejected by Reform Judaism.

However, the idea of God "reviving the dead" does not have to be understood on a literal level. We can think of God as reviving us from death when we are healed from sickness or when we emerge from a life-threatening situation. Also, we can think of God "reviving the dead" when we keep people alive in our memories after they have died. Mishkan T'filah was the first prayerbook to offer both the traditional form of the blessing (in parentheses) and the revised language of the Reform Movement.

L'dor Vador

L'dor Vador

L’dor Vador (read)

L'dor Vador

A part of the Kedusha. That reminds us that we are just one link in a long tradition that started thousands of years ago and that we hope continues for eternity. It has always been a Jewish value to pass on the teachings and traditions of Judaism from one generation to another, the commandment to teach our children is part of the Shema and the V’Ahavta prayer. As Jews we commit to doing all we can to keep the flame of Judaism alive. While we are just a small percentage of the world population (about 0.0002) Judaism has shaped great parts of the western world over the last 3000 years and more. Many of the great empires that ruled over Jews are long gone but in some miraculous way, Judasim has survived.

L’dor Vador (sung)

Blessing for Taking Out the Torah

Blessing for Taking Out the Torah

Just as the tablets with the Ten Commandments were stored in the ark of the covenant, which was placed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem. We honor our Torah by dressing and covering it with beautiful garments and placing it in a special location in our temple called “the ark” When the time arrives to chant from the Torah, we rise and take the torah out, chanting various prayers that speak about the greatness of God, his love to us as reflected in giving us the gift of Torah, and the role of Torah in our lives.

Taking out the Torah blessing
Taking out the Torah blessing (read)
Taking out the Torah blessings (sung)
Blessing before Torah

Blessing Before the Torah

Blessing before Torah (read)
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Blessing before Torah (sung)

Blessing Before the Torah -Do We Really Believe that God Chose Us and Gave Us the Torah?

In the blessing before the reading of the Torah, we say that God "chose us from all the peoples and gave us God's Torah." Do we, as Reform Jews, believe that literally? If not, why do we say so in the blessing?

Reform Jews, in general, do not believe in the literal transmission of the words of the Torah from God to the Jewish people at a single historical event at Mount Sinai. We see Sinai as a symbol of our ongoing relationship between God and the Jewish people. We believe that the Torah is a work written by human beings who were inspired by God and who wished to share the stories and laws that helped them understand God and God's will. According to this view, the Torah is the product of centuries of Jews who discussed and created laws and legends that drew them closer to God and what it means to live as God wishes us to live. That process has not ended. We are still creating new understandings and interpretations of Torah.

Reform Judaism does embrace the idea of the Jewish people being "chosen," but this term does not suggest that the Jewish people are superior to other people or closer to God. Rather, we believe ourselves to be "chosen" in the sense that we have a unique relationship with God that we call a b'rit (a covenant, or agreement) and we live by doing God's mitzvot (commandments). We say that God chose us for the relationship we have with God; other people have their own relationship with God and their own ways of connecting with God.

Torah is God's gift to the Jewish people, and it is the foundation of our unique relationship with God. In saying this, we are not accepting a supernatural view of the Torah and we are not saying that we are superior to others. Rather, we celebrate the text that is at the heart of our ever developing and reforming relationship with God. That is how we understand the words of the Torah blessing.

Blessing after Torah

Blessing After the Torah

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Blessing after Torah (read)
Blessing after Torah (sung)

Blessing after the Torah - How to Come up to the Bimah for an Aliyah

The honor of making the blessing before and after the Torah reading is called an Aliyah​, which literally means "going up." Making the blessings for Torah is a spiritual ascent in which we figuratively go up to Mount Sinai to hear God speaking to us once again. 

The person who accepts the honor of an Aliyah – called an Oleh (masculine) or Olah (feminine) – is called up to the bimah by his or her Hebrew name. The Oleh/Olah comes up to the Torah reading table on the right side. Standing in front of the Torah scroll, the Oleh/Olah touches the corner of his or her tallit to the beginning of the reading and then touches the tallit to his or her lips. (You can also use the Torah belt). This symbolizes the sweetness of Torah. The Oleh/Olah then takes hold of the wooden posts of the scroll and recites the blessing before the Torah reading. The words of the blessings are printed on a large laminated sheet in Hebrew and in English transliteration. Holding on to the Wooden posts is a reminder of our commitment to “hold on to” the words of Torah.

After you recite the first sentence of the blessing the congregation will recite the second sentence. You will then repeat the second sentence before continuing with the blessing. 

Following the recitation of the Torah, the Oleh/Olah again touches the scroll with his or her tallit at the end of the reading, touches it to his or her lips, takes hold of the wooden posts, and recites the blessing after the reading. Following the blessing, the Oleh/Olah steps to the other side of the Torah reading table to make room for the next Oleh/Olah and stays on the bimah until the end of the next Aliyah. Before returning to his or her seat in the congregation, the Oleh/Olah shakes hands with the other people on the bimah and receives a special blessing from the Gabbai (the MC of the prayer service)

​People will say to the Oleh/Olah, "Yashar Koach" ("May you go from strength to strength"). The traditional response is "Baruch Tih'yeh" ("May you be blessed"). 

Blessing before Haftarah