Welcome to Shabbat
As you enter our sanctuary you will see the ark at the front of the room. As Moses built an ark for the original tablets of the covenant, so we place our Torah scrolls in an ark. Each Torah scroll contains the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. During the service we will take one of the Torah scrolls out of the ark to be read. As is the custom in all synagogues, we read the Torah following an annual cycle. Each fall we conclude the Book of Deuteronomy, and begin again at the Book of Genesis.
Hanging from the ceiling to the right of the ark you will see the Ner Tamid, the Eternal Light. When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, a constant flame burned on the altar. That flame reminded the people of God’s constant presence in their midst. This Ner Tamid reminds us of the flame on the altar and of God’s presence in our lives. On each side of the ark there is a seven-branched menorah. This reminds us of the menorah which was part of the ancient Jerusalem Temple.
The platform at the front of the sanctuary is called the bimah. During the service, the rabbis will invite members of the congregation to the bimah for honors. Also, a thirteen-year-old boy or girl, who may be celebrating his or her bar or bat mitzvah the next morning, will also participate in leading the service. Near the end of the service, an officer of the congregation will share announcements concerning upcoming events.
While our prayer book contains both Hebrew and English, it opens like a Hebrew book, from right to left. The rabbi reads the English text in regular print; the congregation reads the text in italics. At your seats you will find a large maroon book. This chumash contains the Torah, prophetic readings, and commentaries. It also opens from right to left.
Some of the members of the congregation wear a head covering called a kipah on their heads. This expresses humility as we stand before God. Some worshippers wear a talit, a prayer shawl. In the Book of Numbers God instructs us to place fringes on the corners of our garments so we will remember the commandments. The fringes on the corners of the talit fulfill this instruction.
Congregation Etz Chaim of DuPage County, a Reform synagogue in Lombard, serves almost 500 families in the western suburbs of Chicago. We have a tradition of having an inclusive community which welcomes everyone- Jews by birth, Jews by choice, non-Jewish family members, singles, LGBTQIA2+ and people of all ages and abilities. We are a caring community that draws strength on our commitment to honor and respect the diversity of our membership.