RS651-Basics of Synagogue Worship

Instructor: Rabbi Benjamin Raker Ehrenfeld
Dates: January 12, March 15, 2020
Location: Orbund (

This course provides students of the Master of Rabbinic Studies degree the basic history and halakhic background of synagogue worship as it has developed from the early rabbinic period into the 21st century. Students will read source materials, study the texts of Jewish prayer for weekdays and Shabbat, actively participate in local synagogue worship, actively pray out of the siddur throughout the course on their own, and share reflections during class discussion. The course focuses on the growth and development of an individual’s personal experience in meaningful Jewish prayer.

This is a foundational liturgical class and pre-requisite for RS652 Leading Shabbat and Weekday Services and RS653 Leading High Holiday and Hagim. This class focuses on structural information and on developing the individual’s experience in meaningful Jewish prayer and services. The two classes that follow focus on Jewish prayer from a leader’s perspective.

Rabbis are exemplars of an integrated prayer life and it is necessary for them to be readily comfortable in teaching, engaging in, and leading synagogue worship. Additionally, a basic function of a rabbi is to ensure regular worship within his/her community’s framework.

Basic Hebrew skills or registration in BH511 Grammar of Biblical Hebrew Level 1-1. Course limited to MRS students only.

Students must have a computer and Internet access

Listening to lectures, asynchronous blog discussion, two Zoom video call class discussions, and individualized learning contract work (Guided Learning Contract-GLC).

Listening to lectures, completing all assignments, participating in class discussion, reading materials, and completion of the final exam. Students will be required to formulate and complete a GLC under the direction of two mentors. Students must have approved mentors prior to the beginning of the class.


  • Forte, Bruno. The Portal of Beauty: Towards a Theology of Aesthetics. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008.
  • Frishman, Elyse, ed. Mishkan T’filah: A Reform Siddur, transliterated. New York: CCAR Press, 2007.
  • Hoffman, Lawrence, ed. My People’s Prayer Book: Seder K’riat HaTorah (The Torah Service). Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2000.
  • Hoffman, Lawrence, ed. My People’s Prayer Book: P’sukei D’zimrah (Morning Psalms). Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1999.
  • Hoffman, Lawrence. The Art of Public Prayer: Not for Clergy Only. Woodstock, VT: Sky Light Paths Publishing, 1999.
  • Sacks, Rabbi Lord Jonathan. The Koren Sacks Siddur, with English Translation and Commentary. Jerusalem: Koren Publishers, 2009. Standard Edition, ISBN 9789653010673
  • Weisenberg, Joey. Building Singing Communities: A Practical Guide to Unlocking the Power of Music in Jewish Prayer. New York, Mechon Hadar, 2011.
  • Source Packet for RS651. Compiled and Edited by Rabbi Benjamin Raker Ehrenfeld. This will be provided to students. No purchase.


Podcasts will be posted each Sunday morning by 10AM EST. The podcasts must be listened to prior to participation in class discussion threads. In order to sustain a meaningful asynchronous discussion, you should normally log on to the course blog and post five or more times between Sunday morning and Thursday night. The week’s readings are due to be read by the Sunday of that week.

A Guided Learning Contract (GLC) will be the instrument for personalized learning as well as spiritual assessment and growth. Students and mentors will receive instructions for contracts and sample contracts during the first week of class. Students will be responsible for meeting with your clergy and lay mentors weekly and Rabbi Ben at least once during the course. Approved GLCs are due to be posted on Orbund by  4:00 pm EST, Friday Feb. 7, 2020.

Final exams will be sent to students immediately following the Week 8 Zoom meeting class discussion and review. Each student will complete an Integrative Contract Evaluation (ICE) documenting the GLC. These integrative papers will be due along with mentor  evaluations, and the final exam via email ( Sunday, Mar. 15, before 11:59 pm EST.

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