Structure of the Siddur

The location of each prayer in the liturgy is not accidental. The structure of the service as a whole is a set pattern common to all the services: morning, afternoon, and evening, daily, Shabbat and festival. The general arrangement of the siddur intended for daily use is as follows:

The weekday services come first, starting with the Morning Weekday Service, then the Afternoon Weekday Service, and then the Evening Weekday Service. Then follows the service for Shabbat. This starts with Welcoming the Shabbat, then the Evening Service for Shabbat and Festivals, followed by Morning Service for Shabbat and Festivals, Additional Service for Shabbat, and Afternoon Service for Shabbat. The concluding evening service for the Shabbat day is usually found after the Shabbat Afternoon Service, but for most of this service you turn to the weekday section as the evening service for Saturday night and weekdays is almost the same.

Often included in the section after the Shabbat prayers are Kiddush, zemirot, and Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers). Following are the prayers said only on the festivals. These include Hallel (Psalms of Praise), Additional Amidah for Rosh Chodesh, Amidah for Festivals, and Additional Amidah for Festivals. Just before or after the Additional Amidah for Festivals come the many special prayers said only on festivals. Then follow many varied blessings and special prayers. This section varies depending on the siddur.

Two basic prayers dominate: the Shema and the Amidah. The Shema must be recited when “thou liest down at night and when thou risest up in the morning”. The rabbis interpret this as meaning we are commanded to recite these verses morning and night. The Shema has thus become the core of the morning and evening services. The Amidah, the second basic prayer, is said three times a day, morning, afternoon and night. Each person says it silently.

Between the sections of the service, some form of the Kaddish usually appears. It separates the major sections of the service. The only time this does not happen is in Shacharit where no Kaddish separates the Shema and the Amidah. However, we know a new unit has begun because the first words of the Amidah are “Baruch ata Adonai”. These words always signal the end of one unit of berachot (blessings or prayers) and the beginning of another.

The ancient outline of the services

Shacharit (Morning Service)

1. Preliminary blessings and Psalms
2. The Shema (including two blessings before and one after)
3. The Amidah (standing silent prayer)
4. eading of the Torah (Monday, Thursday, Sabbath, festivals)
5. Musaf (Sabbath and festivals)
6. Aleinu (theme: God’s kingship)
7. Mourners’ kaddish
8. Closing hymn

Minchah (Afternoon Service)

1. Ashrei (a Psalm)
2. “A redeemer shall come to Zion” (Sabbath and Festivals)
3. Amidah
4. Torah reading (Sabbath and fast days)
5. Aleinu
6. Mourners’ kaddish

Ma’ariv (Evening Service)

1. Short reading from Psalms
2. Shema (including blessings before and after)
3. Amidah
4. Aleinu
5. Mourners’ kaddish

Example Table of Contents of a Siddur
  • Daily morning service
  • Daily afternoon service
  • Daily evening service
  • Welcoming Shabbat
  • Friday evening service
  • Shabbat morning service
  • Additional service for Shabbat
  • Torah service
  • Shabbat afternoon service
  • Additional service for new month
  • Hallel
  • Additional service for Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot