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 (Kabbalat 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), Amidah for the Additional Service on Rosh Chodesh, Amidah for Festivals, and Amidah for the Additional Service onFestivals. Just before or after the Amidah for the Additional Service on Festivals come the many special prayers said only on selected 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 atah Adonai”. These words always signal the end of one unit of brachot (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.      Reading of the Torah (Monday, Thursday, Sabbath, festivals)

5.      Musaf (Sabbath and festivals)

6.      Aleinu (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 of 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


Additional service for Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot


Aish: A Peek into the Jewish Prayer Book

Chabad: The Prayer Book

My Jewish Learning: Siddur: Jewish Prayer Book

My Jewish Learning: How to Choose a Siddur (includes information about differences between the siddurs used by various streams of Judaism)