Lecha Dodi II
The signature Tefillah of Kabbalat Shabbat is Lechoh Dodi – “Come my Beloved”.
The opening letter of each paragraph spells out the name of the author Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz who lived in Safed in the 1500s at the time of the Arizal and Rav Yosef Karo.
The opening verse and refrain is Lechoh Dodi Likrat Kallah Pnei Shabbat Nekablah – “Come my Beloved, to greet the bride, let us welcome the Shabbat Presence”. The commentators explain that Dodi-‘My Beloved,’ is actually G-d. It seems enigmatic that we invite G-d to go greet the Shabbat Queen; who is this mysterious Shabbat Queen? Rav Pincus zt”l explains that the Shabbat Queen represents G-d’s Royal, Omnipotent and Eternally Redemptive presence- The Shechinah. Therefore we sing Lechoh Dodi – Come Hashem (in our current state), let’s go greet Eternity-Pnei Shabbat together.
The first stanza recalls the moment at Mt.Sinai when Hashem commands the Jewish nation to observe Shabbat. Shamor Vezachor Bedibbur Echad –Hashem miraculously voices simultaneously the positive commandment of Zachor-To Remember the Shabbat and Shamor-to Guard the Shabbat. Our tradition teaches that the Torah was actually transmitted on Shabbat itself which signifies the centrality of Shabbat in Jewish thought and Jewish life. As the famous saying goes: “More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews”.
The next stanza is Likrat Shabbat Lechu Venaylcha Ki Hee Mekor Habracha – “Let us go welcome the Shabbat because it is the source of all blessing.” There are two significant messages layered within these holy words: 1. To engage the majesty of Shabbat one must extend himself and reach for the Shabbat – Likrat Shabbat Lechu Venaylcha. 2. When one celebrates Shabbat correctly, a taste of the World to Come, the source of all blessings, is experienced (Talmud Shabbat).
The rest of the prayer/poem at first glance seems to have nothing to do with Shabbat. We pray for Jerusalem, G-d’s throne and the demise of our oppressors…. What does this have to do with Shabbat? Answer: It is referring not merely to our weekly observance of Shabbat, but rather to the time when the entire world will be in a state of Shabbat – the time of Moshiach. B’ezrat Hashem next week we will conclude our study of Lechoh Dodi.
Take Home Tip: When we sing Lechoh Dodi remember that Shabbat is the source of all blessings and provides a true taste of the World To Come.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein, Congregation Sons of Israel, Cherry Hill, New Jersey for Tefillah Tips
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