The crescendo of the Kabbalat Shabbat service is the beautiful poem Lechoh Dodi – Come my Beloved. It was composed by HaRav Shlom Halevi Alkabetz who lived in Tsfat in the sixteenth century alongside the great scholars and Kabbalists of the day such as the Arizal, Rav Moshe Cordovero and Rav Yosef Karo, the author of our Shulchan Aruch. The first letter of each of the eight verses spells out Shlomo Halevi as an acrostic signature. The Tefillah has been embraced by all walks of Jewish life and can be heard in Ashkenazic, Sefardic, and Chassidic synagogues every Friday night.
The commentators rmark that the basis for the Tefillah is a passage in the Talmud Shabbat 119a that states, “Rabi Chanina would wrap himself in his garb Erev Shabbat and proclaim, ‘Let us go and greet the Shabbat Queen.’ Rabi Yannai says, ‘Please enter my bride, Oh enter my bride.’” In fact it was customary years ago to actually go out of the synagogue at sunset and welcome the Shabbat to the world each week.
Before we advance to the content of the poem, we must understand why in fact the Shabbat is manifested as a bride/queen. It is unusual for any of our mitzvot, holidays or rituals to be portrayed as a character.
The Vilna Gaon in his Aggadic commentary to Tractate Bava Kama 32b explains that the reason the Shabbat is referenced as a bride/queen is that all other days of Creation have a partner, however, Shabbat was missing its Zivug (partner). Sunday and Wednesday are partners in that on both days there was a creation involving light. Monday and Thursday are partners because on both days there was a creation involving water. And Tuesday and Friday are partners because on both days there was a creation involving earth. The only day missing a Zivug was Shabbat. The partner of Shabbat is US – the people of Israel. We were destined for each other from the time of Creation.
This is why the three different Tefillot on Shabbat correspond to the three parts of a wedding. On Friday night we recite Atoh Kidashta – which represents Kiddushin. Shabbat morning when we recite Yismach Moshe….Kelil Tiferet..Al Har Sinai which represents Nessuin under the Chupah as the Jews stood under Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah. Shabbat afternoon at Mincha we recite Atoh Echad ..Umi Keamcha Beit Yisrael… which represents Yichud after the Chuppah. The meals on Shabbat are celebrations of our relationship to the Shabbat. Therefore we sing Lechoh Dodi Likrat Kallah – Let’s go greet our bride – The Shabbat Queen.
Take Home Tip: Our relationship with Shabbat is like a marriage. The more time and energy one invests in their marriage, the more they get out of it. So too, the more one learns about, prepares for and invests themselves in Shabbat, the more they will get out of it as well.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein, Congregation Sons of Israel, Cherry Hill, New Jersey for Tefillah Tips
Orthodox Union Department of Community Services Frank Buchweitz, National Director Hannah Farkas, Program Manager Adina Tabak, Administrative Assistant
Archived Tefillah Tips and videos may be found at: www.oucommunity.org under The Tefillah Initiative banner.
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