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Lecha Dodi: Welcoming Shabbat the Bride

Published February 20, 2019 | Updated August 26, 2019

by Gabriella Tzin

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    Lecha Dodi” is translated into English as “Come my Beloved,” and it is a traditional Jewish song that is part of the Kabbalat Shabbat service held on Friday nights. It was written in the sixteenth century by Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, who later joined the Kabbalistic movement in Tzfat.

    shabbat

    In Talmudic times, Shabbat was perceived as a bride, and the day itself was thought of as a wedding ceremony.  An example of this can be seen in the Talmud from Shabbat 119a:

    “The Gemara now returns to the issue of delight in and deference to Shabbat. Rabbi Ḥanina would wrap himself in his garment and stand at nightfall on Shabbat eve, and say: ‘Come and we will go out to greet Shabbat the queen.’ Rabbi Yannai put on his garment on Shabbat eve and said: ‘Enter, O bride. Enter, O bride.’”

    The idea of Shabbat being considered a bride was further elaborated by the Kabbalists of Tzfat towards the end of the sixteenth century, who incorporated the tradition of reciting special psalms before the start of Shabbat on Friday nights. By the twelfth century, a custom was established to recite Psalm 92 as a way of welcoming the incoming Shabbat. The group of Jewish mystics in Tzfat, however, took this practice a step further.

    They were known to dress in all white clothing and gather in the fields as the sun started to set on Friday evening. They would commence their Shabbat wedding ceremony by singing six additional psalms, each one representing a different day of the week.  After that, they would welcome the coming of Shabbat the bride with the song, “Lecha Dodi.”

    The song itself is a beautiful compilation of passages from the Bible, references of Jerusalem, the Messiah, and the Jewish people, prophecies from Isaiah, as well as hints of Talmudic and Midrashic ideology. There are numerous melodies that were written for this song from around the world, each tune differing slightly depending on the culture and sect of Judaism.

    Despite the origin of this song being deeply rooted in Kabbalah, “Lecha Dodi” and the depiction of Shabbat as a bride both serve as unique ways to remember the sanctity and beauty of this special day.

    Below are the lyrics to the Ashkenazi version of “Lecha Dodi” in Hebrew and English:

    בעברית:

    לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה. פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה:

    שָׁמוֹר וְזָכוֹר בְּדִבּוּר אֶחָד, הִשְמִיעָֽנוּ אֵל הַמְּיֻחָד.

    ה’ אֶחָד וּשְמוֹ אֶחָד. לְשֵׁם וּלְתִפְאֶֽרֶת וְלִתְהִלָּה:

    לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה. פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה:

    לִקְרַאת שַׁבָּת לְכוּ וְנֵלְכָה. כִּי הִיא מְקוֹר הַבְּרָכָה.

    מֵרֹאשׁ מִקֶּֽדֶם נְסוּכָה. סוֹף מַעֲשֶׂה בְּמַחֲשָׁבָה תְּחִלָּה:

    לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה. פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה:

    מִקְדַּשׁ מֶֽלֶךְ עִיר מְלוּכָה. קֽוּמִי צְאִי מִתּוֹךְ הַהֲפֵכָה.

    רַב לָךְ שֶֽׁבֶת בְּעֵֽמֶק הַבָּכָא. וְהוּא יַחֲמוֹל עָלַֽיִךְ חֶמְלָה:

    לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה. פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה:

    הִתְנַעֲרִי מֵעָפָר קוּמִי. לִבְשִׁי בִּגְדֵי תִפְאַרְתֵּךְ עַמִּי:

    עַל יַד בֶּן יִשַׁי בֵּית הַלַּחְמִי. קָרְבָה אֶל נַפְשִׁי גְאָלָהּ:

    לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה. פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה:

    הִתְעוֹרְרִי הִתְעוֹרְרִי. כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְ קֽֽוּמִי אֽוֹרִי.

    עֽוּרִי עֽוּרִי שִׁיר דַבֵּֽרִי. כְּבוֹד ה’ עָלַֽיִךְ נִגְלָה.

    לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה. פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה:

    לֹא תֵבֽוֹשִׁי וְלֹא תִכָּלְמִי. מַה תִּשְתּוֹחֲחִי וּמַה תֶּהֱמִי.

    בָּךְ יֶחֱסוּ עֲנִיֵּי עַמִּי, וְנִבְנְתָה עִיר עַל תִּלָּהּ:

    לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה. פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה:

    וְהָיוּ לִמְשִׁסָּה שֹׁאסָֽיִךְ. וְרָחֲקוּ כָּל מְבַלְּעָֽיִךְ.

    יָשִׂישׂ עָלַֽיִךְ אֱלֹהָֽיִךְ. כִּמְשׂוֹשׂ חָתָן עַל כַּלָּה:

    לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה. פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה:

    יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאל תִּפְרֽוֹצִי. וְאֶת־ה’ תַּעֲרִֽיצִי.

    עַל יַד אִישׁ בֶּן פַּרְצִי. וְנִשְׂמְחָה וְנָגִֽילָה:

    לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה. פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה:

    בּֽוֹאִי בְשָׁלוֹם עֲטֶרֶת בַּעְלָהּ. גַּם בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְצָהֳלָה.

    תּוֹךְ אֱמוּנֵי עַם סְגֻּלָּה. בּֽוֹאִי כַלָּה, בּֽוֹאִי כַלָּה:

    לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה. פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה:

     

    Transliteration:

    Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

     

    Shamor v’zachor b’dibur echad,

    Hishmi’anu el ha’meyuchad.

    Adonai echad u’shmo echad;

    L’shem ul’tiferet v’l’tehila.

    Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

     

    Likrat Shabbat l’chu v’nelcha,

    Ki hi m’kor ha’bracha.

    Me’rosh mi’kedem n’sucha;

    Sof ma’aseh b’mach’shava t’chila.

    Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

     

    Mikdash melech, ir m’lucha,

    Kumi, tze’i mi’toch ha’hafecha.

    Rav lach shevet b’emek ha’bacha;

    V’hu yachmol alai’yich chemla.

    Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

     

    Hitna’ari me’afar kumi,

    Livshi bigdei tifartech ami.

    Al yad ben Yishai beit haLachmi;

    Karva el nafshi g’ala.

    Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

     

    Hit’oreri, hit’oreri,

    Ki va orech, kumi uri.

    Uri, uri, shir daberi;

    K’vod Adonai alai’yich nigla.

    Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

     

    Lo tevoshi v’lo tikalmi,

    Mah tishtochachi uma tehemi.

    Bach yechesu ani’yei ami;

    V’niv’neta ir al tila.

    Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

     

    V’hayu lim’shisa sosai’yich,

    V’rachaku kol m’valai’yich.

    Yasis alai’yich Elohai’yich;

    Kimsos chatan al kala.

    Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

     

    Yamin u’smol tifrotzi,

    V’et Adonai ta’aritzi.

    Al yad ish ben Partzi;

    V’nism’cha v’nagila!

    Rise, and face the rear of the shul.

    Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

     

    Bo’i v’shalom, ateret ba’ala,

    Gam b’simcha uv’ tzhala.

    Toch emunei am segula; Bo’i chala, bo’i chala.

    Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

     

    The English translation:

    Come my Beloved

    to greet the bride

    The Sabbath presence

    let us welcome!

     

    ‘Observe’ and ‘Remember’

    both uttered as one

    The One and Only God

    made us hear

    Hashem is one

    and His Name is one

    for renown, for splendor

    and for praise

     

    Come my Beloved …

     

    To welcome the Sabbath

    come let us go

    for it is the

    source of blessing

    from the beginning

    from antiquity

    she was honored

    last in deed but

    first in thought

     

    Come my Beloved …

     

    O Sanctuary of the King

    royal city

    Arise and depart

    from amid the upheaval

    too long have you dwelled

    in the valley of weeping

    He will shower

    compassion upon you

     

    Come my Beloved …

     

    Shake off the dust arise!

    Don your splendid clothes

    My people

    through the son of Jesse

    the Bethlehemite!

    Drew near to my soul

    redeem it!

    Wake up! Wake up!

    For your light has come

    rise up and shine

    Awaken, awaken,

    utter a song

    The glory of Hashem

    is revealed on you

     

    Come my Beloved …

     

    Feel not ashamed

    be not humiliated

    Why are you downcast?

    Why are you disconsolate?

    In you will My people’s

    afflicted find shelter

    As the City is built

    upon its hilltop

     

    Come my Beloved …

     

    May your oppressors

    be downtrodden

    And may those who

    devoured you

    be cast far off

    Your God will rejoice

    over you

    Like a groom’s rejoicing

    over his bride

     

    Come my Beloved …

     

    Rightward and leftward

    you shall spread

    out mightily

    and you shall extol

    the might of Hashem

    through the man

    descended from Peretz

    Then we shall be

    glad and mirthful

     

    Come my Beloved …

     

    Enter in peace

    O crown of her husband

    Even in joyous song

    and good cheer

    Among the faithful

    of the treasured nation

    Enter, O bride!

    Enter, O bride!

    Come my Beloved …

     

     

     

    Published February 20, 2019 | Updated August 26, 2019

    About Gabriella Tzin

    Gabriella is the content writer for Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry in Jerusalem. She enjoys hiking and exploring the great outdoors with her husband and cat in her spare time. Some of her other hobbies and interests include raising chickens, sheep wrestling, shotgun skeet shooting, yoga, photography, and making mosaics.

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