Judaism's most popular Shabbat prayer-song,
by Rabbi Shlomo Alkebetz
new translation by Rabbi Moshe Miller
mystical hymn to the Shabbat was composed by the kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi
Alkabetz (c. 5260-5340), teacher and brother-in-law of the famed kabalist Rabbi
Moshe Codovero. Rabbi Alkabetz was one of the esteemed members of the Safed circle
of scholars and mystics, which included Rabbi Yosef Karo, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero
and Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the holy Ari. The author signed his name - Shlomo HaLevi
- in the acrostic formed by the first letter of the first eight stanzas of the
One of the themes of the hymn - preparing oneself to
greet the Shabbat - is based on the Talmud's account of how the Sages would welcome
the Holy Day (Shabbat 119a): Rabbi Chanina would wrap himself in his cloak and
say, "Come, let us go and greet the Shabbat Queen." Rabbi Yannai would
don his robe and say, "Enter O bride! Enter, O bride! "
Shabbat, the seventh day of the week, is the manifestation of the seventh sefira
- malchut. Since malchut also corresponds to the Jewish people and to the Shechina,
the hymn may be interpreted as not only referring to the Shabbat, but also alluding
to the Jewish people, to the sefira of malchut and to the Shechina. Furthermore,
transformation of the workaday world into the holy Shabbat mirrors the redemption
of the Shechina and the Jewish people from exile. The hymn thus looks forward
to the time when even during the week we will experience the same holiness as
we experience on the Shabbat.
The holy Ari included this hymn
in his edition of the siddur, and thus it eventually became an integral part of
the Shabbat liturgy of Jewish communities everywhere.
First Stanza / Refrain
"Come out my Beloved, the Bride
The inner light of Shabbat, let us greet."
out: The holy Ari would go out into the fields around Safed on Friday afternoon
and receive Shabbat there. The fields, the place of work during the week, correspond
to the lower worlds, Beria, Yetzira, and Asiya, and specifically
to the outer dimension of each of these worlds. Each day of the week corresponds
to one of the seven sefirot with which the creation was initiated and is
sustained - Sunday corresponds to chesed, Monday to gevura and so
on. Shabbat, therefore, corresponds to the seventh sefira - malchut, also
called Shechina. During the week malchut does its work of gathering (birur)
the sparks embedded within the lower worlds. These sparks are then elevated on
My Beloved; the Bride: On Shabbat malchut,
referred to here as the Bride, becomes elevated to the very highest levels. However,
in order for this to happen, malchut must first be stimulated and energized by
zeir anpin, referred to here as "my Beloved." Thus, zeir anpin
must "come out" to the fields to meet malchut, the Bride. When malchut
has been elevated, and the Shabbat has already been received, the fields then
correspond to chakal tapuchin kadishin.
In the beginning of creation, every day of the week, except Shabbat, had a partner.
Day 1 and 4 are linked in the formation of light and the creation of the luminaries;
days 2 and 5 are linked in the formation of water and their being gathered into
seas; days 3 and 6 are linked in the creation of earth and its vegetation. Only
the seventh day was without a partner. G-d then promised the Shabbat that the
Jewish People would be its partner. Therefore, the Jewish People go out to greet
the Shabbat just as a groom goes to meet his bride.
inner light of Shabbat: When malchut is infused with light from the six sefirot
comprising zeir anpin and it becomes elevated, it is referred to as pnei Shabbat
- the inner dimension of Shabbat - that now begins to shine forth.
us greet: When zeir anpin infuses malchut with light, it also receives an
additional measure of sanctity and blessing via bina of Atzilut.
It is therefore stated in the plural - both zeir anpin and malchut - welcome the
inner light of Shabbat.
to Prayer Menu for commentary on other stanzas, and/or
for the complete, original rhyming translation]
Moshe-Leib Miller, a guest teacher at Ascent when he lived in Israel, was born
in South Africa and received his yeshiva education in Israel and America. He is
a prolific author and translator, with some twenty books to his name on a wide
variety of topics, including a new, authoritative, annotated translation of the
Zohar. He currently lives in Chicago.