Judaism's most popular Shabbat prayer-song,
by Rabbi Shlomo Alkebetz
translation and commentary by Rabbi Moshe Miller
Sanctuary of the King, city royal,
Arise, go out
from amidst the turmoil.
In the vale of tears too long you have dwelt,
will show you [the] compassion [He always felt].
of the King, city royal: This refers to Jerusalem, as in the verse in Amos
7:12. Although Jerusalem is also the royal capital, where the palace of King David
and King Solomon were located, the sanctuary of the King referred to here is the
Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple) in which the Shechina (Divine Presence)
resides, as in the verse, "You shall make me a Sanctuary and I will dwell
within it" (Ex. 25:8).
Go out from amidst the turmoil: As in
the verse regarding Lot, "When G-d destroyed the cities [of Sodom and Gomorrah]
He sent Lot from amidst the turmoil" (Gen.19:29). Since Mashiach descended
from Lot through Ruth the Moabite, this also alludes to the Messianic redemption
of the future.
This phrase also refers to the ascent of malchut from its
involvement in the world during the workdays of the week. Since it is involved
with mundane activities, it also comes into contact with the "Other Side,"
the opposite of holiness.
As the Shabbat arrives, she merges into Oneness,
and is separated from the side of unholiness, and all strict judgments are severed
from her. She remains in unity with the holy light, and crowns herself with many
crowns for the holy King. Then all powers of negativity (1) and all adversaries
flee from her and vanish, and no other power reigns in any of the worlds. (Zohar
vol. II, 135 a-b).
The vale of tears: This is an allusion to the
long and bitter exile (2) that the Jewish people have suffered through since the
destruction of the second Temple (see Psalms 84:7). The exile of the Jewish people
is also the exile of the Shechina. (3)
He will show you the compassion
He felt: G-d's compassion for His people is ever-present, albeit concealed
at times, as the verse states, "In all of their anguish, He suffers"
(Isaiah 63:9). In the future, this compassion will be fully revealed. (4)
1 Literally, "wrath, anger," a metaphor for
the negative forces of the "Other Side."
2 Siddur Tzeluta d'Avraham.
3 Megilla 29a. See also Berachot 9b.
4 See Tanya, Iggeret HaKodesh chap. 11: "No evil descends
from above and everything is good, though it is not apprehended because
of its immense and abundant goodness
Continue to stanza 5
[go to Prayer Menu for
commentary on other stanzas, and/or for the complete, original rhyming
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.