Judaism's most popular Shabbat prayer-song,
by Rabbi Shlomo Alkebetz
translation and commentary by Rabbi Moshe Miller
Arise, now, shake off the dust,
Don your robes of
glory - my people - you must.
Through the son of Yishai, the Bethelemite,
near to my soul, set her free [from her plight].
shake off the dust: This is as in the verse in Isaiah 52:2. This is, like
previous verses in Lecha Dodi, addressed to malchut - instructing
her to rise up even higher and free herself from all the restraints encumbering
her, so that she can be elevated to her original source in keter.
restraints are her involvement in the mundane world; in addition, even the limits
imposed upon the world of Beriya, are referred to here as "dust"
by comparison with the abundant light of the world of Atzilut. (1) Alternatively,
this is addressed to the soul, which must shake itself free from the element of
earth, the source of laziness and depression, in order to begin to shine.(2)
your robes of glory: This refers to the city of Jerusalem, expressing the
prayer that Jerusalem will don its clothes of glory - the Jewish people.(3) In
a deeper sense, it refers to the encompassing lights (orot makifim) of
Atzilut that illuminate malchut by virtue of the mitzvot the Jewish
people perform. Mitzvot are called "garments" or "robes" because
they envelop the soul, allowing it to experience the spiritual delight of the
Garden of Eden.(4)
The son of Yishai, the Bethelemite: The obvious
allusion is to King David. But it also refers to Mashiach, who is a descendant
of King David. (5)
Draw near to my soul, set her free: This is as
in Psalms 69:19. This may be interpreted in two ways: 1) as an exhortation to
G-d to set our souls free with the final redemption, as we have rendered it here
- or 2) as if the redemption has already come with the advent of the Shabbat,
which is compared to the Redemption. (The stanza would then be translated: "You
have drawn near to my soul; You have set her free).(6)
1 Maamarei Admor HaZaken, Al Maamarei Razal, p. 457.
2 Maamarei Admor Hazakein, Neveim p. 180.
3 Tzeluta d'Avraham.
4 See Zohar I, 65b ff.; Etz Chaim 44:3; Tanya, Iggeret HaKodesh chap.
5 See Samuel I 16:18.
6 Siddur Tzeluta d'Avraham.
Continue to stanza 6
[go to Prayer Menu for
commentary on other stanzas, and/or for the complete, original rhyming
Rabbi 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.