Friday, August 14, 2009

Sing the Songs of Shabbat

Music is said to raise a person’s spirit (Berachot 57b), and there is no time more appropriate for joyousness than Shabbat, the day of rest.

To honor Shabbat, and to bring it more tranquility, more joy and more celebration, it is customary to sing special songs (known on zmirot) at the Shabbat table. As Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach sang: “The whole world is waiting/to sing the song of Shabbat.”

There are zmirot that are designated for each of the three Shabbat meals, and even post-Shabbat zmirot. Two of the most popular songs for Friday night are:

Yom Zeh L’Yisrael, in its full version, contains an acrostic of the name Yitzchak Luria Chazak, and is attributed to the Arizal, the great 16th century Kabbalistic rabbi. The song speaks of the spiritual contentment of Shabbat and also of the neshama yetayrah, the additional soul, that enters the Jew on Shabbat, to enhance his/her tranquility. It’s chorus is: Yom zeh l’Yisrael, ora v’simcha, Shabbat menucha - This day for Israel is light and gladness, Sabbath of contentment.

Menucha V’simcha, one of the shortest of the Shabbat zmirot, was written by an unknown author in the sixteenth century. The title, Menucha V’simcha, means contentment and happiness of the Sabbath day, which is the theme of the song. Its verses speak of the exaltation of God, God’s giving Israel His sacred gift (Shabbat), the strengthening power of Shabbat, and the beauty and merit of the Shabbat mitzvot.

Listen to: Yom Zeh L’Yisrael

Listen to: Menucha V’Simcha

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