Friday, December 27, 2013

Shabbat Day Songs

Zmirot are the songs that celebrate the holiness and beauty of Shabbat. There are designated zmirot for each of the three Shabbat meals, and even post-Shabbat zmirot. Two of the most popular songs for Shabbat day are:

Baruch Ehl Elyon is attributed to Rabbi Baruch ben Shimon of Mainz, a well-known 13th century scholar and prolific payton (religious poet). The attribution to Rabbi Baruch is supported by the acrostical spelling of Baruch that appears as the first letter of each verse.


Baruch Ehl Elyon is a song that lauds those who guard and remember Shabbat, as its repetitive chorus states: “Those who keep Shabbat, the sons and the daughters, are as pleasing to God as a meal-offering on a fire-pan.” It begins, however, with praising God for giving the Jewish people a day of rest and a day on which to celebrate with “pleasant foods and assorted delicacies with elegant clothing and a family feast.” The next five stanzas are focussed on the spiritual rewards due to those who faithfully observe Shabbat. The final verse is a straight-out reminder of the blessings brought by the Sabbath Queen.


Dror Yikra is attributed to the 10th century Baghdadi grammarian and payton Dunash ben Labrat. An extremely popular zemer to which there are many different tunes, Dror Yikra focuses on the time of redemption when the Children of Israel will cause the promised land to flourish despite its enemies. The final paragraph of Dror Yikra is an indirect reminder of the way that this dream of ultimate redemption can be made real: “Know wisdom, that your soul may live/And it shall be a crown for your brow./Keep the commandment of your Holy One/Observe the Sabbath, your sacred day.


To listen to Baruch Ehl Elyon, click here.

To listen to Dror Yikra, the Yemenite version, click here.
To listen to Dror Yikrasung to the tune of The Beach Boy's "Sloop John B," click here.
To watch the Maccabeats' version of Dror Yikra based on the "Cups" phenomenon, click here.

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