Singing zmirot, songs of Shabbat, on Friday night not only expresses joy for the gift of Shabbat, but also offers praise to God. While many of the zmirot specifically speak of the beauty of Shabbat, others are focused on God, His relationship with the Children of Israel and the future coming of the Messiah.
Yah Ribohn Olam is a very popular Shabbat song in Jewish communities around the world. Written in Aramaic by Rabbi Israel Najara (Syria, 16th century), Yah Ribohn Olam describes the wonders of God's creation and concludes with hope for the redemption of the Children of Israel and the restoration of Jerusalem. Its chorus is: Yah ribohn olam v’ahlma’ya, ahnt hoo malka melech malchaya - O Creator, Master of this world and all worlds, You are the King who reigns over Kings.
Tzur Mishelo, attributed by some to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (2nd century sage), parallels the contents of the Grace After Meals. It includes a reference to God sustaining mankind, the Land of Israel and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The “Dover Shalom” suggests that the song’s theme is based on the Midrash Bereshit. When passersby would visit Abraham, they would extol his kindness after they ate and drank their fill. “Don’t thank me,” Abraham would say, “extol the virtues of the One Who really sustained you.”
Learning to sing the Shabbat zmirot can be a challenging, yet satisfying, accomplishment. Those lyrics not written in poetic Hebrew are written in Aramaic (a language similar to Hebrew that was common at the time of the Talmud). Additionally, most zmirot (songs) have a variety of melodies to which they are sung.
To read the complete text of Yah Ribohn Olam and to listen to a variety of tunes, click here.
To read the complete text of Tzur Mishelo and to listen to a variety of tunes, click here.
This is the power of Shabbat Across America and Canada - celebrated this year on Friday night March 13, 2015. Synagogues across the continent are readying themselves for this grand evening by inviting Jews from all backgrounds to come celebrate their identity, to join in with the community and to reconnect with their spirituality.