Singing and the Sabbath
October 27, 2017
Jewish children know quite a few songs about the Sabbath. Even in pre-school, they sing the modern well known ditty: bim bam bim bim bim bam, bim bim bim bim bim bam … Shabbat Shalom! Singing Sabbath songs is perfect for preschool and summer camp. However, it comes from a long tradition of songs for the Sabbath. In 16th century Tsfat, the Kabbalists of Tsfat actually went out into the fields wearing white in order to greet the Sabbath Queen. Song accompanied them as they went. Some of our most famous Sabbath songs come from 16th Century Tsfat: Yedid Nefesh, written by Rabbi Elazar Azikri (1533-1600) is sung in most traditional synagogues just before the Sabbath:
Yedid nefesh, Av haRachaman, M’shoch Avdecha el Retzonecha!
Beloved of the soul, compassionate father… draw your servant to your will.
In the minds of the Tsfat Kabbalists, singing on the Sabbath brought them so much closer to the presence of God, that the first letter of each of the four verses of the song spell out the powerful four letter name of God.
The Hebrew “Bencher,” or after meal blessing booklet, contains so many Zmirot (Songs) that are designed to be sung on Shabbat after the three Shabbat meals. One, Mah Yedidut (How beloved is Shabbat Rest) particularly celebrates the food we eat on Shabbat (Actually, the description of the food sounds over the top).
It’s a time to delight in pleasures:
Swans, and quail, and fish.
On Shabbat Eve, they order up
All kinds of delicacies prepared during the day:
Fattened chickens, all kinds of foods set on the table,
spiced wines to drink, and outrageous delicacies for all three meals.