|Music for Holidays|
Lekha Dodi (Hebrew: ?; also transliterated as Lecha Dodi, L'chah Dodi, Lekah Dodi, Lechah Dodi; Ashkenazic pronunciation: Lecho Dodi) is a Hebrew-language Jewish liturgical song recited Friday at dusk, usually at sundown, in synagogue to welcome Shabbat prior to the evening services. It is part of the Kabbalat Shabbat ("welcoming of Sabbath").
Lekhah Dodi means "come my beloved," and is a request of a mysterious "beloved" that could mean either God or one's friend(s) to join together in welcoming Shabbat that is referred to as the "bride": likrat kallah ("to greet the [Shabbat] bride"). During the singing of the last verse, the entire congregation rises and turns to the west towards the setting sun (or toward the entrance to the synagogue), to greet "Queen Shabbat" as she arrives.
It was composed in the 16th century by Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, who was born in Thessaloniki and later became a Safed Kabbalist. As was common at the time, the song is also an acrostic, with the first letter of the first eight stanzas spelling the author's name. The author draws from the rabbinic interpretation of Song of Songs in which the maiden is seen as a metaphor for the Jews and the lover (dod) is a metaphor for God, and from Nevi'im, which uses the same metaphor. The poem shows Israel asking God to bring upon that great Shabbat of Messianic deliverance. It is one of the latest of the Hebrew poems regularly accepted into the liturgy, both in the southern use, which the author followed, and in the more distant northern rite.
Among some Sephardic congregations, the hymn is sometimes chanted to an ancient Moorish melody, which is known to be much older than the text of Lekhah Dodi. This is clear not only from internal evidence, but also from the rubric in old siddurim directing the hymn "to be sung to the melody of Shuvi Nafshi li-Menukhayekhi, a composition of Judah Halevi, who died nearly five centuries before Alkabetz. In this rendering, carried to Israel by Spanish refugees before the days of Alkabetz, the hymn is chanted congregationally, the refrain being employed as an introduction only.
In some very old-style Ashkenazic synagogues the verses are ordinarily chanted at elaborate length by the hazzan, and the refrain is used as a congregational response, but in most Ashkenazic Orthodox synagogues it is sung by everyone together to any of a large number of tunes. This includes the Orthodox Synagogues who employ this element and Synagogues under the Modern-Orthodox umbrella.
At certain periods of the year many northern congregations discard later compositions in favor of two simple older melodies singularly reminiscent of the folk-song of northern Europe in the century succeeding that in which the verses were written. The better known of these is an air, reserved for the Omer weeks between Passover and Shavuot, which has been variously described, because of certain of its phrases, as an adaptation of the famous political song "Lillibullero" and of the cavatina in the beginning of Mozart's "Nozze di Figaro." But resemblances to German folk-song of the end of the seventeenth century may be found generally throughout the melody.
Less widely utilized in the present day is the special air traditional for the "Three Weeks" preceding Tisha b'Av, although this is characterized by much tender charm absent from the melody of Eli Tziyyon, which more often takes its place. But it was once very generally sung in the northern congregations of Europe; and a variant was chosen by Benedetto Marcello for his rendition of Psalm xix. in his "Estro Poetico-Armonico" or "Parafrasi Sopra li Salmi" (Venice, 1724), where it is quoted as an air of the German Jews. Cantor Eduard Birnbaum ("Der Jüdische Kantor", 1883, p. 349) has discovered the source of this melody in a Polish folk-song, "Wezm ja Kontusz, Wezm", given in Oskar Kolberg's "Piesni Ludu Polskiego" (Warsaw, 1857). An old melody, of similarly obvious folk-song origin, was favored in the London Jewry a century ago, and was sung in two slightly divergent forms in the old city synagogues. Both of these forms are given by Isaac Nathan in his setting of Byron's "Hebrew Melodies" (London, 1815), where they constitute the air selected for "She Walks in Beauty", the first verses in the series. The melody has since fallen out of use in English congregations and elsewhere.
The full version of the song (note that many Reform congregations omit verses 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 which make reference to messianic redemption), while Sephardic congregations based in the Jerusalem and Aleppo rites omit verse 4 and verses 6 through 8, as they make reference to agony:
|1||Let's go, my beloved, to meet the bride,||Lekhah dodi liqrat kallah||? |
|2||and let us welcome the presence of Shabbat.||p'ne Shabbat neqabelah|||
|3||"Safeguard" and "Remember" in a single utterance,||Shamor v'zakhor b'dibur e?ad||? |
|4||We were made to hear by the unified God,||hishmi?anu El hameyu?ad||? |
|5||God is one and God's Name is one,||Adonai e?ad ushemo e?ad||? |
|6||In fame and splendor and praiseful song.||L'Shem ul'tiferet v'lit'hilah||? |
|7||To greet Shabbat let's go, let's travel,||Liqrat Shabbat lekhu v'nelekhah|||
|8||For she is the wellspring of blessing,||ki hi m'qor haberakhah||? |
|9||From the start, from ancient times she was chosen,||merosh miqedem nesukhah||? ? |
|10||Last made, but first planned.||sof ma?aseh b'ma?ashavah te?ilah||? ?|
|11||Sanctuary of the king, royal city,||Miqdash melekh?ir melukhah||? |
|12||Arise! Leave from the midst of the turmoil;||Qumi tz'i mitokh ha-hafekhah||? ? |
|13||Long enough have you sat in the valley of tears||Rav lakh shevet b'emeq habakha||? ?|
|14||And He will take great pity upon you compassionately.||v'hu ya?amol ?alayikh ?emlah||? ? ?|
|15||Shake yourself free, rise from the dust,||Hitna?ari me'afar qumi||? ?|
|16||Dress in your garments of splendor, my people,||Livshi bigde tifartekh ?ami||? ? |
|17||By the hand of Jesse's son of Bethlehem,||?Al yad ben Yishai bet ha-la?mi|||
|18||Redemption draws near to my soul.||Qorvah el nafshi g'alah||? ? ?|
|19||Rouse yourselves! Rouse yourselves!||Hit?oreri hit?oreri||? ?|
|20||Your light is coming, rise up and shine.||Ki va orekh qumi ori||? ? ?|
|21||Awaken! Awaken! utter a song,||?Uri ?uri shir daberi||? ? ?|
|22||The glory of the Lord is revealed upon you.||K'vod Adonai ?alayikh niglah||? ? ?|
|23||Do not be embarrassed! Do not be ashamed!||Lo tevoshi v'lo tikalmi|||
|24||Why be downcast? Why groan?||Mah tishto?a?i umah tehemi||? ?|
|25||All my afflicted people will find refuge within you||bakh ye?esu ?aniye ?ami||? ? |
|26||And the city shall be rebuilt on her hill.||v'nivnetah ?ir ?al tilah|||
|27||Your despoilers will become your spoil,||V'hayu limshisah shosayikh||? |
|28||Far away shall be any who would devour you,||V'ra?aqu kol meval?ayikh|||
|29||Your God will rejoice concerning you,||Yasis?alayikh Elohayikh||? ? |
|30||As a groom rejoices over a bride.||Kimsos ?atan ?al kalah|||
|31||To your right and your left you will burst forth,||Yamin usmol tifrotzi||? |
|32||And the Lord will you revere||V'et Adonai ta?aritzi|||
|33||By the hand of a child of Peretz,||?Al yad ish ben Partzi||?|
|34||We will rejoice and sing happily.||V'nisme?ah v'nagilah|||
|35||Come in peace, crown of her husband,||Boi v'shalom ateret ba?alah||? ? ?|
|36||Both in happiness and in jubilation||Gam b'sim?ah uvetzahalah|||
|37||Amidst the faithful of the treasured nation||Tokh emune ?am segulah||?|
|38||Come O Bride! Come O Bride!||Boi khalah boi khalah||? ? |
In the Sephardic rite and Chasidic tradition the last section is recited as such:
|35||Come in peace, crown of her husband,||Boi v'shalom ateret ba?alahh||? ? ?|
|36||Both in song and in jubilation||Gam b'rinah uvtzaholah|||
|37||Amidst the faithful of the treasured nation||Tokh emune ?am segulah||?|
|38||Come O Bride! Shabbat Queen!||Boi khallah Shabbat malketa||? |
Verse 1, line 3: 'Safeguard' and 'Remember' in one utterance: The Ten Commandments appears twice in the Torah, in Exodus 20:8 it reads "Remember (zakhor) the Sabbath Day" and in Deuteronomy 5:12 it reads "Safeguard (shamor) the Sabbath Day"; the folkloric explanation for the difference is that, supernaturally, both words were spoken by God simultaneously. Here the second expression is used first in the verse to accommodate the acrostic of the composer's name.
Verse 2, line 10: Last made, but first planned: The Sabbath Day, the seventh and last day of Creation, was, essentially, the last thing created in that week and yet it is believed that a day of cessation, reflection, and worship was part of God's plan from the very first.
Verse 8, line 33: By the hand of a child of Peretz: Meaning a descendant of Peretz, a son of Judah, an ancestor of King David; a poetical description of the Messiah.
Hebrew book with English introduction: Reuven Kimelman, The Mystical Meaning of 'Lekhah Dodi' and 'Kabbalat Shabbat', The Hebrew University Magnes Press, and Cherub Press, 2003