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A completely new approach to translating this Shabbat greeting song

Lecha Dodi

Lecha Dodi

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This mystical hymn to the Shabbat was composed by the kabbalist Rabbi Alkabetz (c. 5260-5340) who was the teacher as well as the brother-in-law of the famed kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. Rabbi Alkabetz was one of the members of the esteemed Safed circle of scholars and mystics, which included Rabbi Yosef Caro, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the holy Ari. The author signed his name - Shlomo HaLevi - in the acrostic formed by the first letter of the first eight stanzas of the hymn.

One of the themes of the hymn - preparing oneself to greet the Shabbat - is based on the Talmud’s account of how the Sages would welcome the Holy Day (Shabbat 119a): Rabbi Chanina would wrap himself in his cloak and say, “Come, let us go and greet the Shabbat Queen.” Rabbi Yannai would don his robe and say, “Enter O bride! Enter, O bride! ”

The holy Ari included this hymn in his edition of the siddur, and thus it eventually became an integral part of the Shabbat liturgy of Jewish communities everywhere.

Click below for our new, original, rhyming translation

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Stanza 1
First stanza and refrain: “Come, let us go and greet the Shabbat Queen.”
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Stanza 2
Malchut is united within the mystery of Oneness.
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Stanza 3
Shabbat is rooted in the primordial time of Creation
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Stanza 4
Shabbat merges into Oneness; all powers of negativity and all adversaries flee from her and vanish.
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Stanza 5
Malchut: free yourself from your involvement in the mundane world that restrains and encumbers you
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Stanza 6
Shabbat is the time of spiritual awakening.
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Stanza 7
Do not be confused by your daunting task.
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Stanza 8
In the future 'Zeir Anpin' will receive from 'malchut'.
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Stanza 9
On Shabbat, malchut transcends her limitations.
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Stanza 10
"Enter O Bride" under the wedding canopy; "enter O Bride" to the home of her husband, the Jewish people.
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4 Comments
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james cooley kansaS CITY, s August 7, 2013

acrostic like my 5th grade teacher-Hannah -said acrostic is---,totally fascinating. Reply

Tamar Tessler New York March 5, 2013

for Harry Samuels Wow! Wow! Who is like Your people Israel! Reply

Thomas Karp New Haven, CT August 5, 2010

Approaching Lkhi Dodi anew! The very first time I ever attended a service in synagogue apart from a Bar Mitzvah, I walked into the synagogue right in the middle of Lecha Dodi. I didn't know that it was the practice to turn towards the entrance at its concluding stanza.

It was at that exact moment that I made my entrance!

I always smile at the memory of my own surprise and astonishment, as well as that of everyone else who was there at the time. This is a true story, and I would suppose that if it's of any significance, it is to remind you sons and daughters of Yitzhak that the G-d of Israel has a sense of humor. Reply

Harry Samuels Memphis, TN June 28, 2010

Stanza 10 I once asked a great man, R. Lazar Shore, z"b of Memphis, Tennessee if there was some other reason for facing the rear when reciting this stanza. He said he would give me the answer his rabbi gave him when he asked the same question 75 years earlier and which was the same answer his rabbi had given him years earlier.

"Only the wealthy members of the congregation prayed close to the aron kodesh in the old days. When they turned round they were compelled to see those in the congregation who were in need of a good meal, or financial help or perhaps some emotional support." Reply

The larger, bold text is the direct translation of the classic text source.

The smaller, plain text is the explanation of the translator/editor.
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