Lekhah Dodi

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Lekha Dodi (Hebrew: לכה דודי‎; also transliterated as Lecha Dodi, L'chah Dodi, Lekah Dodi, Lechah Dodi; Ashkenazic pronunciation: Lecho Dodi, Biblical: Lekhah Dhodhiy) is a Hebrew-language Jewish liturgical song recited Friday at dusk, usually at sundown, in synagogue to welcome Shabbat prior to the Maariv (evening services). It is part of the Kabbalat Shabbat ("acceptance 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 open door, to greet "Queen Shabbat" as she arrives.

It was composed in the 16th century Ottoman Empire city of Edirne by Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, 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 much of his phraseology from Isaiah's prophecy of Israel's restoration, and six of his verses are full of the thoughts to which his vision of Israel as the bride on that great Shabbat of Messianic deliverance gives rise. 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.

Ancient Moorish melody[edit]

Its importance in the esteem of Jewish worshipers has led every cantor and choir-director to seek to devote his sweetest strains to the Shabbat welcome song. Settings of "Lekhah Dodi," usually of great expressiveness and not infrequently of much tenderness and beauty, are accordingly to be found in every published compilation of synagogal melodies. Among the Sephardic congregations, however, the hymn is universally chanted to an ancient Moorish melody of great interest, which is known to be much older than the text of "Lekhah Dodi" itself. This is clear not only from internal evidence, but also from the rubric in old prayer-books directing the hymn "to be sung to the melody of 'Shuvi Nafshi li-Menukhayekhi,'" a composition of Judah ha-Levi, 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 chazzan, and the refrain is used as a congregational response, but in most modern (Orthodox) Ashkenazic synagogues it is sung by all together to any one of a large number of tunes.

Old German and Polish melodies[edit]

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.

Text[edit]

The full version of the song (note that many Reform[citation needed] 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 verses 4 through 7, as they make reference to agony:

# English translation Transliteration Hebrew
Chorus:
1 Let’s go, my beloved, to meet the bride, Lekhah dodi liqrat kallah לכה דודי לקראת כלה
2 and let us welcome the presence of Shabbat. p'nei Shabbat neqabelah פני שבת נקבלה
Verse 1:
3 "Observe" and "recall" in a single utterance, Shamor v'zakhor b'dibur eḥad שמור וזכור בדבור אחד
4 We were made to hear by the unified God, hishmiʿanu El hameyuḥad השמיענו אל המיחד
5 God is one and God’s Name is one, Adonai eḥad ushemo eḥad יי אחד ושמו אחד
6 In fame and splendor and praiseful song. L'Sheim ulitiferet v'lit'hilah לשם ולתפארת ולתהלה
Verse 2:
7 To greet Shabbat let’s go, let’s travel, Liqrat Shabbat lekhu v'nelekhah לקראת שבת לכו ונלכה
8 For she is the wellspring of blessing, ki hi maqor haberakhah כי היא מקור הברכה
9 From the start, from ancient times she was chosen, merosh miqedem nesukhah מראש מקדם נסוכה
10 Last made, but first planned. sof maʿaseh b'maḥashavah teḥilah סוף מעשה במחשבה תחלה
Verse 3:
11 Sanctuary of the king, royal city, Miqdash melekh ʿir melukhah מקדש מלך עיר מלוכה
12 Arise! Leave from the midst of the turmoil; Qumi tze'i mitokh ha-hafeikhah קומי צאי מתוך ההפכה
13 Long enough have you sat in the valley of tears Rav lakh shevet b'ʿeimeq habakha רב לך שבת בעמק הבכא
14 And He will take great pity upon you compassionately. v'hu yaḥamol ʿalayikh ḥemlah והוא יחמול עליך חמלה
Verse 4:
15 Shake yourself free, rise from the dust, Hitnaʿari me'afar qumi התנערי מעפר קומי
16 Dress in your garments of splendor, my people, Livshi bigdei tifartekh ʿami לבשי בגדי תפארתך עמי
17 By the hand of Jesse’s son of Bethlehem, ʿAl yad ben Yishai beit ha-laḥmi על יד בן ישי בית הלחמי
18 Redemption draws near to my soul. Qorvah el nafshi g'alah קרבה אל נפשי גאלה
Verse 5:
19 Rouse yourselves! Rouse yourselves! Hitʿoreri hitʿoreri התעוררי התעוררי
20 Your light is coming, rise up and shine. Ki va oreikh qumi ori כי בא אורך קומי אורי
21 Awaken! Awaken! utter a song, ʿUri ʿuri shir dabeiri עורי עורי שיר דברי
22 The glory of the Lord is revealed upon you. K'vod Adonai ʿalayikh niglah כבוד יי עליך נגלה
Verse 6:
23 Do not be embarrassed! Do not be ashamed! Lo tivoshi v'lo tikalmi לא תבושי ולא תכלמי
24 Why be downcast? Why groan? Mah tishtoḥai umah tehemi מה תשתוחחי ומה תהמי
25 All my afflicted people will find refuge within you bakh yeḥesu ʿaniyei ʿami בך יחסו עניי עמי
26 And the city shall be rebuilt on her hill. v'nivnetah ʿir ʿal tilah ונבנתה עיר על תלה
Verse 7:
27 Your despoilers will become your spoil, V'hayu limshisah shosayikh והיו למשסה שאסיך
28 Far away shall be any who would devour you, V'raḥaqu kol mevalʿayikh ורחקו כל מבלעיך
29 Your God will rejoice concerning you, Yasis ʿalayikh Elohayikh ישיש עליך אלהיך
30 As a groom rejoices over a bride. Kimsos ḥatan ʿal kalah כמשוש חתן על כלה
Verse 8:
31 To your right and your left you will burst forth, Yamin usmol tifrotzi ימין ושמאל תפרוצי
32 And the Lord will you revere V'et Adonai taʿaritzi ואת יי תעריצי
33 By the hand of a child of Perez, ʿAl yad ish ben Partzi על יד איש בן פרצי
34 We will rejoice and sing happily. V'nismeḥah v'nagilah ונשמחה ונגילה
Verse 9:
35 Come in peace, crown of her husband, Boi v'shalom ateret baʿalah בואי בשלום עטרת בעלה
36 Both in happiness and in jubilation Gam b'simḥah uvetzahalah גם בשמחה ובצהלה
37 Amidst the faithful of the treasured nation Tokh emunei ʿam segulah תוך אמוני עם סגלה
38 Come O Bride! Come O Bride! Boi khalah boi khalah בואי כלה בואי כלה

In the Sephardic rite and Chabad Chasidic tradition the last section is recited as such:

# English translation Transliteration Hebrew
Verse 9:
35 Come in peace, crown of her husband, Boi v'shalom ateret baʿalahh בואי בשלום עטרת בעלה
36 Both in happiness, in song and in jubilation Gam b'rinah uvtzaholah גם ברינה ובצהלה
37 Amidst the faithful of the treasured nation Tokh emunei ʿam segulah תוך אמוני עם סגלה
38 Come O Bride! Shabbat Queen! Boi khallah Shabbat malketa בואי כלה שבת מלכתא

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • English translation and discussion: in Kabbalat Shabbat: Welcoming Shabbat in the Synagogue, Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, ed. Jewish Lights Publishing. 2004. ISBN 1-58023-121-7.

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

  • Traditional settings: A. Baer, Ba'al Tefillah, Nos. 326-329, 340-343, Gothenburg, 1877, Frankfort, 1883;
  • Francis Cohen and David M. Davis, Voice of Prayer and Praise, Nos. 18, 19a, and 19b, London, 1899;
  • F. Consolo, Libro dei Canti d'Israele, part. i, Florence, 1892;
  • De Sola and Aguilar, Ancient Melodies, p. 16 and No. 7, London, 1857;
  • Israel, London, i. 82; iii. 22, 204;
  • Journal of the Folk-Song Society, i., No. 2, pp. 33, 37, London, 1900. Translations, etc.: Israel, iii. 22;
  • H. Heine, Werke, iii. 234, Hamburg, 1884;
  • J. G. von Herder, Werke, Stuttgart, 1854;
  • A. Lucas, The Jewish Year, p. 167, London, 1898

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.  [1]