|Music for Holidays|
Lekha Dodi (Hebrew: לכה דודי; 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.
Its importance in the esteem of Jewish worshipers has led every hazzan 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, 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 Asheknazic Orthodox synagogues it is sung by everyone together to any one of a large number of tunes. This includes the Orthodox Synagouges who employ this element and Synagouges under the Modern-Orthodox umbrella.
This beloved piyyut is sung to many different melodies throughout the world, including melodies from India, Central Asia (Bukhara), Yemen, Kurdistan, Italy, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Mountain Jews of the Caucasus. Wherever Jews gather for prayer on a Friday night, there one can find Lecha Dodi being sung.
Old German and Polish melodies
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 verses 4 through 7, as they make reference to agony:
|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'ne Shabbat neqabelah||פני שבת נקבלה|
|3||"Safeguard" and "Remember" 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'Shem ul'tiferet v'lit'hilah||לשם ולתפארת ולתהלה|
|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 m'qor 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|
|11||Sanctuary of the king, royal city,||Miqdash melekhʿir melukhah||מקדש מלך עיר מלוכה|
|12||Arise! Leave from the midst of the turmoil;||Qumi tz'i mitokh ha-hafekhah||קומי צאי מתוך ההפכה|
|13||Long enough have you sat in the valley of tears||Rav lakh shevet b'emeq 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|
|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 bigde tifartekh ʿami||לבשי בגדי תפארתך עמי|
|17||By the hand of Jesse’s son of Bethlehem,||ʿAl yad ben Yishai bet ha-laḥmi||על יד בן ישי בית הלחמי|
|18||Redemption draws near to my soul.||Qorvah el nafshi g'alah||קרבה אל נפשי גאלה|
|19||Rouse yourselves! Rouse yourselves!||Hitʿoreri hitʿoreri||התעוררי התעוררי|
|20||Your light is coming, rise up and shine.||Ki va orekh qumi ori||כי בא אורך קומי אורי|
|21||Awaken! Awaken! utter a song,||ʿUri ʿuri shir daberi||עורי עורי שיר דברי|
|22||The glory of the Lord is revealed upon you.||K'vod Adonai ʿalayikh niglah||כבוד יי עליך נגלה|
|23||Do not be embarrassed! Do not be ashamed!||Lo tevoshi v'lo tikalmi||לא תבושי ולא תכלמי|
|24||Why be downcast? Why groan?||Mah tishtoḥaḥi umah tehemi||מה תשתוחחי ומה תהמי|
|25||All my afflicted people will find refuge within you||bakh yeḥesu ʿaniye ʿami||בך יחסו עניי עמי|
|26||And the city shall be rebuilt on her hill.||v'nivnetah ʿir ʿal tilah||ונבנתה עיר על תלה|
|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,||Yasisʿalayikh Elohayikh||ישיש עליך אלהיך|
|30||As a groom rejoices over a bride.||Kimsos ḥatan ʿal kalah||כמשוש חתן על כלה|
|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 Peretz,||ʿAl yad ish ben Partzi||על יד איש בן פרצי|
|34||We will rejoice and sing happily.||V'nismeḥah v'nagilah||ונשמחה ונגילה|
|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 emune 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 Chasidic tradition the last section is recited as such:
|35||Come in peace, crown of her husband,||Boi v'shalom ateret baʿalahh||בואי בשלום עטרת בעלה|
|36||Both in song and in jubilation||Gam b'rinah uvtzaholah||גם ברינה ובצהלה|
|37||Amidst the faithful of the treasured nation||Tokh emune ʿam segulah||תוך אמוני עם סגלה|
|38||Come O Bride! Shabbat Queen!||Boi khallah Shabbat malketa||בואי כלה שבת מלכתא|
Notes to the Text
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 Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Macy Nulman, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer (1993, NJ, Jason Aronson Inc.) s.v. "Lekha Dodi", p. 223, col. 2.
- Hoffman, Lawrence A. Kabbalat Shabbat: (Welcoming Shabbat in the Synagogue). My People's Prayer Book.
- Hammer, Reuven. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom For Shabbat and Festivals. 21.
- Jakob J. Petuchowski, Prayerbook Reform in Europe: The Liturgy of European Liberal and Reform Judaism (1968, NYC, World Union for Progressive Judaism) p. 121, quoting the 'Synagogenordnung' issued circa 1853 for the Progressive congregation in Mayence, Germany under Rabbi Joseph Aub; R' Eric L. Friedland, The Historical and Theological Development of the Non-Orthodox Prayerbooks in the United States (1967, Ph.D. dissertation, Brandeis Univ., NYC) p. 108, that Marcus Jastrow, in his 1871 revision of the German edition Avodat Yisroel (the Reform prayerbook) to reduce Lekhah Dodi to three stanzas, a "which version was later adopted in the 1940 edition of the Union Prayer Book [the American Reform prayerbook]....."
- R' Eliezer Toledano, The Orot Sephardic Shabat Siddur (1995, Lakewood, NJ, Orot Inc) p. 68.
- 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
- Lecha Dodi Hassidic version free style by Cantor Fahlenkamp all verses with lyrics YouTube video
- Lecha Dodi with Sephardic last verse YouTube video
- לכה דודי/Lecha Dodi- אסף נוה שלום verses 1-5 only. YouTube video
- Audio file "Lekhah Dodi" MP3
- Audio file "Lekhah Dodi" MP3
- Lekhah Dodi with music from The Jewish Learning Group from the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center
- Lekhah Dodi tunes and recordings on the Zemirot Database