Abridged version of Lecha Dodi
melody: Mordechai Zeira
Let’s go, my beloved, to meet the bride
Let’s welcome the presence of Shabbat.
Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat Shalom
A peaceful and blessed Shabbat!
לְכָה דוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה, לִקְרַאת כַּלָּה
פְּנֵי שַׁבָּת נְקַבְּלָה, נְקַבְּלָה
שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם, שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם
שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם וּמְבֹרָךְ
Foundations for Planning
- How do the holidays bring beauty and order to our Jewish year?
- What makes time holy?
- How does Judaism shape or define our understanding of happiness?
- What place does Lecha Dodi play in the prayer service?
- What arouses anticipation and excitement as Shabbat approaches?
- How do customs shape our perceptions and feelings about time?
The piyut (religious poem) Lecha Dodi was written in Tzfat (Safed) in the sixteenth century by the Kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz. The song uses the image of the beloved or the groom and bride to describe the relationship between the Jewish people and...
The piyut (religious poem) Lecha Dodi was written in Tzfat (Safed) in the sixteenth century by the Kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz. The song uses the image of the beloved or the groom and bride to describe the relationship between the Jewish people and Shabbat. It urges the “groom” – the Jewish people – to go out to meet the “bride” – Shabbat. The verses of the original piyut discuss Kabbalat Shabbat and the expectation of redemption. The piyut was adopted by the Kabbalists of Tzfat, who sang it on Friday evening as they went out into the fields, dressed in white, as part of the Kabbalat Shabbat ceremonies they introduced, based on an ancient custom mentioned in the Talmud. The custom among the Kabbalists of Tzfat of welcoming Shabbat by singing psalms and the piyut Lecha Dodi has become widespread among Jewish communities everywhere. Lecha Dodi was added to the Siddur and is sung as part of the service welcoming Shabbat on Friday evening. Dozens of different melodies have been composed for Lecha Dodi.
The version presented here is an abridged form of the original nine-verse piyut. The melody for this version was composed by Mordechai Zeira, one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew song. The version keeps the refrain “Lecha Dodi” and adds on the words Shabbat Shalom, which do not appear in the original.
Rabbi Shlomo ben Rabbi Moshe Halevi Alkabetz (1505-1584) was a biblical commentator, Kabbalist, and poet from Tzfat. He is best known for the piyut Lecha Dodi. He was active mainly in the field of Kabbalah.
Tell the students that they have to plan a welcoming ceremony for someone they choose (they can choose an imaginary guest, such as a queen or bride, or a real person – for example a new student or staff member at the school).
- What things are important to have at a welcoming ceremony?
- If the guest they are preparing to welcome arrived without them making any special plans, would they still be as excited to meet them? What do planning and thinking in advance add to the welcoming experience?
- Compare the idea of welcoming a guest with the concept of Kabbalat Shabbat, welcoming Shabbat, which includes various actions and customs.
Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.
- What feelings does the text arouse?
- Lecha Dodi is sung in the part of the Friday evening service called Kabbalat Shabbat. Shabbat will begin even if we do nothing, so why do you think we welcome it with a ceremony? And why in particular do we bring Shabbat in with song?
- Do you look forward to Shabbat during the week? If so, what makes you think ahead to Shabbat? If not, do you still feel excited when Shabbat comes around? Why?
- How do you show your happiness about an event you’re looking forward to? What can we learn from the way we welcome Shabbat and how we show our happiness on other occasions?
For older students:
- In Lecha Dodi, the relationship between the bride and groom serves as a metaphor for the relationship between the Jewish people and Shabbat. Why do you think the author chose this particular image to describe the way we long for Shabbat and are happy when it arrives? Think of other contexts where this same basic relationship exists.
- Read Lecha Dodi in two rounds: with and without music to see the difference music makes. Divide the class into small groups. In the first round, the students take turns reading excerpts from Lecha Dodi. In the next round, listen to a musical version of Lecha Dodi. How does the music influence the experience of welcoming Shabbat?
- Listen to several different versions of Lecha Dodi. Which one do you like best?
- Listen to the version of Lecha Dodi composed by Mordechai Zeira. Ask the students: what emotions do you associate with this melody? What does the melody add to the words? Divide the students into small groups or pairs and ask them to prepare movements or a dance to go with the song. Their movements should relate to both the words and the melody.
- You could play the song outside in nature, as the Hassidim used to, and see what impact singing has in its original setting.
For older students:
- Ask the students to search online for various versions of the complete original Lecha Dodi, to choose one they particularly like, and to play it to the class. Invite them to explain what they liked about this version. Every student who presents a melody will explain what atmosphere it creates (dignified, joyful, thoughtful, etc.). Alternatively, play a clip including several melodies for Lecha Dodi and discuss the differences (stop at 4:55 when the clip moves on to other songs from Kabbalat Shabbat).
- Prepare a clip of pictures you feel relate to the content of Lecha Dodi.
- For older students: Listen to the full version of Lecha Dodi in a traditional melody used in synagogue. Give the students the full words of Lecha Dodi in English translation. Explain that the piyut addresses the theme of redemption: It turns to the Jewish people, who are mourning for the destruction of the Temple and their life in Exile, and encourages them to arise and prepare for imminent redemption. Ask the students to choose one line or verse that they find particularly meaningful or interesting and explain it in their own words. You could draw their attention to the change of pace in the middle of the piyut from sadness to joy – a change that is reflected in some of the melodies, as can be seen in the clip.
- Read the poem Shabbat the Queen by Bialik, which blesses Shabbat from its arrival through its departure. Discuss the similarities between this poem and Lecha Dodi.