Shabbat Songs

This unit on Shabbat focuses on the songs and melodies that accompany Shabbat – during rituals and prayers, as well as modern-day songs.

Unit Ages: 6-8, 9-11 | 3-4 lessons


One of the main ingredients for creating a Shabbat atmosphere is song. Singing is an essential aspect of Shabbat, beginning with the songs sung during Kabbalat Shabbat (prayers welcoming Shabbat); continuing with songs sung during Shabbat prayers, when returning from synagogue and before the meal; songs sung around the festive Shabbat table; and songs bidding farewell to Shabbat (during the third meal and havdalah). Shabbat songs were composed throughout various periods in time; some are particular to certain Jewish ethnic groups, but most have become popular across all of the different groups. Songs about Shabbat continue to be written to this day.

Desired Outcomes

Big Ideas
  • Singing helps to create a unique Shabbat atmosphere, an atmosphere that is an essential aspect of Shabbat and contributes to its distinction from the rest of the week.  
  • Shabbat songs express key ideas about Shabbat.
Essential Questions
  • How can my actions make time sacred?
  • Why/how might Jewish practices be meaningful for me even if I don’t define myself as “religious”?
  • Why are holidays, rituals, customs, important to me, my family, and my community?
  • Students will be familiar with the tradition of Shabbat songs and know when they are sung over the course of Shabbat. 
  • Students will understand the connection between Shabbat songs and a Shabbat atmosphere. 
  • Students will know to identify ideas and values about the essence of Shabbat as expressed in the songs. 
  • Students will be exposed to traditions of different ethnic groups’ Shabbat songs.

Students will be able to sing parts of the Shabbat songs in Hebrew (Lecha Dodi, Shalom Aleichem).

Assessment Evidence

What evidence will students provide to demonstrate that they:
Know the knowledge; Can do the skills; Can respond thoughtfully to the EQs and BIs

The teacher will determine a means for assessment before beginning to teach the curriculum module.

Learning Experiences

Possible Unit Plan

Possible Unit Opener:

Play for the students a Shabbat song that at least some of them already know – for example, “Lecha Dodi”. Ask the students to share: How does this song make you feel? What associations does it trigger for you?  (For example: a specific color, taste, food, place, etc.)


Content Study:

Shabbat songs were written over generations and are spread out throughout the course of Shabbat. We will learn songs from different time periods: 

  • Begin by teaching a traditional song – for example, an abridged version of “Lecha Dodi” (for older students you can play the full, original hymn), accompanied by an explanation about Kabbalat Shabbat and the atmosphere in which Shabbat enters the synagogue. Discuss with the students the imagery of Shabbat as a bride. 
  • Teach the traditional song “Shalom Aleichem” – a song that is sung at home and suits the Shabbat atmosphere that prevails around the dining table. 
  • End the lesson with Bialik’s “The Sabbath Queen”, a contemporary song that depicts the flow of a traditional Shabbat. Together with the students, discuss the image of Shabbat as a queen. 
  • For older students: You can expand further by teaching the contemporary song “Little Gifts”, which describes the atmosphere of Erev Shabbat (Friday night) and expresses how small details can join together to create a unique Shabbat atmosphere. 


Unit Closing/Assessment:

Plan a class-wide Kabbalat Shabbat. The students will be responsible for choosing the songs and will participate in singing the songs or creating dance movements for the melodies. Students who know how to play musical instruments can play some of the songs. In planning for the class-wide Kabbalat Shabbat activity, refer to the essential questions of the unit according to the resources studied: How do the songs we learned help create a Shabbat atmosphere and bring a feeling of kedusha (holiness) to Shabbat?