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Lecha Dodi

Judaism's most popular Shabbat prayer-song,
composed by Rabbi Shlomo Alkebetz

translation and commentary by Rabbi Moshe Miller


Stanza 3

To welcome the Shabbat, let us progress,
For that is the source, from which to bless.
From the beginning, chosen before time,
Last in deed, but in thought - prime.


That is the source, from which to bless: The Zohar (vol. II, 63b) explains that the Shabbat blesses all the days of the following week. Furthermore, the 620 (the numerical value of keter) columns of light which extend forth from keter to chochma and bina (and to all of the sefirot), plus the 32 Paths of Wisdom (thirty-two channels through which the light of chochma infuses Creation) plus the 50 Gates of Understanding (which represents the full development of the seven emotional attributes within bina) together produce the numerical value of 702, the same as the numerical value of the word "Shabbat", again indicating that Shabbat is the source of blessing for all of Creation.

From the beginning: "From the beginning" is "m'rosh" in the original Hebrew. When each letter of the word "rosh" (reish-alef-shin) is substituted with the letter that follows it in the Hebrew alphabet, the word "Shabbat" (shin-beit-taf) is formed. This alludes to the ascent of malchut, which is called Shabbat, to the level of "the beginning." Technically speaking, malchut, which is also called Chochma Tata'a (Lower Chochma), which G-d used in creating the world, rises and bonds with Chochma Illa'a (Upper Chochma) the chochma of Torah. Thus, Creation fulfills its ultimate purpose, as the Zohar states: "The world was created with the Torah and for the sake of Torah. As long as the Jewish people occupy themselves with Torah, the world will continue to exist." This is the essence of Shabbat. Accordingly, the letters of "rosh" and "Shabbat", together with a yud representing the Jewish People, combine to form the word Bereishit - "In the beginning," the first word of the Torah.

Chosen before time: Based on the verse in Proverbs 8:23, this refers to the Torah, which preceded time and is referred to as the blueprint from which the world was created.

Last in deed, but in thought - prime: Although malchut is the last of the ten sefirot, corresponding to the faculty of speech, it is nevertheless preeminent in thought, i.e., in G d's Will (the level of keter), which transcends chochma. For it is only the permutation of words that have their source in chochma, as the Zohar states, "Abba (the father - chochma) establishes brata (the daughter - malchut). However, the power of speech is rooted in keter, transcending the level of chochma.


Continue to stanza 4

[go to Prayer Menu for commentary on other stanzas, and/or for the complete, original rhyming translation]


Rabbi Moshe-Leib Miller, a guest teacher at Ascent when he lived in Israel, was born in South Africa and received his yeshiva education in Israel and America. He is a prolific author and translator, with some twenty books to his name on a wide variety of topics, including a new, authoritative, annotated translation of the Zohar. He currently lives in Chicago.


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