Judaism's most popular Shabbat prayer-song,
by Rabbi Shlomo Alkebetz
translation and commentary by Rabbi Moshe Miller
To welcome the Shabbat, let us progress,
is the source, from which to bless.
From the beginning, chosen before time,
in deed, but in thought - prime.
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.
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
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
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.