The air is electric and filled with anticipation. Although there is music playing in the background, your ears barely register the sound. A hush falls over the room; and there she is- your bride. She is stunning; she looks aglow; radiant with joy as she walks toward you. You feel your heart fill with happiness, more than you could have ever imagined. You stomp on the glass, and the crowd erupts with joyous calls of laughter and song. This sacred moment is the inspiration for Lcha Dodi.
Shlomo Alkabetz, a 16th century kabbalist, wrote this liturgical poem as an acrostic. The text is rich with quotes from the Torah, prophets and imagery of nature and creation. One of my favorite verses of all times comes from this text:
הִתְעורְרִי הִתְעורְרִי כִּי בָא אורֵךְ קוּמִי אורִי
עוּרִי עוּרִי שיר דַּבֵּרִי כְּבוד ה' עָלַיִךְ נִגְלָה
Hitor’ri, hitor’ri, ki va oreich, kumi ori. Uri, uri shir daberi! K’vod Adonai ala-yich nig-lah! Arise; awake your light has come! Arise, shine awake and sing: the Eternal’s glory dawns upon you.
This is a re-contextualized quote from the Song of Devorah, found in the book of Judges. Alkabetz takes these words, originally addressed to the prophetess and warrior Devorah, and uses them here to address Jerusalem. The original context conveys a sense of urgency and powerful movement in Devorah’s victorious conquering of Sisera, an army commander. Alkabetz infuses Lcha Dodi with that same sense of urgency and powerful movement forward; in this textual moment, he urges us to stand on our feet, and welcome the Shabbat bride with joy.
This is how I feel each Friday night, as I sing these words with you. I am so excited that Shabbat is about to sweep over our congregation. When we sing these words together; the energy and sense of connection is full; and sacred. I love this moment and the sense of community it fosters within our sanctuary.
This Sephardic setting is our most sung Lcha Dodi here at TE. The music enhances the essence of joy, urgency, and powerful connection Shlomo Alkabetz conveys in this verse. The chorus is upbeat, with a melody line that starts low, soars upward, and cascades downward again. The upward motion of this chorus echoes our excitement bubbling over as Shabbat enters the room.
The smaller melodic range and almost speech like rhythm of the verses echo the hushed and energetic anticipation of her arrival.
Check it out here on YouTube. Stay tuned for two different keys to help everyone sing this prayer together!