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Shabbos Music

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 27/7/2019

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Shabbos Music

Reading through the Shir Shel Yom of Shabbos we notice that it doesn’t talk about Shabbos.[1] Why?


In Kabbalas Shabbos, we say מזמור לדוד הבו...[2] in which it mentions the word קול seven times.[3] These correspond to the seven notes in music as קול means a sound. This is the idea of Shabbos as we say מזמור שיר ליום השבת; a song for the Shabbos day.


The seven days of the week correspond to the seven shepherds (Ushpizin). Shabbos- the seventh day,[4] lines up with Dovid Hamelech- the seventh shepherd[5] and he is נעים זמירות ישראל; sweet singer of Israel, in addition to him saying זמירות היו לי חקיך; Your statutes were music to me.[6] We also say ובשירי דוד עבדך; in the songs of your servant Dovid.[7] Additionally, תפלה is equivalent to שירה[8] in Gematria (515) and Dovid Hamelech says ואני תפלה.[9]


                The seven days of the week parallel the seven Sefiros (Chessed, Gevura and so on). As a result, the Sefira of מלכות matches up with Shabbos.[10] Actually, it is called שבת מלכתא and as we say ישמחו במלכותך; they shall rejoice in Your kingship.[11] Thus, Shabbos is מקור הברכה; source of blessing, just as the source of what occurs in a country is from the government. Dovid who corresponds to Shabbos is מלכות and as we say דוד מלך ישראל.


Music works in a harmony of notes just as a Zivug. Therefore, we sing on Shabbos just as we do at a wedding. Indeed, the Midrash[12] tells us Shabbos is like a wedding as it is called a כלה. Is it any surprise that there are seven Brachos in the Shabbos Shemoneh Esrei- just as there are at Sheva Brachos. Music exists after the seventh note since each one by itself is nothing. Accordingly, after we say the seven קול’s on Shabbos, we sing Lecha Dodi and then מזמור שיר ליום השבת. Consequently, in the Shir Shel Yom of Shabbos- the seventh day- we say מזמור שיר ליום השבת meaning the day of Shabbos itself sings.[13] This explains why we sing Zemiros on Shabbos Moreover, on Shabbos we have additional מזמורים in פסוקי דזמרה.


                It says in Pirkei Drebi Eliezer that there are six lands and the seventh is Eretz Yisrael.[14] In a similar vein, there are six seas and the seventh is the Kineret. In regard to the seventh land- Eretz Yisrael- it says זמרת הארץ, singing.[15] The word for the seventh sea- כנרת- is rooted in כנור (harp), a musical instrument.[16] Indeed, if one goes to the כנרת and sees its beauty, he will understand why it sings. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the first letters of כנור נעים עם נבל; sing joyously…raise up a song…the sweet harp with the lyre,[17] spell כנען- Eretz Yisrael which is called ארץ כנען.


In light of all that we mentioned, we realize that the Shir Shel Yom of Shabbos is perfect for Shabbos as we say in it ולזמר לשמך עליון; to sing praise to Your name, עלי עשור ועלי נבל עלי הגיון בכנור; upon a ten-stringed instrument and lyre with singing accompanied by a harp and במעשי ידיך ארנן; at the works of Your hands I sing glad song.

R’ Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. R’ Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance. 

[1] See Tehillim 92, Radak

[2] Tehillim 29

[3] This also corresponds to the seven Sefiros. The first is קול ה' על המים which is Chessed (water symbolizes Chessed). Then is קול ה' בכח which is Gevura. This is followed by קול ה' בהדר- Tiferes. 

[4] The Gra points out different items in respect to Shabbos- such as meat, wine, candle and so on- associate with the number 7 since Shabbos is the seventh day. The sum ofנר  is 250 and 2+5+0=7.חלה  is 43 and 4+3=7.   בשרis 502 and 5+0+2=7. יין is 70 and 7+0=7 and finally  דגis 7.

[5] In fact, Dovid died on Shabbos (Shabbos 30a).

[6] Shmuel 2, 23:1, Tehillim 119:54

[7] Mussaf Rosh Chodesh. Furthermore, Tehillim ends off with many types of musical instruments (Tehillim 150).

[8] Shira expresses harmony of creation (and this is what Dovid expresses many times throughout Tehillim). Indeed, שירה is rooted in the term ישר.

[9] Tehillim 109:4

[10] In reference to the Melachos of Shabbos, the Mishna says ארבעים חסר אחת (40 minus 1 which is 39). If we remove א (חסר אחת) from the word מלאכות, we get מלכות.

[11] Shabbos Shacharis Shemoneh Esrei

[12] Breishis Rabba 11

[13] It doesn’t say this terminology by any weekday since there it is someone singing about the day as it connects to that day. For example, Sunday we recite לדוד מזמור, Monday בני קרח, Tuesday אסף and so on.

[14] See also Vayikra Rabba 29:11, Midrash שוחר טוב, Tehillim 92:2.

[15] Breishis 43:11. See Yeshaya 24:16 with Rashi.

[16] See Yerushalmi Kilayim end of 9:3, Baba Basra 74b. Bamidbar 34:11.

[17] Tehillim 81:2-3

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