WELCOMING THE SHABBAT TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY
I hope this message finds you well.
Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (page 199a) tells us that "Rabbi Chanina would adorn himself in fancy garments on Erev Shabbat and proclaim, "let us go out and greet the Shabbat queen. Rabbi Yannai would put on his Shabbat clothing on Erev Shabbat and welcome the approaching Shabbat by declaring to her, "arrive oh bride, arrive oh bride," The historical Talmudic narrative serves as the basis for our custom to not just sit back and Erev Shabbat and passively allow the Shabbat to begin. But rather, to proactively "go out" as it were and welcome the shabbat bride, the Shabbat queen into our homes, shuls, and communities. This is the tradition known as "Kabbalat Shabbat": accepting upon we the Shabbat, or alternatively translated as greeting the manifestation of the Shabbat in the form of the Shabbat bride.
In earlier times, the standard text of the Kabbalat Shabbat service was quite brief. Twelfth-century sources show that at that point in Jewish history the service was comprised of merely reciting "Mizmor Shir L'Yom HaShabbat", Psalm 92. This service was akin to what we still do today, according to Nusach Askenaz, when erev Shabbat coincides with Yom Tov.
It wasn't until the 16th century, that the school of mystics and scholars in Tzefat, led by such luminaries as the Arizal and the author of the Shulchan Arch, Rabbi Yosef Karo, introduced the expanded form of Kabbalat Shabbat into the liturgy. This liturgy included one of Judaism's best-known poems, the moving "Lechah Dodi" song, penned by Tzfat resident Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz.
To a large extent, this expanded kabbalat Shabbat was based on the earlier Talmudic tradition, as described in the beginning of this message. Indeed, these mystics of Tzefat would often venture into the hills and pastoral countryside of the Galilee on Friday evenings, where they would greet the Shabbat queen and accept the sanctity of the Shabbat upon themselves.
We are fortunate in this community to have recently resumed our Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat service, and we are looking to expand our pool of regular attendees. Please consider joining us on Friday evening, weather permitting, at 7 pm, as we usher in the Shabbat together as a community. We are grateful to the Allen family for hosting this minyan in their backyard. The Allen address is 51 Meadowcrest Dr, Fairfield. If you are considering attending on a given week, please be in touch with me beforehand to confirm that we will have a minyan, and so that we may plan accordingly in terms of ensuring that we will have a minyan. I look forward to seeing you there.
Wishing you a wonderful month of June,
Rabbi Peretz Robinson