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Shabbos Zemiros

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Shabbos Zemiros

Part of the Shabbos experience is the singing of Zemiros.[1] Where does this come from?


The Gemara tells us that on Shabbos we eat, drink, say Torah and say words of praise to Hashem.[2] The Zohar[3] says וצריכין לאתערא שירה וחדוה, on Shabbos we must arouse song and joy. Singing Zemiros is shown in the words of the Shir Shel Yom of Shabbos:מזמור שיר ליום השבת טוב להדות לה’ ולזמר לשמך עליון, a song for the Shabbos day, it is good to thank Hashem and to sing praise to Your name.[4]


The Sefer Chassidim writes that Shabbos is Bracha as it says ויברך אלהים את יום השביעי[5], Hashem blessed the seventh day. Where do we see that Bracha refers to Zemiros? When Iyov cursed the day of his birth, he said אל תבא רננה בו, may no joyful song come onto it.[6] Consequently, we see that one should sing songs and praises to Hashem on Shabbos (since Shabbos is Bracha, the opposite of curse).[7]


What is the nature of the various Zemiros and what about those who authored them? The Yismach Moshe[8] tells us Zemiros that became widespread by the Jewish people were revealed with Ruach Hakodesh. The Sefer Taamai Haminhagim[9] brings from the Sar Shalom of Belz that those that have a נשמה כלליות, collective Neshama, their פיוטים were accepted by the Jewish people. Those who have a נשמה פרטיות, their poems didn’t spread.


What do we accomplish with our Zemiros? The word זמירות means to prune as in לא תזמור.[10] As a gardener prunes his trees, thereby removing the inferior branches for the purpose of improving the fruit-bearing ability of the superior ones so too our emotional, joyous recitation of the Zemiros is designed to remove the impure barriers separating us and Hashem and liberate the soul from the weekday to its Shabbos dimension. Let us conclude with the amazing words of R’ Yaakov Emdin:[11] “The words of Shabbos Zemiros are taken from Pesukim of Tanach, Halachos, Shas, Zohar and Midrashim regarding Shabbos. One who says them brings good to the world. Hashem attaches Himself to him and listens to his voice. He is pleased and sustains the world so that it doesn’t become destroyed.”


[1] Shabbos is strongly connected to song as is shown in the following: 1) We sing Zemiros. 2) Some welcome Shabbos in Shabbos with Shir Hashirim, song of songs. 3) In Kabbalas Shabbos we say לכו נרננה, שירו לה’ שיר חדש,מזמור שירו לה’, מזמור לדוד הבו לה’. Then we sing Lecha Dodi followed by מזמור שיר ליום השבת. 4) The Pesukai Dzimra on Shabbos is longer. 5) The Shir Shel Yom of Shabbos is מזמור שיר ליום השבת.

[2] Megila 12b.

[3] Eikev, p. 272b. The Ohr Zarua (2:95) writes fromרבינו יוסף טוב עלם that Zemiros on Motzai Shabbos shows honor to Shabbos just like those who escort a king with happiness and song (Also see Siddur Rashi 534).

[4] Tehillim 92:1,2. Sefer Chassidim 271, 409. The Midrash (Midrash Tehillim, שוחר טוב, 92:3) says that when Shabbos enters we receive it with song—שירה וזמרה.

[5] Breishis 2:3.

[6] Iyov 3:6.

[7] Sefer Chassidim 1147. Tosafos (Sanhedrin 37a, Tosafos s.v. מכנף) quotes that each of the six wings of the Malachim (Yeshaya 6:2) is designated to sing Shira to Hashem on one of the six days of the week. Concerning Shabbos, Hashem says I have a wing on earth that sings to me today. The Ohr Zarua (Hilchos Shabbos 42:4) writes that our sages have established special songs in honor of Shabbos since Hashem doesn’t listen to the songs and praises of the Malachim on Shabbos as He prefers to listen only to the songs of the Jewish people.

[8] Vzos Habracha.

[9] P. 273.

[10] Vayikra 25:4. See the Menoras Hamaor (הנר השלישיכלל גחלק אפרק ג) that songs are called מזמורים as it is related to לא תזמור, don’t prune, as the Zemiros we say prior to davening removes the stumbling blocks and sins. When our Tefilos come before Hashem, it can be heard and accepted.

[11] Siddur Yaavetz, Seuda Rishona, s.v. כל. See Shir Hashirim Rabba 8.

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