I will hopefully be posting one post a week about Zemirot Shabbat, and more generally, Jewish liturgy – including background, insight and links to tunes, to help deepen our experience of this area of Judaism.
In many modern Ashkenazi benchers, one of the first Zemirot sung on Friday night is “Kol Mekadesh”. The Zemer first appeared in a Siddur in the 11th century, though we are not sure who wrote it. The Zemer describes the different elements of Shabbat observance, and concludes with a prayer to Hashem to reward those who keep His Shabbat.
A few of the first lines of the Zemer describe the joy of those keeping Shabbat. One line says “Beyom HaShabbat Sisu VeSimchu Kimmekablei Matan Nachliel,” “On the day of Shabbat rejoice like those people who received the Torah.” What link is there between Shabbat observance and rejoicing in the receiving of the Torah?
The commentary on Zemirot, Or Yisrael, says that this line in the Zemer is based on a Midrash describing the giving of the Torah. The Midrash says that the Torah was given on Friday at midday, lasting three hours, and three hours before the onset of Shabbat, the Bnei Yisrael returned to their tents to prepare for Shabbat.
Based on this Midrash, I would suggest the following explanation for the line in our Zemer. Let us imagine we have just arrived back home after Hashem`s revelation. God Himself has just revealed himself to us, and given us Ten Commandments. The national mood is one of tremendous excitement. The first thing everyone wants to do is to actually go and keep one of those commandments.We now begin preparing for Shabbat, just three hours after God has told us to keep it!
The “people who received the Torah” would have had a tremendous enthusiasm and excitement for that first Shabbat. 2500 years later when this Zemer was composed, and 3500 years later as we sing this Zemer, we try to recapture the feeling of the first Shabbat. We seek to remember that God revealed Himself to the Bnei Yisrael and told them to keep Shabbat, and because of that we “rejoice like those who received the Torah.”
Some Tunes for Kol Mekadesh
Rav Shlomo Carlebach
This is an interesting phenomenon. The tune is quite famous, but most would know it from Shul, and are unlikely to have heard it in it`s original form, as a tune for Kol Mekadesh.
This is lovely Israeli rendition of a popular tune.
This tune is the one from Yeshivat Chevron, and was traditionally kept as the tune sung in the famous Slobodka Yeshiva.