Exploring Lecha Dodi, Part 3: Verse #1 – Shamor V’Zachor

Other entries in this series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

We left off last week with two questions related to the end of Verse 1:

1) We seem to state that already in the present, ה’ אחד ושמו אחד. Elsewhere in Tefillah, however, we state that as a hope for the future – ביום ההוא יהיה ה’ אחד ושמו אחד. What does this phrase mean altogether, and is this idea something that is already true today, or only in the future?
2) What is the meaning of the last line, and what does it mean that Hashem’s שם is אחד for שם?

It is simultaneously obvious and perplexing that we recite “Mizmor Shir L’Yom HaShabbat,” following Lecha Dodi, to welcome Shabbat. Obvious, because Shabbat is right there in the first line. Perplexing, because nowhere else in that Perek does Shabbat seem to have any mention. Rashi explains:

פירוש רש”י לתהלים פרק צב פסוק א
ליום השבת – שאומרים אותו בשבתות, והוא מדבר בענין העולם הבא שכולו שבת

Mizmor Shir represents more than the onset of Shabbat – by extension, it represents the World to Come. By discussing the World to Come, per force we discuss Shabbat. This is because, as we say in the Zemirot, מעין עולם הבא, יום שבת מנוחה – Shabbat is a weekly taste of the lofty life we may one day live in the World to Come. How is this idea expressed in the Siddur?

Until now we have looked at Lecha Dodi in a vacuum, but this perspective is limited and incomplete. Munk (Heb. Ed., 10-11) explains that the first six Perakim of what we call “Kabbalat Shabbat” were compiled to represent the first six days of Creation, while the seventh and eighth Perakim, particularly Mizmor Shir L’Yom HaShabbat, represent Shabbat. By extension, then, the first six Perakim also represent the first six Millennia of the world’s existence, while Mizmor Shir represents the seventh Millennium and the epoch of Moshiach. In one instant, Lecha Dodi serves as a triumphant welcoming bugle-call to the Perek of Mizor Shir, the day of Shabbat, and the Messianic Era.

Both Lecha Dodi and Mizmor Shir use Messianic-era terminology expressed in contemporary phraseology to evoke the feeling that Shabbat is מעין עולם הבא, a taste of the World to Come. As we reach the top of the ladder with Lecha Dodi and Mizmor Shir, we feel comfortable expressing in Messianic terms that, even now, ה’ אחד ושמו אחד. There are ideas being expressed both in Lecha Dodi and in Mizmor Shir that are not technically true insofar as we know them today, but which are true in the larger, more ephemeral sense that is evoked by Shabbat’s symbiotic relationship with the World to Come.

Thus, this verse has transported us back to Marah and Har Sinai before catapulting us forward to the World to Come. At the same time, it reminds us that Shabbat is more than a day of the week. It is a reminder of the limitedness of our lives if they remain unexamined and the limitlessness of our lives to the extent that we step back one day a week and remember why we live them – for the passage that they offer us to the World to Come. [This idea will become more relevant as we proceed past Verse #2 of Lecha Dodi – Verses 3-8 hardly mention Shabbat and have everything to do with Geulah and Moshiach.]

For another possible answer to how we can express futuristic ideas in the present tense, see the first section of our Pesach Insights, “The Future as Past Experience.” There we develop that sometimes we express future as present because we believe so strongly in that future that we cannot help but experience it already now.

How can we understand the last line of Verse 1? Although Netiv Binah quotes many sources, including R’ S. R. Hirsch, who assume that Line #4 connects to Line #3, the commentary Iyun Tefillah to Siddur Otzar HaTefillot, perhaps picking up on our question of how Hashem’s שם can be אחד for שם, makes the creative suggestion that Line #4 is actually a continuation of Line #2:

פירוש עיון תפילה לסידור אוצר התפילות דף רצט-598
לשם ולתפארת ולתהילה
– מוסב על “השמיענו” וגו’, להיות לנו זה “לשם ולתפארת ולתהילה” – נגדה נא לכל עמי התבל – אשר בחר בנו, ונתן לנו את תורתו. ומיוסד על לשון הכתוב (דברים כו, יט), “ולשמור כל מצותיו וגו’ לתהילה לשם ולתפארת.”

By allowing us to hear “Shamor” and “Zachor” simultaneously – by allowing us to be “God-like” at the very moment that he gave us the Torah and Shabbat – Hashem made us a cause of שם, תפארת, ותהילה among the Nations of the world. Iyun Tefillah points out that the source for this three-word phrase is Devarim 26:19, in which Moshe describes the symbiotic relationship between the Jews and God: you have made God distinguished by following His Laws, and He has made you distinguished among the other Nations “לתהילה לשם ולתפארת.” This seems to support the Iyun Tefillah’s contention that the intention here is to describe ourselves as having been endowed with שם, תפארת, ותהילה.

Thus, the Iyun Tefillah would read the verse as follows:

“Shamor” and “Zachor” in a single word
We were given permission to hear by the singular God –
He who is single and whose reputation is singular –
Such that we would come to be regarded for שם, תפארת, ותהילה.

Notice that the Pasuk (לתהילה לשם ולתפארת) has the words in a different order than Lecha Dodi (לשם לתפארת ולתהילה). We don’t have R’ Alkabetz’s first name to use as an excuse this time, but Netiv Binah (vol. 2, p. 62) pins the change on the need to end every verse with the same guttural sound. If I could offer another possibility: The juxtaposition of Hashem’s שם in Line #3 to the שם that is made for us in Line #4 is much to the point of this verse, particularly as it is understood by the Iyun Tefillah. The verse in its totality is expressing the emotional relationship between Hashem (who is אחד because of his שם) and us (who strive to be אחד in our experience of Shabbat, our understanding of which (השמיענו) causes us to have שם in the world). Thus, Line #3 becomes less a throwaway line than it was a few minutes ago and instead serves as an important introduction to Line #4: the very way in which our השמיענו (Line #2) causes us to be אחד (Line #4) is through our שם (Line #4) – as demonstrated by the fact that שם is also the cause of Hashem’s being אחד (Line #3).

In fact, all three words in this line express the importance of a pristine outward importance for the Jews among the other Nations:

     שם connotes one’s reputation as it is defined by others – the phrase אנשי שם, regularly used in Chumash, carries the meaning that the people under discussion were regarded highly by others.

     תפארת appears again in the Shacharit Shemoneh Esrei: כליל תפארת בראשו נתת לו בעמדו לפניך על הר סיני – a crown of Tiferet You (Hashem) put on his (Moshe’s) head when he stood on Har Sinai. Tiferet is often juxtaposed with the word כליל, which I understand is not a hard, metallic-like crown, but a soft crown of laurels. A crown is a symbol to others of one’s stature or high position, as Moshe’s and the Jews’ elevated position was made known to the other Nations at Har Sinai through the gift of Shabbat and the concomitant way in which we were made God-like (השמיענו) through that experience. (Thus the sudden interpolation of Shabbat in this paragraph of Shemoneh Esrei, when it was just talking a moment ago about the larger Har Sinai experience.)

     תהילה also appears again throughout Shabbat in this familiar line:
הודו על ארץ ושמים/ וירם:קרן לעמו / תהלה לכל חסידיו / לבני ישראל, עם קרובו
[Although] Hashem’s glory is in Heaven / he [nevertheless] shines a ray of light to His People / through his righteous ones – and all of the Jews – having תהלה.
Thus again, תהלה as a means of inspiring or inculcating a reputation among admirers.

Thus we have a three-fold opportunity to use the exalted unification we were provided by having been allowed to hear שמור and זכור simultaneously to inspire the rest of the Nations as we improve ourselves. And to do this, we start with שם – as Hashem Himself is distinguished by שם. An ambitious mission, but Coach says we can do it, so we believe it.

Alrighty – next week we will move on to Verse #2, and there we will need to consider why Shabbat Bereishit comes after Marah and Har Sinai in the song.

Shabbat Shalom.

This entry was posted in Lecha Dodi, Tefillah. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Exploring Lecha Dodi, Part 3: Verse #1 – Shamor V’Zachor

  1. Pingback: Exploring Lecha Dodi, Part 1: The Refrain | Classroom Declassified

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