Some of the most famous Jewish mystics in history lived in the town of Tz'fat
(Safed), such as Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair, Rabbi
Shimon ben Yochai, Rabbi Yitzchak ben Shlomo Luria Arizal, Rabbi Moshe ben
Yaakov Cordovero, Rabbi Dovid ben Zimra Radbaz, Rabbi Moshe ben Yosef Terani
Mabit, Rabbi Yosef ben Ephraim Karo, Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz, and
Rabbi Avraham Dov of Abritish, among others, and whose remains are buried
Yet, as our Sages tell us, these holy Jews live on still in their "abode of
the living." "Even after death, the tzadikim are called living" (Talmud,
Along this road, a veritable "Shabbat Road," the mystics sang:
"Lecha Dodi ... Come, my Beloved, to meet the Bride. Let us welcome the
Shabbos. ... Shake the dust off yourself, arise, don your glorious garments -
my people ... Awake, awake, utter a sing ... The L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is
"Come in peace, Shabbos Queen!" The Jews raised their voices to heaven and
the message went forward, heard even by the Arab farmer, who failed to grasp
anything about it.
In his time Rabbi Akiva  was often asked: "What makes you think that your
Shabbat is more important than the other days of the week?"
Once, a Roman officer asked him that, and he boldly answered him with another
question, "What makes you think you're more important than anybody else?"
Proudly the Roman said, "Because I was chosen to be honored by my emperor."
"The same is true about Shabbat," said Rabbi Akiva.
"Shabbat is more important than the rest of the week because the King of kings
has chosen to honor it."
"Lecha Dodi, Shabbos Queen," the call of exultation ranged through every
Jewish home and echoed in the hills.
The theme of bride and bridegroom -- the Jewish people and G-d, the Shabbat
and the Jewish people -- has come down to every Jew. It is part of our
When the tradition of greeting the Shabbos Bride began is a story in itself.
Every storyteller has his own version, all steeped in the truths of Torah and
One early source, quoted by Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai (author of the Zohar),
When G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, which He
blessed and made holy, Shabbat appeared before the Holy One, blessed be He,
and complained: "Master of the Universe, each day of the week has a mate,
but I am the odd one, without a mate!"  Replied G-d: "The Jewish people
will be your mate!" Thus, when G-d gave his Torah to the Jewish people
at Sinai, He began the Fifth Commandment with the words, "Remember the
promise I made to the Shabbat that the Jewish people will be its mate."5
But every Jew bound by the Torah knew, or eventually came to know, of the
author of "Lecha Dodi."
Renowned for his wisdom and poetry, Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz  composed
the niggun around 1571. He lived only a little more than eight more years to
enjoy the fruits of his labor.
However, the Arab farmer knew or cared little about such things.
Hotheaded and a poor businessman, the farmer witnessed his farm, land become
Rarely now did his fig tree bear healthy fruit, even in season.
Why was this so?
No doubt, he told himself, the Jews were exacting their price for his open
belligerence towards them.
Jews -- Hebrews -- or whatever they called themselves! -- were his enemies,
enemies of all enemies!
They were to blame for all his misfortunes, and he was determined to make them
Slowly he plotted his revenge.
Slowly he picked his victim.
Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz.
Did this Arab need any other reason than that Shlomo HaLevi wrote a song
called "Lecha Dodi"? "Let's go forth, my beloved."
As far as the Arab was concerned, this spiritual, loving niggun summed up
everything that separated Jew from Arab.
It was these Jews, or their ancestors, who had seen the birth of Mohammed
(569-632 c.e.), the camel driver who was "imbued with the fervor of Judaism,
proclaiming all Arabs descendants of Abraham and calling for all Jews and
Christians alike to join him in a true brotherhood of man in the name of
Allah" ; it was these Jews who walked the road adjoining his land
and perhaps in the middle of the night ate up his food, stole his grain and
plotted their evil.
Thinking this made the Arab more angry, and one day when he saw a lone Jew --
he knew it was the celebrated Rabbi Alkabetz! -- walking along the road,
absorbed in his prayer book, he seized the opportunity.
Nobody in the universe could attest to what was in his mind and clearly no
other person was about.
Somebody had to pay for the rejection of his prophet Mohammed and his beloved
Somebody had to pay for the loss of his income.
With a hostility that Mohammed must have also felt towards Jews, the Arab
farmer waylaid the lone Jew along the road and murdered him.  The year was
The road through Safed leads everywhere, this time to the courtyard of the
farmer, directly to the fig tree, where he now buried the Jew.
The story is recounted in the book, Safed: The Mystical City:
The following day the tree blossomed and bore fruit -- exceptionally large and
delicious figs ... yet it was out of season!
Soon news of the miraculous occurrence reached the ears of the Turkish
provincial governor. He summoned the Arab farmer.
"What is your secret of outstanding horticulture?" he asked. "This is the
first I've ever heard of a tree bearing fruit before its appointed time."
The farmer remained silent. He was afraid of the consequences should he
The governor asked again, more firmly this time, more demanding of an
The farmer remained mute.
Finally, the governor ceased to tolerate the farmer's insolent silence, and
ordered that he be tortured.
The Arab finally confessed to killing Rabbi Alkabetz, and admitted that from
the day he had buried him the fig tree had begun to bear fruit.
Startled and impressed by this revelation, the governor commanded that the
farmer be hung from that very fig tree as punishment for slaying a holy man
of Israel! 
As we're beginning to realize now, the road through Safed leads everywhere,
this time beginning with "Lecha Dodi" and ending with immortalizing Rabbi
Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz.
You can find his name in the first letters of each of the eight verses of the
niggun, which he composed that way.
Beginning with the letter "shin" ("Shamor v'zachor," etc.), they spell out his
name, Shlomo HaLevi.
You can also find "Lecha Dodi" as one of the 10 Niggunim of Rabbi Shneur
Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism. 
Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn (1860-1920), the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe,
used to recite Shema Yisroel in his prayers to this tune.
The melody is also a traditional Breslover  Shabbos table niggun that was
set to "Lecha Dodi" in recent years and has become very popular in Breslov.
There, the song has a total of nine verses.
Finally, on erev Shabbos, the road through Safed leads to you, to your lips,
to prepare the way for the Shabbos Queen. 
"Come, my beloved ... Lecha Dodi ..."
As Shabbos puts her arms around you, there are no words to describe it.
That's what a niggun is for.
 These tehillim - Psalms 29 and 95-99 - are now a part of our "Kabbalat
Shabbos" ("Welcoming the Shabbat") service to this very day. The custom began
about 400 years ago and was introduced by the Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero
(1522-1570) of Safed (brother-in-law of Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz, author
of "Lecha Dodi").
 According to Rabbi M. Cordovero, as quoted by Nissan Mindel's book, My
Prayer, vol. 2, p. 10 and in Siddur Otzar Hatefilot, vol. 1, p. 590.
 40-135 c.c.e. Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph. Often called the father of
Rabbinical Judaism, he was the greatest scholar of his day, a true giant in
the history of Judaism. And if you think you're not where you'd like to be in
embracing Yiddishkeit, consider this: Akiva was virtually uneducated until he
way 40; after you couldn't hold the holy man down. At one point when he
established his own school in B'nei B'rak, he had 24,000 students!
 "The seven days of the week may be divided into three parts of days, each
pair adding up to seven (one and six; two and five; three and four), leaving
the seventh day as a single
day." My Prayer, Nissan Mindel, vol. 2, p. 27.
 See Bereishit Rabbah 11:9, see also My Prayer, vol. 2, pp. 27-28.
 Rabbi Solomon Alkabetz, a kabbalist of Safed, is reputed for composing
the popular hymn Lecha Dodi in 1529 (according to others, 1571). The poem is a
mosaic of Biblical and rabbinic phrases and no less than six of its nine
stanzas are devoted to the yearning for Jerusalem.
Accepted by all Jewish communities throughout the world, it became a favorite
of Hazzanim, synagogue-composers, and Hassidic sects. Abraham Z. Idelsohn,
the foremost Jewish musicologist, estimated in the early 1900s that there
were some 2,000 melodies written for the Lecha Dodi text.
Certainly this number is far greater now because of the many contemporary
settings and oral Hassidic tunes sung since Idolsohn's time." Macy Nulman,
Concepts of Jewish Music and Prayer, p. 88.
 Jews, God and History, Max I. Dimont, p. 186.
 Safed: The Mystical City, by David Rossoff, p. 80.
 Chasidic Rebbe, Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, 1772-1811.
 "In the ghetto of Prague between 1594 and 1716, Jews welcomed the
Sabbath with hymns and instrumental music. It was in the synagogues of Prague
where the organ (ugab)
and string instruments (nebalim) were played. According to rabbinic rule, the
musicians had to cease playing their instruments immediately before
the recitation of Psalm 92, Mizmor shir leyom hashabbat, at which point the
Friday evening service officially began." (Concepts of Jewish Music and
Prayer, p. 88)