Shabbat HaMalka - The Shabbat Queen
The Sabbath Queen
Due to the Diaspora and assimilation of many of the Jewish people there has been a great loss. Lost is the significance of welcoming the Shabbat Queen, which is very ancient and very much a Jewish custom and is why the evening service to welcome the Shabbat is called "Kabbalat Shabbat" (Welcoming the Sabbath). We usher it in and regard the Shabbat as a queen that brings majesty into our midst.
In the Kabbalat Shabbat service six psalms (95-99) are recited that declares that G-d is Master of the universe. And these six psalms allude to the fact that Shabbat is the testimony of His creating heaven and earth in six days, resting on the seventh day...and refers ultimately to the eternal Shabbat of the Messianic Era. After the six psalms then the song Lecha Dodi (Come My Beloved) is sung to greet the incoming Queen of Days - Shabbat.
In much of Jewish understanding the world is seen as broken and shattered and on its way to being mended (tikkun) and even though our present state of being fractured and exiled by the Galut (Diaspora), we know that it is only temporary because its end marks the redemption (geulah) the homecoming...the great Shabbat (rest).
It is aid that the exile that plagues this world is threefold:
- Exile of G-d Himself when the Shechinah (Divine Presence) was exiled from its proper place. In the metaphor it is the separation which was to have occurred between the masculine aspect and the feminine aspect of the G-d head...the estrangement of the "King" from the "Queen."
- Exile from Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel) the people of the land.
- Exile of the person...estranged from the immediate environment, unsure of himself, feels lost and caught up in this hostile world.
The Shabbat stands for the triumphant homecoming for all three forms of exile. On this day, Shabbat, G-d, the King, meets His bride and queen - the Shabbat. Many of the symbols of Shabbat has come to reflect this divine re-unification. For people of Yisrael, wherever they was and are at, the Shabbat was and is a reminder of home. All our love and longing for Tziyon and Yerushalayim was and is openly expressed during the Shabbat. Shabbat was and is always a reminder of Eretz Yisrael in the midst of our exile.
Also consider the difference in the psalm that we recite prior to Grace After Meals on the Shabbat, from the one that is recited during the work week. During the work week, after we have eaten and are satisfied (Devarim 8:10), we recite Tehillim 137 before we recite Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals - the four blessings, first for the nourishment, second for the Land, third for Yerushalayim, and fourth for G-d's Goodness.)
It goes something like this: "By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down and wept when we remembered Tziyon...How can we sing the song of Hashem in a strange land?"
Whereas Tehillim 126 that we recite on Shabbat goes something like this: "When Hashem returned us to Tziyon we were like dreamers...Our mouths were filled with laugher and our tongues flowed with song."
The Shabbat has always, and always will, have much to do with awakening Jews to yearn to return to Eretz Yisrael until the Jewish people have all returned. Shabbat is rightly "home" to Jews that are still "en route" and away from home - Yisrael.
Shabbat gives all that have a feeling of alienation a sense of homecoming. Friday night anciently became called "Leil Shabbat" - Sabbath night, and was never considered a free night to go out and do whatever one wants, or that one could now sleep late on the morning after, but instead was considered a "night in." All those that were away, off, and about in their daily lives during the week could look forward to leil Shabbat - a time of coming home. A time of welcoming and sojourning with the Queen of Days. the Sabbath Presence, the Shechinah of G-d. When the Shabbat comes, we come home from our alienated existence in this world. we again encounter and honor the image of G-d in ourselves and in all human beings around us. So, come, let us welcome the Shabbat!
Lecha dodi likrat kalah penei Shabbat nekabela!
Come my Beloved to greet the bride, the Sabbath presence, let us welcome!
Dodi, My Beloved is G-d Himself. He is our Beloved and we are inviting Him to join us in ushering in the Shabbat. Kalah, the Bride is the Shabbat, and Yisrael is like a groom awaiting it's bride as she approaches the chuppah (wedding canopy) and also alludes to the Shechinah (Divine Presence). By asking G-d to join in with our greeting of the Shechinah we are signifying our prayer for the end to come to this Exile.
Chofetz Chaim once commented:
How unfortunate are those who delay in entering the Shabbat until the very last minute but hurry to depart it as soon as they can! For the six days of work are rooted in the curse which G-d placed upon Adam and after the latter partook of the Tree of Knowledge: "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread" (Bereishit 3:19). Only the day of Shabbat was excluded from this curse, for G-d blessed the seventy day and sanctified it (ibid. 2:3) , and Shabbat is the source of blessing for the entire week. Should we not be anxious to enter this wellspring of blessing and delay our departure from it?!
Shabbat is like a bride in that it is the means through which this mundane, corporeal world achieves an attachment with the spiritual world above. This day is also considered a queen referring to the six days that precede it, for by its holiness, the day of Shabbat is distinct and supreme.
"The heavens declare the glory of G-d: and the firmament shows His Handiwork" - it is on the Shabbat that we can raise our minds from the mundane and sing the praises of G-d, that we are able to commune with G-d both in His creation and His revelation, Baruch Hashem!