Handgeschriebenes und aufwendig verziertes Kantorbuch aus Frankfurt, 1920

The Sound of Prayer

Cantor Menachem Brummer sings “Lecha Dodi” in the synagogue.

Cantor Menachem Brummer took the time for us to sing and record the "Lecha Dodi." The source text for this was a choir songbook in our collection. You can listen to Brummer’s voice while following the stanzas in the beautifully handcrafted choir songbook.

In the Jewish tradition, music plays a major role both in religious services and at private celebrations. In the synagogue, the cantor sings the prayers and passages from the Torah. Among liberal communities, the service is sometimes celebrated with instrumental music. One of the highlights of the Shabbat service is the mystical liturgical poem "Lecha Dodi," with which the Shabbat is welcomed.

Welcoming the Shabbat

Lecha Dodi, the opening words of the poem, mean "Come, my Beloved." While singing the last stanza, worshippers traditionally turn to the door of the synagogue and greet the Queen Shabbat with a bow and the words "Boi, Kalla!" ("Enter, O bride!"). Lecha Dodi was written by Rabbi Schlomo Ha-Levi Alkabetz (1505–1576), one of the leading kabbalists of the sixteenth century. The author immortalized his own name in the first Hebrew letters of the individual stanzas.

The "Lecha Dodi" poem is sung according to many different melodies. Cantor Brummer performs it to a tune composed by Louis Lewandowski (1821–1894). It is very likely that the "Lecha Dodi" in our choir songbook of the time was sung with the same melody as that sung in the Börneplatz Synagogue, which opened in 1882.

The following is a selection of lyrics with translations. You can find the complete stanzas in German translation and Hebrew script in the following publication: Sidur Sefat Emet, translated by Rabbi Dr. S. Bamberg, Victor Goldschmidt-Verlag, Basel 1986.

A Richly Decorated Cantor Book

Front cover of the Frankfurt cantor book, 1920
Front cover of the Frankfurt cantor book, 1920. Loan from the Jewish Community of Frankfurt (legal entity of public law)

The Sofer (Torah scribe) of the Frankfurt Börneplatz congregation, Elimelech Max Beer, transcribed and illustrated this choir songbook in 1920. The Rothschild family donated it to the synagogue. Leo Horowitz, a chaser by trade and son of the well-known rabbi Dr. Markus Horowitz, provided the book with its ornate silver fittings. The Burning Bush adorns the front cover, while the margins comprise a frieze of squares containing the names and symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel. Written here in Hebrew are the words: "The ground on which you stand is mine, this piece of Earth is holy," as well as the twelve names of the tribes of Israel.

Written on the back of the choir songbook are the words: "Donated by Jakew ben Shmuel Rothschild and his wife Selma, daughter of Chaim, and their sons Mordechai and Walter and their daughter Bile in the year 680." Thus, the choir songbook was donated in 1919/20.