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.
Cantor Menachem Brummer sings the "Lecha Dodi" in a melody by Louis Lewandowski (1821-1894)
Lecha dodi likrat kala, Penej Schabbat nekabela. Lecha dodi likrat kala, Penej Schabbat nekabela.
Come my Beloved, to greet the bride, The Sabbath presence let us welcome! Come my Beloved, to greet the bride, The Sabbath presence let us welcome!
Schamor weSachor bedibur echad, hischmianu el hamjuchad, A-donaj echad uschmo echad, leschem ultiferet welithila.
‘Observe’ and ‘Remember’ both uttered as one, The One and Only God made us hear. Hashem is one and His Name is one, for renown, for splendor and for praise.
Hitoreri Hitoreri, ki wa orech kumi ori, uri uri schir daberi, kwod A-donaj alajich nigla.
Wake up! Wake up! For your light has come, rise up and shine, Awaken, awaken, utter a song, The glory of Hashem is revealed on you.
Boi beSchalom ateret bala; gam berina uwzahala, toch emunej am segula, Boi chala, Boi chala, Boi chala Schabbat Malkta.
Enter in peace, O crown of her husband, Even in joyous song and good cheer, Among the faithful of the treasured nation. Enter, O bride! Enter, O bride!
A Richly Decorated Cantor Book
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.