Bialik and Kabbalat Shabbat

January 4, 2019

Here I am in Tel Aviv, standing infront of the fabulous home of Chaim Nachman Bialik. Hayyim Nahman Bialik (1873-1934) was the Russian born “National Poet of the Jewish People.” (Yes . . . the Actress Mayim Bialik’s great grandfather and the poet were first cousins.) Even though he was a secular Jew, he had tremendous nostalgia for and appreciation of the traditional Jews of his generation, in spite of the tension he felt between the religious world and the secular world. For him, the Sabbath was the essence of Judaism . . . for Bialik, the peace and quiet of the traditional Sabbath was a sample of the future in which he believed all Jews would live in peace. While still in Odessa, he wrote a Hebrew song with the great cantor Pinchas Minkowsky which became famous even in the secular kibbutzim of the Yishuv (the Jewish Settlement in Palestine):

The Sabbath Queen

The sun has already disappeared beyond the treetops,
Come let us go and welcome the Sabbath Queen,
She is already descending among us, holy and blessed,
And with her are angels, a host of peace and rest,
Come, O Queen,
Come, O Bride,
Peace be unto you, O Angels of Peace.'

We have welcomed the Shabbat with song and prayer,
Let us return home our hearts full of joy.
There, the table is set, the lights are lit,
Every corner of the house is shining with a divine spark.
A good and blessed Shabbat.
A good and blessed Shabbat.
Come in peace, O Angels of Peace. 

Even after Bialik made aliyah to Israel in 1924, he held a Sabbath Salon at his house nearly every Shabbat Afternoon. He called these salons Kabbalat Shabbat (Welcoming the Sabbath). The song itself is still sung today all over the Jewish world.

I’ll write more about Bialik and his relationship with the Sabbath in two weeks.


Shabbat Shalom.