Shabbat meals, like many aspects of Jewish life, are a beautiful synthesis of our physical and spiritual selves. Physically, we enjoy delightful feasts at which our most beautiful tableware is used and delicious foods are presented. Spiritually, we elevate ourselves through the sanctification of the day (Kiddush) and the divrei Torah (words of Torah) shared at the Shabbat table.
Singing zmirot, special Shabbat songs, is also an excellent means of physically and spiritually elevating the Shabbat meal, especially as song brings joy to both body and soul. Although many of the traditional Shabbat zmirot are somewhat abstract in their exact meaning, one of the most popular songs for Shabbat day, Yom Zeh Mechubad, is a true paean to the day of rest.
Yom Zeh Mechubad: The chorus of this song (Yom zeh mechubad mee’kohl yameem, kee vo shavat Tzoor oh’lameem) means “This day is honored above all days, for on it He Who fashioned the universe, rested.”
The five verses that follow serve to glorify the precept that “The Holy One, Blessed be He, said until Israel: ‘My children, borrow [money for your Shabbat needs] on my account and celebrate the holiness of the day, trust in Me, and I will repay” (Beitzah 15b). The first verse reiterates the basic commandment of Shabbat, that six days one may work, but the seventh day belongs to God. The concluding verses describe the ways in which one honors Shabbat and reiterates the Divine assurance that “You will lack nothing on it, you will eat, be satisfied, and bless God…” (Stanza 4).
The author of this simple but beautiful zemer is unknown, although, based on the first letter acrostic of each verse, it appears that his first name was Israel.
Listen to one version of the song by clicking here