The Arizal's Words.
Rebbe Nachman's Melody.
WITH GRATITUDE TO the Master of the world, the Lost Princess Initiative is excited to present the first installment in our pilot educational music series: Melody and Meaning - Exploring the Shabbos Niggunim of the Breslover Chassidim.
The words to this heavenly Friday night zemer, Azamer B'Shevachin, were penned by the holy Arizal zy”a, the first in a series of three esoteric zemiros the tzaddik wrote for the three Shabbos meals of Friday night, Shabbos day, and Shalosh Seudos. The words “Ani Yitzchak Luria Ben Sh(lomo)”, “I am Yitzchak Luria the son of Shlomo” are formed by the opening letters of each stanza.
The melody to which these words are sung is attributed to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov zy”a.
Reb Nosson describes the experience of hearing Rebbe Nachman sing this niggun in the following account:
“The way he said Kiddush on Friday evening and his customs at the table; the awesome melody with which he sang Askinu Seudasa and Azamer B'Shevachin; the way he sang the other Shabbos table songs, such as Kol Mekadesh, Menuchah Vesimchah, Eishes Chayil, and Me'ein Olam Haba - if you have not seen this, you have never seen anything good.”
Breslover tradition tells us that Rebbe Nachman would sometimes sing the entire zemer to the “low part” of the niggun, while at other times he would sing the entire zemer to the “high part.” One generation later, Rav Nachman Tulchiner (1813-1884), Reb Nosson of Breslov’s closest disciple, compiled these two parts into the version of the song that would be adopted by the Breslov Chassidim and sung at their Shabbos meals throughout the generations.
Without further ado, we present a new recording of Azamer B’Shevachin featuring R’ Yaakov Klein along with the Aramaic lyrics and their simple translation.
Below the video, you will find a line-by-line explanation delving into some of the deeper meanings and allusions of this remarkable zemer.
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From our family to yours, Good Shabbos, and ah freilachin Chanukah!
Special thanks to our anonymous sponsor for making this production possible! May the illumination this song brings to so many Shabbos tables around the world be an eternal zechus for him and his family, and may they merit to access the inner light of Shabbos each week in the deepest way! Thank you, and tizkeh l'mitzvos!
It is our dream to release all of the Breslover Shabbos Niggunim in a way that introduces the melodies to am Yisrael and allows Yidden to become familiar with the translation of these zemiros and their deeper meaning. We can only do it with your help! Please consider helping us make our dream a reality by sponsoring a song! Thank you!
Azamer B'Shevachin: A Closer Look
By: R' Yaakov Klein
In Shaar HaKavanos, Rav Chaim Vital demonstrates the manner in which every word in this holy zemer is founded upon the deepest secrets of the Kabbalah and the Kavanos of Leil Shabbos. Indeed, the Ben Ish Chai ruled that while the Arizal would sing this zemer in middle of the Shabbos seudah, we should sing it before kiddush because it awakens the mystical intentions of kiddush with which most of us are not familiar. Because of my personal limitations, the esoteric nature of the meaning, and the many introductions that are necessary in order to fully comprehend them, I have endeavored to explain the zemer in a succinct manner that reveals the awesome depth in the lyrics while enabling them to remain straightforward and understandable to all. This pirush is based on sefer Minchas Yaakov, Ne'im Zemiros Yisrael, and Siddur Ha'Ari "Kol Yaakov". May we merit to sing this zemer with all of am Yisrael on the steps of the Third Beis HaMikdash on the eve of the Great Shabbos to come! Good Shabbos, good Shabbos!
אזמר בשבחין, למיעל גו פתחין, דבחקל תפוחין, דאינון קדישין
I will sing with praises, in order to enter the gates, in the field of apples, that are holy.
While the word “Zemer” means to sing, it also implies cutting, or chopping down (“l’zmor”). In singing this holy zemer and speaking about the greatness of Hashem, we are chopping down all accusatory forces. This allows us to enter into the gates of holiness, the level of “Malchus” - a reference to the Shechinah, the in-dwelling presence of Hashem - which is referred to as “The Field of Holy Apples.”
In his great humility, the holy Beis Avraham of Slonim, Rebbe Shlomo David Yehoshua Weinberg zy”a, would say that while he wasn’t able to attain a complete comprehension of the words “Chakal tapuchin kadishin”, he remembered that his father, the Divrei Shmuel of Slonim, would say these words with great passion and feeling.
נזמין לה השתא בפתורא חדתא ובמנרתא טבתא, דנהרא על רישין
Let us invite the Shechinah to a new table, and to the goodly Menorah that shines above our heads.
At this point, with the Shabbos table set before us in a way so different than during the week that makes it appear “new”, and the flames of the Shabbos candles casting their soft glow across the room, it is time to invite the Shechinah to our home. The physical preparation creates a vessel for the spiritual illumination of Shabbos Kodesh.
ימינא ושמאלא, ובינייהו כלה, בקישוטין אזלא, ומנין ולבושין
On the right and on the left, the Kallah between them, emerges with jewelry and with ornaments and regalia.
Like a bride outfitted with beautiful clothing and ornaments, Shabbos walks between the three days that precede it; Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, as well as the three days that follow it; Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. In this way, the blessing of Shabbos extends both to those that are on the “right” and “left” of her, illuminating the entire week with the light of Emunah.
Rashi to Shemos 31:18 teaches that a bride is outfitted with 24 ornaments. Each six hour period of the weekday (of which there are 24) draws its vitality from one of the 24 hours of Shabbos Kodesh.
יחבק לה בעלה, וביסודא דילה, דעביד נייחא לה, יהא כתיש כתישין
Her Husband embraces Her, and the foundation within Her. He has pleased Her, and so the following will be crushed:
If the Bride refers to Shechinah-Malchus, the in-dwelling presence of Hashem within the physical world, her Husband refers to Hakadosh Baruch Hu-Tiferes, the aspect of Hashem’s transcendence in the spiritual realms above. The level of Shechinah-Malchus is also associated with the collective soul of the Jewish nation. On Shabbos (also an aspect of Malchus - “Shabbos Malkisah”), the ocean of the collective Jewish soul (of which each individual Jew is a droplet) is embraced by the Master of the world; imbued with a deep awareness of Hashem’s grandeur and the manner in which truly there is nothing but Him, and nothing but His Goodness. This awareness is perceived and transmitted most potently by the tzaddikim referred to in the words “ub’yesodah dilah”, for they are the foundation of the world as the verse states, “V’tzaddik yesod olam.” The tzaddikim are in the realm of Nefesh (Ego) what Shabbos is in Shanah (Time) and what the Beis HaMikdash is in Olam (Space). Therefore, it is they who are most capable of experiencing, as well as enabling others to experience, the closeness between Hashem and the Jewish nation that takes place on Shabbos Kodesh. When this clarity regarding the degree to which we are in Hashem’s loving care is attained, the negative forces of anxiety, stress, worry, and fear are obliterated.
The Toras Avos brings an allusion hidden in the words from the holy Lechovitcher zy”a: “D’avid naycha lach” - How is a Jew to bring pleasure to the Shechinah? “Y’hei katish katishin” - by crushing the ego and living life with the constant awareness of Hashem’s presence. Indeed, this message is encapsulated in the wine that fills the Kiddush cup. While we make a “borei pri ha’eitz” on grapes, the more specific beracha of “borei pri hagafen” is made on wine because it has risen in status (“ishtanei l’maalyusah”). How does the grape reach this more elevated status? By being crushed into tiny pieces! In the same way, the more a Jew works to live life with the ultimate Other-focus, fulfilling “shivisi Hashem l’negdi samid”, the closer he grows to our Father in heaven.
צוחין אף עקתין בטלין ושביתין, ברם אנפין חדתין, ורוחין עם נפשין
Outcries and tragedies - indeed, they will cease and rest, leaving only shining faces, spirits and souls.
All negative tidings and disasters that derive from the accusatory forces rest on Shabbos. This, despite the fact that Mazal Madim is active during the first hour of Shabbos which would ordinarily make this time specifically opportune for tragic events. Still, "When one rises the other falls" - when the presence of the Shechinah, strengthened by an influx of closeness from HaKadosh Baruch Hu, hovers over the Jewish home, the negative forces - both "tzevachin" rooted in the left side, as well as "aksin" rooted in the right side - must falter. On the other hand, the faces of the Jewish nation are shining on Shabbos due to the additional holiness of the Neshamah Yesairah which illuminates the lower levels of the soul, the Ruach and the Nefesh. Free from the forces that seek to prevent this unity, Malchus, the collective soul of the Jewish nation, is able to enjoy the intimate radiance of Kudhsa Brich Hu, illuminated with infinite light and joy.
חדו סגי ייתי, ועל חדא תרתי, נהורא לה ימטי, וברכאן דנפישין
Tremendous joy approaches, a double portion! Light will reach Her, and abundant blessing.
Endowed with the presence of the Neshama Yeseirah, our joy on Shabbos must be double that of the week. Just as we have “lechem mishneh” on Shabbos, so much we rejoice with “simcha mishneh”, a double portion of the greatest joy and celebration of our loving bond with the Master of the world. On Shabbos, the Jewish soul is filled with illumination and clarity into the purpose of existence, experiencing the awesome blessing of sharing this special day with Hashem.
קריבו שושבינין, עבידו תיקונין, לאפשא זינין, ונונין עם רחשין
Draw close, you who escort, make preparations for the Bride. Bring abundant food, fish and chicken.
The tzaddikim, those who never forsake the holy Shechinah throughout her exile in the mundanity and physicality of a world that seeks to prolong Her concealment, are called upon to make preparations for Shabbos - spiritually and physically.
למעבד נשמתין ורוחין חדתין, בתרתין ובתלתין, ובתלתא שבשין
To renew souls and spirits, with Thirty-Two Ways, and with Three Branches.
In Likutei Moharan (31:9), Rebbe Nachman of Breslov zy”a teaches that it is the yearning for Shabbos that itself creates the Neshama Yesairah of increased passion and vitality. Through their spiritual and physical preparation for Shabbos Kodesh, the tzaddikim foster the spirit of the Neshama Yeseirah, experiencing a proliferation of spiritual awareness in the Torah; walking the paths of the Lamed-Beis Nesivos Chochmah, the 32 Ways of Wisdom which are founded upon the Three Branches of Torah, Neviim, and Kesuvim.
In Kabbalas Shabbos we say, "Uv'heichalo kulo omer kavod." The word "Heichal" is gematria "Ad-noi", the divine Name associated with the Sefirah of Malchus. Malchus is associated with the capacity of speech, the divine Communication through which our physical world came to be. When seen through the eyes of Shabbos Kodesh, the eyes of Emunah, one realizes that "Uv'heichalo", understood as Hashem's expression of Malchus, His Throneroom, "kulo omer", all the Speech of which our world is composed, "kavod", is saturated with His Glory. His Presence.
"Kavod" is gematriya 32. This emunah of "b'sartein uv'slasin" is able to enliven and renew the Jewish soul, "lme'evad nishmasin v'ruchin chad'tin."
ועיטרין שבעין לה, ומלכא דלעילא, דיתעטר כלא, בקדיש קדישין
She wears Seventy Crowns, and the Exalted King is entirely crowned with holy of holies.
The Shechinah-Malchus-Shabbos is adorned with Seventy Crowns which allude to the seventy words of the Kiddush service that follows this zemer. The numerical value of the word “Yayin”, a reference to the wine used in Kiddush, is equal to 70 as well. The Master of the world similarly crowns Himself with these words of kiddush that are “Holy of Holies”, a reference to the inner sanctum of the Beis HaMikdash to which Shabbos corresponds, as mentioned above.
רשימין וסתימין בגו כל עלמין, ברם עתיק יומין, הלא בטיש בטישין
Sealed and hidden within all Worlds, for the Ancient of Days, why, He ground the elements together.
The secret of Shabbos is reflected in the “Sanctity of Sevens” that exists throughout the spiritual spectrum. Thus, for example, every seventh year, Shemittah, is holy, and the same is true for every fiftieth year, Yovel, the culmination of seven Shemittah cycles. This reality was ingrained within existence by Hashem, who ground the four elements of Fire, Air, Earth, and Water in the creation of the world recognized through our observance of Shabbos Kodesh.
יהא רעוא קמיה, דישרי על עמיה, דיתענג לשמיה, במתיקין ודובשין
May it be Your Will, to dwell among Your nation, who delight in Your Name with sweet delicacies.
We now turn to Hashem with a request that He cause the Shechinah to enter our hearts and homes on the glorious day of Shabbos, uniting the Bride and Groom in an eternal embrace between the Master of the world and the collective soul of the Jewish nation.
אסדר לדרומא מנרתא דסתימא, ושלחן עם נהמא, בצפונא ארשין
I will arrange in the south the hidden Menorah and the table with bread I will set in the north.
The Gemara (Bava Basra 25b) quotes Rav Yitzchak as saying: “One who wants to grow wise should face southward when praying. One who wants to become wealthy should face northward when praying. A way to remember this: The Menorah was in the south, and the Shulchan was in the north.” Rebbe Nachman explains (Likutei Mohran 162) that when a person experiences the world through an egotistical and self-focused consciousness, he can only access wealth or wisdom - never both. This is because, rooted in the perspective of his own independent existence in a realm of time and space, he is unable to face both north and south at the same time. However, when a person lives in a way of bittul, self-nullification, constantly overwhelmed by the presence of Hashem, he is able to attain both wisdom and wealth, because, nullified to the Infinite One, such a person is able to access a realm that is beyond the limitations of physical space. As this zemer has so wonderfully expressed, Shabbos is a time when the Jewish soul is freed from the constraints of mundanity and able to bask in the reality of Hashem’s presence. Thus, the negation of our own egotistical pursuits on Shabbos enables us to bind ourselves with the Menorah in the south as well as the Shulchan in the north - experiencing the pleasure of this world and the next, as one.
בחמרא גו כסא, ומדאני אסא, לארוס וארוסה, להתקפה חלשין
With a cup filled with wine and bundles of myrtle, for the Bride and Groom, to strengthen the weary.
Our cup filled with wine, prepared for Kiddush, and the teachings of the tzaddikim who are compared to a myrtle (see Megillah 13b and Sefer Shaar Yosef volume 2, p. 132 - “Hadas” is numerically equivalent to 70, the numerical value of the letter Ayin which means eye; the tzaddikim guard their eyes from looking at that which is improper), we unite Hashem and the collective soul of the Jewish nation, bringing great strength to those who are weary from the onslaught of the yetzer hara’s relentless attacks throughout the week.
The Gemara in Sanhedrin states, “af al pi shechatu, Yisrael heim” - even though a Jew may sin, the holiness innate to the Jewish soul never leaves him. The Gemara continues, “And this is as people say, ‘Even when a myrtle is found among thorns and thistles, it’s name is ‘myrtle’ and people still refer to it as a ‘myrtle’.’” Reb Tzaddok HaKohen of Lublin (Pri Tzaddik, Lech Lecha #3) uses this teaching to explain our stanza: “Umedanei asah” - From the teaching of the myrtle, that no matter how far a Jew may have fallen, he always retains his essential goodness and holiness, “l’hitakfa chalashin” - many will draw great strength and encouragement never to give up in their pursuit of an elevated existence.
נעביד להון כתרין במילין יקירין, בשבעין עטורין, דעל גבי חמשין
Make for them crowns, with precious words with Seventy Crowns that sit upon Fifty.
On Shabbos, we make crowns to glorify Hashem in His transcendent (Kudsha B’rich Hu-Tiferes) and immanent (Shechinah-Malchus) manifestations with the seventy words of Kiddush that are founded upon the Fifty Gates of Binah, supported by the five fingers that grasp the Kiddush cup, and contain the blessing of “kol” granted to the Avos (“Bakol”, “Mikol”, “Kol”) which is numerically equivalent to 50.
The Divrei Yechezel of Shinov zy”a once taught that the word “yakirin” can mean weighty or difficult. (See Targum to Shemos 7:14) Thus, we can read this stanza as follows: “Na’avid l’hon kisrin” - If a Jew desires to crown Hashem and bring glory to His Name, the way to accomplish this is, “b’millin yakirin” - by focusing on those things are truly difficult to overcome. When a Jew succeeds in breaking those negative traits that have a powerful hold on his personality, this brings the greatest honor to Hashem.
שכינתא תתעטר בשית נהמי לסטר, בווין תתקטר, וזינין דכנישין
Shechinah, become crowned with six loaves on each side sealed with hooks and ground spices.
The Shechinah is glorified by way of the three meals of Shabbos, each of which features lechem mishneh (2 X 3 = 6), just as it had been in the Beis HaMikdash through the 12 lechem hapanim (the plural form of “vav” - 6, is “vavin” - 12) and through all of the other avodah in the Beis HaMikdash.
שביתין ושביקין, מסאבין דרחיקין, חבילין דמעיקין, וכל זיני חרשין
Rest and cease castaway forces of impurity painful damagers and all kinds of sorcery.
On Shabbos, all destructive forces cease. The fires of Gehinnom are cooled, and everything enters into the joy and peace of the great love that burns between the collective Jewish soul and our loving Father in heaven.
WISHING YOU THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SHABBOS KODESH!