Our sages taught that upon seeing a woman about to be married, one should dance before her, singing, "O beautiful and graceful bride!" We do something like this at weddings today: We crane our necks to see the bride as she approaches the huppah. We admire her beautiful dress, her hair, her smile. We see the love in the bridegroom's eyes and we say to ourselves, if not aloud, "What a beautiful and graceful bride!"
It may have been this understanding that shaped the Shabbat rituals of two Talmudic rabbis, Hanina and Yannai. Rabbi Hanina would dress in beautiful robes, and go outside at sunset on Friday calling, "Come let us go and welcoem the Sabbath Queen!" Rabbi Yannai would call out, "Bo'i kallah! Bo'i kallah!" Come, O bride! Come, O bride! (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 119a) Thus each Shabbat is like a wedding, a joyous event celebrating the love of the Jewish people for this day.
Sixteenth century Jewish mystics created a special service, Kabbalat Shabbat, designed to welcome the Sabbath bride. In creating the liturgy, these early mystics chose from among the most beautiful poems in our traditionthe Book of Psalms.
L'chu N'rah'nah, Psalm 95, is the first of these songs of welcome. As we go out to greet Shabbat, as we celebrate and remember Creation itself, how fitting it is to say: "Let us sing to Adonai! Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of Our Salvation." This arrangement of L'chu N'ran'nah also includes the first line of the next psalm traditionally recited during Kabbalat Shabbat, Psalm 96: "O sing a new song to God!"
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