This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.-By Elisheva Maline
Greeting Shabbos, our weekend queen, is like welcoming home one's parents after they've been away for a few months. You're definitely not going to forget they're coming. Nor will you wait till the last minute before deciding, "Hm, maybe I should mop the floor or put on some makeup." Your parents will arrive to find the floor sparkling, the table set with gleaning silverware and your nose pressed against the windowpane as they make their way up the driveway. The Shabbos Queen also gets the royal treatment every Friday evening as she wends her way into the homes of Jews all over the planet. How do we greet someone we love? With flowers and a love song, of course.
There's a saying in the Talmud, "Let us go forth to greet the Shabbos Queen (also known as Shekinah - a name that refers to G-d's revealed presence on earth) in pomp and ceremony" (Shabbos 119). In every time zone, on Friday evening, Jews are heading to the synagogue for evening prayers. We're all doing the same thing so the question isn't 'who is running to greet the queen' but how? Some sects of Judaism show their love by dancing and singing late into the night. Breslov, for one, is known for the dignified shuffle, shuffle song and dance while holding hands with other fellow shul (synagogue) goers. In some shuls, the scene is silent: each person is locked in a personal reverie where he contemplates, "How am I meant to show my dedication to G-d?" One thing is certain: everyone sings.
The Friday night prayers are mostly made up of Dovid Hamelech's psalms (95, 96, 97, 98, 99, and 29). Some commentaries say that these first few poems are allusions to the first six days of the week and still others say that they refer all the way back to the six days of creation. The seventh song is called Lecha Dodi which literally translated means "Come my Beloved" (the beloved being G-d). The song was written by a Kabbalist named Rav Shlomo Alkabetz Halevi in Israel's Tzfat around 1540 BC. As opposed to Dovid Hamelech's six psalms, Lecha Dodi is the crowning jewel of Friday night davening because it hints at the idea that every weekend is an experience of greeting Mashiach. Since the beginning of creation, people have been waiting for a Messiah to bring redemption. Mashiach's imminent grand entrance is touched upon in "Lecha Dodi." Based on this interpretation, the first line, "Come my beloved, let us go greet the Shabbos Queen" means "Come Mashiach, let us go greet the Shekinah together."
Since we live in a world where G-d has clothed Himself in darkness, life is obscure. People often ask questions like, "Why did the Holocaust happen?" or "If there is a G-d, why does war happen altogether?" However, understanding is something that only happens in retrospect. In some situations, clarity doesn't happen at all. When Mashiach comes, though, he will bring us face to face with the dawning of an age when G-d will strip off His "mask" and everything will be as clear as day.
Thus, in order to appreciate what celebrating Shabbos means, one needs to grasp the underlying philosophies behind this holy time. It's not just a day to put your feet up and read a book. Shabbos is twenty-four hours of reconnecting with one's essence and as a direct result, plugging back into the source - Hashem! Come, my friend, let us go greet the Shabbos queen together. Don't forget to bring flowers.