Some time ago, I spent Shabbos in Jerusalem with our eldest daughter. We ate lunch with an old friend from university, who invited a couple of other old university friends along too. The adults chatted and the kids played, then towards the end of the meal, someone said, “Let’s sing a bit.” We took out zemiros books containing the traditional songs sung on Shabbos across the Jewish world. A bit tentatively at first, as we hadn’t all sung together for decades, then gradually gaining in confidence, we sang and harmonized and enjoyed this special way of spending time together.
Singing together, whether with family or friends, whether it’s songs with words or without, is a central part of many people’s Shabbos. Many shuls begin the Friday night kabbolas Shabbos service by singing Yedid Nefesh as an opportunity for people both to unwind from their week and to meld into a group before beginning the prayers.
At the Shabbos meals, we sing together round the table, and in shul, we sing together as a community. The style may vary from family to family, shul to shul and week to week, but the essence is the same – it’s something we wouldn’t normally do during the week; it taps into a special place in our soul and it’s a fun and unifying activity.
This week, our shul is hosting a special guest. We’ll be having a lot of singing, ranging from a Carlebach Friday night service, through an after dinner Oneg Shabbos, singing during the day and concluding with a musical havdallah. If you’re in the area, please come along…and if not, then…please do try this at home!