Lecha Dodi through a Spiritual Lens

Lecha Dodi, "To You My Beloved" is an ode to Shabbat which is sung during Friday night Sabbath services. It was written by the sixteenth century Kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo HaLevy Alkabetz. Our ancestors loved this prayer and retained it for us.  Have you had occasion to dwell upon the verses? To read even one line in modern idiom can be quite surprising. 

A verse from L'ha Dodi for your contemplion:

Hito'r'ri, hito'r'ri         
Wake yourself up! Wake yourself up! 
mey afar kumi 
From dust, arise! [Dust off, get up!] 

                         What does it mean to do hito'r'ri in your life? To wake yourself up? 

Envision someone to whom you would want to address this study verse. Say it out loud as though that person is here: "Wake yourself up! Wake yourself up! Dust off, get up! Hito'r'ri, hito'r'ri! Mey afar kumi!" Say it again, perhaps again. What images, memories or feelings come up for you when you do this? It is also possible during prayer services to hear this verse directed to yourself or to direct it to someone else, as we have just done.

Rumi, a Sufi mystical contemporary of the author of L'ha Dodi wrote: "Wake up, wake up, don't go back to sleep." In what ways do people go back to sleep even after waking up spiritually? Has this happened to you? What helps you stay awake?

Your inner contemporary mystic can take this inquiry further: Imagine yourself out on the Hubble Telescope, beholding stars being born. Whisper our study verse softly, “Wake up, wake, up, from dust, arise!”  What do you feel, what do you think, what do you notice when doing this?

How does it feel to see yourself as a soul wrapped around star dust? Is your body's waking up different from your soul's waking up? How is waking up because Shabbat has arrived different from waking up in the morning? What a curious invention Shabbat is, a time for rest during which one prays to wake up!

One of my students suggested this may be a way our ancestors have found to shake us awake to say: ‘Wake up, wake up! Your soul is a gift. You can be more than star dust. Notice the gift! WAKE UP!'" 

One form of revelation in Judaism is what you hear at the intersection of your personal life with the text. You may be hearing resonances of the Joni Mitchell song lyric: "We are star dust, we are golden and we have to get ourselves back to the garden." Through this prayer, the ancients and perhaps even the Source of Life, seem to be pointing each soul back to "The Garden." 

What is The Garden? Is it a Garden of Eden time, or a Secret Garden time of childhood wide-eyed wonder? Or is the verse pointing us to a time before we got off track and instead of caring for the garden began to build bombs and wreak war? 

Or, is "the garden" a metaphor for Shabbat, which has been called a “taste of the world to come?”

Now, let's try L'ha Dodi in the way of the mystics. Imagine it is Friday night in synagogue. Open the doors or slip outside into the starlight and sing, add body English (body Hebrew?) gesture with your arms, awake to a renewed spirit of prayer, welcome Shabbat inside.