The joy of Shabbat is expressed in many ways throughout the “Day of Rest.” For those of a musical bent (and even for those not so musically inclined), one of the joys of the Shabbat meals is the singing of z’mirot (Shabbat songs). Today’s Jewish Treat presents two z’mirot composed by Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164).

Ki Eshmara Shabbat is a zemer (song) designated for the Shabbat lunch meal. Its repeating refrain translates to “If I keep the Shabbat Day, God will guard me. It is a sign for eternity between Him and me.” The five verses of the song each describe a different aspect of Shabbat observance such as refraining from creative work, the use of two loaves of challah and even the prohibitions of fasting or mourning on Shabbat. Ki Eshmera Shabbat is included in most prayerbooks and in the special z’mirot songbooks used on Shabbat.

While many z’mirot have been penned over the years, not all remain popular. Ibn Ezra’s other zemer, Tzamah Nafshi Ley’lokim (“My Soul Thirsts for God”) , is not found in most Shabbat songbooks printed today. The song was composed to serve as an introduction to the Shabbat morning service’s Nishmat prayer, but was adopted to be sung as a Friday evening zemer. It is interesting to note, however, that this lovely poem about connecting to God was, according to record, always sung by the Chatam Sofer (1762 – 1839), who believed that it was written with Ruach Hakodesh (Divine inspiration).

To listen to a traditional version of Ki Eshmara Shabbat, click here.

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