Tuesday, August 03, 2010

How Dare You: A short history of Kabbalas Shabbos

This week, the so-called traditionalists are aghast that a woman was permitted to lead Kabbalas Shabbos at H.I.R, but the joke is on them: Kabalas Shabbos didn't fall intact from the sky. It developed slowly, over time. Along the way, there were ample opportunities for traditionalists to scream "How Dare You!"

DateEventTraditionalist's Complaint
AntiquityA proto-version of Psalm 29 is composed, likely by a Ugaritic poet. (Our Psalm 29 is very similar to a poem found in a cache of Ugaritic texts in 1928.)How dare you compose a religious poem! We never had them before! What can that possibly add to your spirituality??
AntiquityPsalm 29 is modified so that it describes YKVK, not BaalHow dare you incorporate Cannaite poetry into proto-Judaism? What can that possibly add to your spirituality??
AntiquityPsalms 92,93,95-99 are composed, likely by an Israelite poet, for reasons unknownHow dare you compose religious poetry! What can that possibly add to your spirituality?? Don't you have something more productive to do?
AntiquitySome Psalms are incorporated into the Temple serviceHow dare you make changes to the Temple service! What can that possibly add to your spirituality?? Things were perfect the way they were!
Late antiquityThe Psalms gradually become part of our every day prayer (and also the every day prayer of monks, who made a practice of reciting them daily)How dare you make the Psalms part of our every day prayer! What can that possibly add to your spirituality??
Mideival periodWe develop the idea that reading the Psalms can have a restorative effect on our souls. Concurrently, Christians arrive at the same conclusion, and begin employing the Psalms for the same purposeHow dare you employ the Psalms in this manner! What can that possibly add to your spirituality??  Who do you think you are with your changes!
15th or 16th centuryCommunity of Sefad mystics begin saying 6 Psalms to represent the six days of the week on Friday night between mincha and maariv* (Maariv is delayed until after the stars are out; mincha is said at sunset. Before this practice caught on, people would use the recess to study, or they would go home and eat dinner.)How dare you add something new to the Friday night service! What can that possibly add to your spirituality?? You should learn, or have dinner with your family instead! That's the Torah-true way!
16th centuryThe prayer-song Lecha Dodi is composed in Sefad where it is sung following the recitation of the six PsalmsA song? How dare you! What can that possibly add to your spirituality?? Who do you think you are to write a song?
17th-18th centuryThe Kabbalas Shabbos service spreads across EuropeHow dare you introduce a new service! What can that possibly add to your spirituality??
18th century onwardLecha Dodi is set to various melodies, many of which have secular originsHow dare you sing Lecha Dodi with THAT tune, and not the Torah true tune we used when I was young?
UnknownCongregations begin singing Lecha Dodi responsively, rather than congregationally.How dare you make this unauthorized change to the official and authentic style of prayer?
Late 20th centuryShlomo Carlbach's style of Kabalas Shabos spreadsCarlbach? With all that singing? And a different tune for the chazan's recitation? HOW DARE YOU!
Early 21st centuryOrthodox shuls allow women to lead Kabalas ShabosHOW

* The current practice is to say Psalms 95-99 and 28 before Lecha Dodi and Psalm 92 and 93 afterwards. This is a combination of two distinct practices. At some point (I don't know when or where) communities started saying Psalm 92 and 93 between mincha and maariv. This probably  pre-dates the Sefad practice of saying the other 6 Psalms.

Search for more information about Kabalas Shabos at 4torah.com.

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