Shabbat Zemirot

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

Shabbat is a unique day for the people of Israel. The Midrash tells us that the Shabbat complained to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, saying, “Ribbono Shel Olam, all days of the week have a ben zug (companion) but I do not have a ben zug,” said HaKadosh Baruch-Hu, “Knesset Yisrael (the Jewish People) will be your ben zug” (Bereishit Rabba 11:9). Consequently, there are special Zemirot that we sing in praise of the day. This is because it is a unique gift for us and HaShem Himself vested kedusha (holiness) into the day.

In contrast however, said Rav Soloveitchik, there are no Zemirot composed in honor of Yom Tov because it is we, the Jewish people, who give these days their kedusha through Kiddush HaChodesh, establishing each new month. The exception to this is Yom Kippur, when the unique power of the day itself makes singing Piyyutim, songs in its honor appropriate.

The Rav also commented on the words “Va’yehi erev va’yehi boker yom echad, And it was evening and it was morning, one day,” in the pasuk which concludes the Torah description of the events that took place on the first day of creation (Bereishit 1:5), the Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 3:8) states that the “Va’yehi erev” refers to the action of the Resha’im (the wicked), and “Va’yehi boker” refers to the actions of the Tzaddikim, and “Yom Echad” refers to the fact that HaShem gave all mankind a unique day; that day is Yom Kippur.

One message of this Midrash is that without Yom Kippur and its theme of Teshuva as a motif, the world itself would not have been created. The Midrash here is NOT suggesting that the first day of Creation was Yom Kippur, since it is Rosh HaShana that is associated with Creation.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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