Sanctifying the Day

The Torah did not tell a Jew to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on Shabbat [as on festivals]. There is no need. On Shabbat the Shekhina [Presence] knocks on the door. All we have to do is let Her in.
— comment on the “Sanctification of the Day” blessing**
Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur, p.520

**On Shabbat/Festivals, one “Sanctification of the Day” blessing replaces the middle 13 blessings of the daily Amidah. The first three and the final three remain unchanged: Avot [ancestors], gevurah [strength], Kedushat Hashem [sanctification of the Name]; Avodah [worship], Hodaah [thanks], Shalom [peace]. This gives the Shabbat Amidah a symbolic seven blessings.

Pre-script: The final paragraph of the “Sanctification of the Day” blessing, is composed of 30 Hebrew words. (This is one of the paragraphs Temple Micah‘s Siddur Study group somehow failed to review in this month’s gathering.)

“Shabbat Day”

In many prayer books, there are four paragraphs in the Sanctification of the Day blessing, following a progression of ideas:

    1. Yismach Moshe [Moses rejoined]…,”
      Moses receives Revelation
    2. V’shamru bnei yisrael [The children of Israel shall keep]…”
      Revelation commands Shabbat observance
      If #1 is included, Ex 31:16-17 may be viewed as a sub-paragraph,
      i.e, the quotation following “so it is written”
    3. V’lo n’tato [You did not give it]…”
      Shabbat is particular to Yisrael
    4. …r’tzei b’minuchteinu [find favor in our rest]…”
      God and Yisrael enjoy Shabbat

Mishkan T’filah (Union for Reform Judaism, 2007) substantially edits this series (see below). My People’s Prayer Book, vol. 10: Shabbat Morning (Jewish Lights, 2007) offers full Hebrew and English text, with multiple commentaries. The on-line preview includes most of the relevant sections (pp.105ff). (See Source Materials for more complete citations.)

Be Pleased with Our Rest

Upside Down Blessing?
Paragraph #4, included in its entirety in Mishkan T’filah, begins and ends with rest: “God…be please with our rest,” and “May Israel who sanctifies Your Name rest on Shabbat.”

Note that we first ask God to be pleased with our rest and then ask that we rest. Earlier in the blessing, Torah was a given, but this paragraph asks God to “grant us a share in Your Torah.” Similarly, the obligation to observe Shabbat has already been stressed, but this paragraph asks God to “grant us Shabbat as a heritage.”

In addition, Rabbi Barukh Halevi Epstein wonders if “be satisfied and delight in your goodness [kulam yisb’u v’yitangu (as in oneg) mituvekha]” is not “backward”?

If we are already sated with joy (oneg), how can we be expected to rejoice any more? The answer is that the Sabbath joy referred to here is not the physical pleasures of eating and drinking — as to which we could legitimately say that the liturgical phrase is backwards — but the spiritual pleasures such as Torah study. When it comes to spiritual matters, no matte how sated we are, we can always — through further study — rejoice more.
My People’s Prayer Book, pp.113-114 (the midrash continues)

The “Work” of Shabbat
Paragraph #4 pulls together a number of themes from the first three blessings:

  • It opens by calling on “Our God and God of our ancestors,” recalling the first, Avot, blessing.
  • It asks God to “grant us joy in Your salvation,” recalling the second, Gevurah, blessing’s “who makes salvation grow.”
  • It identifies Israel as the ones “who sanctify Your name,” referencing the preceding, Kedushat Hashem, blessing.

This paragraph also asks that God make us better servants: V’taheir libeinu… [purity our hearts to serve You in truth].” This involves the somewhat paradoxical, or maybe just ironic, request that we get better at the “work” of Shabbat, i.e., rest.

Several musical settings focus on “V’taheir libeinu” or use it as a chorus. Here’s a Shlomo Carlebach version with guitar and voice from Boaz Davidoff.

Finally, paragraph #4 includes the request that God “kadsheinu” [sanctify us; pronounced: “cod-shane-oo.” I don’t know who decided that this sounds sort of like “could change you.” But I do know that Amy Smith and Bill Savedoff used to teach Fabrangen a chant for this paragraph with the kavanah/intention: “Shabbat could change you.”

Reform “Shabbat Day”

Mishkan T’filah contains an edited version of this blessing:

  • It skips the first paragraph. David Ellenson, who offers the “How the Modern Prayer Book Evolved” comments in My People’s Prayer Book, explains: “The sharpness of the imagery suggests a literal belief in Sinai rather than an affirmation of its mythic truth.” (p.111, vol. 10: Shabbat Morning)
  • Retains the second paragraph
  • Adds “Yism’chu” [They delight],” from Shabbat musaf, as an option. After the opening line, “Those who keep Shabbat by calling it a delight will rejoice in Your realm” — “Yism’chu” is identical to the second half paragraph 3: “Am m’kad’shei sh’vi-i [the people who sanctify]….zecher l’maaseh v’reishit [remembrance of the act of creation].”
  • Skips the third paragraph. However, the second half of this paragraph, i.e., “Am m’kad’shei sh’vi-i [the people who sanctify]…” through “….zecher l’maaseh v’reishit [remembrance of the act of creation],” is identical to much of “Yism’chu” [They delight],” which is included above.)
  • Retains the fourth paragraph.

— “Sanctification of the Day” is on pp.250-253 in Mishkan T’filah‘s “Shabbat Morning I” service; a slightly different version, with a thematic paraphrase in place of translation, also appears on pp.328-329, in the “Shabbat Morning II” service.


RiisRabbi Lawrence Hoffman provides a footnote to accompany Yism’chu in Mishkan T’filah (p.251). He cites Jacob Riis’ famous photograph, Sabbath Eve in a Coal Cellar, illustrating a laborer who has clearly made some extraordinary efforts to bring Shabbat to his home.

Hoffman notes that verses come from the Musaf [additional] service, adding that “Reform Jews traditionally omit [Musaf] because of its association with the ancient sacrificial cult. We place it here, however, to regain the reminder of Shabbat joy.”

For more on Yism’chu, see “…The Time That We Get Shabbat.”

As part of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), a cousin of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), “A Song Every Day” plans thirty daily posts with some connection to the number 30.NaBloPoMo_November_blogroll_large

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