Composed in 1990, Bensoussan’s intoxicating setting of L’kha dodi, the kabbalistic poem that is part of the kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming the Sabbath) liturgy in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi rites, was one of his first compositions—and still probably his best-known one. Though its ideal rendition requires his own unique voice for some of the strophes, which call for highly stylized vocal clichés from Moroccan tradition, the tune of the refrain has become familiar in Ashkenazi as well as Sephardi synagogues. “It just came to me,” he has said. Its success inspired him to compose many other subsequent melodies, usually interspersed with chantlike passages. But for many years he tended to play down his role in creating new settings, despite their enthusiastic reception. “I’m not a big composer,” he has insisted. “There are songs I have ‘composed’ while sitting around the Sabbath table and singing, and I’ll say to my wife: ‘Remember, so that we can write it down once the Sabbath is over.’ But it’s not as if I’m sitting down and taking a pen like Mozart; it would be nice if I could do that!”
Sung in Hebrew
Beloved, come—let us approach the Sabbath bride and welcome the entrance of our Sabbath, the bride.
STROPHES 2, 3, AND 5:
Let us go, indeed hasten to greet the Sabbath,
For she is the source of blessing.
From creation’s primeval beginnings that blessing has flowed.
For on the seventh day—the end of the beginning of creation—
God made His Sabbath.
But He conceived of her on the first of the days—at the beginning of the beginning of creation.
Jerusalem, sanctuary of God the celestial King
And temporal capital of human kings,
Rise up from the midst of destruction and ruin.
Enough of your sitting in a valley of tears;
God’s great mercy awaits you—
Indeed His mercy awaits you
Your light has come.
Arise and shine,
Speak a song! Sing a poem!
The glory of the Lord is revealed to you.
Translation from the Hebrew by Rabbi Morton M. Leifman