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Frequently, perhaps even most of the time, I've noticed that the chazan (prayer leader) for Kabalat Shabbat switches tunes for the last four verses of Lecha Dodi. Is there any reason for this, or are people just doing it because other people do it?

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I don;t think every little detail of Jewish practice has to have a deep reason. Its clearly just for variety. – Ariel K May 25 '11 at 5:41
@ArielK - I don't mean to offend or be judgmental, but I once heard that someone who denies Sod is like a Pered (donkey?), because the exegetical methods of Torah are compared to a Pardes (orchard), which includes the letter Samekh. Rabbi Yishmael Omer (at the end of Korbanot in Tefillat Shacharit) teaches the 13 methods of exegesis for Drash. Saying that there is no Sod is kind of like saying that a Kal va-Chomer is invalid. I just want to say that secrets are part of Jewish tradition. Hanistarot Lashem Elokeinu Vhaniglot Lanu Ulivaneinu Ad Olam. Cf. jewi.sh/11ed3 – Adam Mosheh Jun 10 '12 at 23:13
@AdamMosheh, I think that ArielK's point is that not everything you see Jews doing is connected to a point of Sod (or Peshat, for that matter), not that there's no such thing as Sod. – Isaac Moses Jun 10 '12 at 23:18
@IsaacMoses - But it makes sense to me that everything has Sod connected to it. However, "Hanistarot Lashem Elokeinu," and often times verbalization of the Sod is wrong. But to say that there is no Sod is incorrect because there is Sod even if it isn't verbalized. – Adam Mosheh Jun 10 '12 at 23:20
@AdamMosheh No offense at being compared to a donkey, the Torah compares Yissachar himself to one (though pered is actually a mule, which might be a less complimentary animal). However, according to your method, someone who denies remez would be a Prize (or Persia), which doesn't seem that bad. (Though that doesn't mean I'm against all remez either!) – Ariel K Jun 11 '12 at 14:59

There is an old minhag Frankfurt to sing the first part of Lekha Dodi, which refers to exile, to a slow tune, and then switching to a happier nigun when switching to nechamah (consolation) about the future redemption at Lo Seivoshi. However, in that minhag, they switched back to the original tune for the last verse, Bo'i Beshalom, which -- like the opening verses -- refer to Shabbos, not redemption. (See Liqrat Kallah pg 147.)


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But doesn't Hisoreri also refer to the redemption? (And arguably Hisna'ari does too.) – Alex Nov 22 '10 at 22:22
Indeed, Alex, I believe the minhag Frankfurt is to switch tunes at the Hisoriri stanza. For some listening examples which have the characteristic change of tune, with a possible reprise of the initial tune at the end, go to kayj.org/nusach/Shabbos-Kabbolas_Shabbos.html – Yosef Nov 23 '10 at 0:46
@Alex: According to the article quoted in the answer below, the custom was to change at Hisoreri, not at Lo Seivoshi. That article also quotes the same Likrat Kallah, but I wasn't able to find it online to look it up. In the article, it says that the first 4 represent exile and the 2nd 4 redemption, but also says that the first 4 spell out Shlomo, which reminds us of Moshiach (seems a bit contradictory). It would be nice to read it inside and see what it says: hirhurim.blogspot.com/2010/01/lecha-dodichanging-tune.html – Menachem Sep 8 '11 at 19:39
Micha, it can't be that old a minhag. The Kehillah of Frankfurt did not adopt Kabbalat Shabbat until after R' Hirsch became the mora d'atra – Noach MiFrankfurt Jan 14 at 17:28
Rabbi Micha why do they switch back to the original tune for the last verse, it refers to Shabbos, not exile? – MosheRabbi Feb 8 at 18:34
up vote 14 down vote accepted

According to R' Ari Enkin, writing on Hirhurim:

Although there is a widespread custom to change the tune during Lecha Dodi when reaching the stanza of "Lo Tevoshi", it is actually quite unclear where this custom derives from. Some sources even suggest that it is baseless and evolved without reason.

I recommend that you read the whole piece and see what he's uncovered. Indeed, there doesn't seem to be a good reason to change tunes then. If anything, it might make sense to change tunes one verse earlier.

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If your tune scheme involves one verse low, one verse high, it might not work to switch one verse earlier. But that's technical, not religious. – Shalom Jan 26 '10 at 15:54

Variety is the spice of life.

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I have often been quite thankful for this minhag (although I don't know the source). There are many times when the chazan (prayer leader) will choose a tune which is (a) painfully slow or unmelodic, or (b) nobody in the congregation knows, leaving him to sing alone. The tradition of switching tunes halfway through provides an instituted opportunity to cut the bad tune off and try again.

This is especially helpful for lecha dodi where there is such a large number of tunes that exist.

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What hapens when the Chazan goes from bad to worse? – Gershon Gold Sep 8 '11 at 17:22
All hope is lost, and you have to wait until next Kabalat Shabbat to get another chance. Hopefully the Chazan will be wise enough to pick an old classic as his "switch-to" tune so as to minimize this possibility. – Ariel Allon Sep 15 '11 at 19:36

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