I've noticed that the Friday night shemoneh esrei (nusach Ashkenaz) uses the line "בה", shacharit and musaf use "בו", and mincha uses "בם" in the phrase "וינוחו _ ישראל מקדשי שמך..."

What is the reason for this variation?


3 Answers 3


Aruch HaShulchan 268:14 explains that Shabbos is called in the Torah both masculine and feminine.

כי קדש היא לכם מחלליה מות יומת is feminine.

זכור את יום השבת לקדשו is masculine.

In the Torah there is a feminine way of referring to evening (ליל) therefore we say "בה" then. Day (יום) is only masculine in the Torah therefore we say "בו". Mincha time which is close to the evening yet is still day we say "בם" which includes both.

Matan Shabbos has additional reasons.

  • 3
    "זכור את יום השבת לקדשו is masculine."? The masculine noun there is "יום". But +1.
    – msh210
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 18:21
  • @DoubleAA Note that how Chazal understood word genders may have been somewhat different from the strictly form-based understanding we're generally taught in dikduk class. See, for example, the discussion on Kiddushin 2b of the gender of the word "Derech."
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 18:31
  • @IsaacMoses Fair enough considering Tefillah is written in rabbinic Hebrew generally and the Rabbis' tendency for Drash. However, I stand by my position's essential truth and certainly in pshat Tanach.
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 18:38
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    Just to clarify @msh210's point, לקדשו is really a contraction of לקדש אותו. The first word לקדש is a verb (an infinitive) which does not indicate gender. The second אותו is clearly masculine and must be referring to the only noun in the phrase which is יום. So still no indication that the word שבת is masculine.
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 19:29
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    To add to the points made above about gender, ליל is always and only ever masculine, just like לילה.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 0:53

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likutey Sichos 14 pg. 18) explains based on what is explained in Kabbalah that there are three distinct levels on Shabbos: 1) The night of Shabbos 2) The day of Shabbos 3) Mincha on Shabbos afternoon. On Friday night the world receives spiritual energy from the attribute of malchus. On Shabbos day there is an even higher revelation of the middos, and on Shabbos afternoon a yet high revelation that unites malchus and middos. Thus, on Friday night we say "בה" corresponding to the feminine aspect of malchus, on Shabbos day we say "בו" as middos are considered masculine, and finally on Shabbos afternoon we say "בם" indicating the unification of malchus and middos.

  • Is that last part according to you or to the Rebbe? I have since checked a Tehillat Hashem and found that it records בה for erev Shabbat, and בו for both shacharit and mussaf on Shabbat.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 2:20
  • @ShimonbM It's from the linked Sicha from the Rebbe. בה - Maariv (Friday night). בו - Shachris and Mussaf (Shabbos day). בם - Mincha (Shabbos afternoon).
    – Michoel
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 3:10
  • Thanks, @Michoel. That was my mistake: for some reason, I thought you (and the original question) said "mussaf" instead of "mishna". Pays to read things more carefully!
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 4:43
  • Kabbala is most likely the real origin, from what I've heard. +1
    – user9907
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 13:14

According to Artscroll (quoting Rabbi (Elie?) Munk), בה refers to שבת (f.), בו refers to the יום (m.) of שבת, and בם refers to many שבתות (f. pl.), referring to the day which is fully שבת. This change is because the night represents the first seventh day, the one of creation, when it was alone without anyone keeping that day, "like a lonely woman without a husband." The morning represents it at the time the Torah was given, when it became betrothed to Israel (I don't know why it changes it from female to male, though). The minchah represents the future.

  • Why the change between the different tefillos?
    – Michoel
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 0:18
  • @Michoel I was looking at the Artscroll commentary on minchah. I subsequently saw that they wrote more on the maariv prayer, which explains it more, and quotes the source (see updated answer)
    – b a
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 0:32
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    Rabbi Munk's book is on Google, by the way: books.google.com/…
    – b a
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 0:36
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    Why is future represented by plural?
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 4:12
  • @DoubleAA Because the יום שכולו שבת includes many days
    – b a
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 4:16

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