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In several nusah Sefard siddurim I have, there's a passage from the Zohar printed before Barechu in the erev shabbat section, to be said by individuals in the case of there being no minyan. This passage includes the phrases 'barchu et adonai hamevorach' and 'baruch adonai hamevorach le'olam va'ed' so that you have a sort of mock/zecher recitation of Barechu.

My questions are:

(a) Why have I only seen this in Sefard siddurim?, and

(b) Why is this passage only printed for erev Shabbat? It seems like if its recitation is an appropriate option at one time it should be good for any time. Is there something special about erev Shabbat that makes having no Barechu or 'Barechu-like' liturgical piece especially problematic?

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(a) Because only sefard says kegavna before barechu.
(b) The reason is because that passage of zohar is about the moments when shabbos comes in and parallels some kabbalistic stuff to different points in the prayer service. So when there is a minyan we cut the passage short and segue into barechu, but when there isn't we might as well read the rest of the passage.

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Personally, I've only seen this in Chabad's Siddur (actually might have seen it elsewhere as well come to think of it).

In short, without getting into details, as far as I can tell, it is based upon the kabbalah/the teachings of the Arizal about the "Barchu" before Shabbos Maariv. Therefore, for one that is missing out on this from their davening, an insert from the Zohar that contains the "missing words" has been placed there to compensate. Note that the passage not only contains the words of barchu for both the chazzan and congregation, but other words as well in order that an individual is not saying barchu (inyan d'kedusha without a minyan).

As far as why this is only in Nusach Sefard (or in my case Chabad, both chasidic) and not also in Nusach Ashkenaz or Sefardi; since it is seemingly a mystical inyan, I doubt the standard Nusach Ashkenaz (besides maybe the GRA?) would be concerned (no mesorah etc.). With regards to Nusach Sefardi, if I had to guess, it was an innovation/chiddush of a chasidic rebbe in Europe that never made it's way to the Middle East (until recently of course).

  • It's in every Nusach Sfard siddur I've seen/davened from. (ArtScroll, Kol Yaakov, Tefilas Kol Peh, etc.) – ezra Jan 18 '18 at 5:02
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Why is this passage only printed for erev Shabbat?

It's not. I mean, this passage is, but many sidurim have other passages that are said instead of various other instances of "Bar'chu", chatzi kadish, and kadish shalem.

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(a) Why have I only seen this in Sefard siddurim?

It's also in the Siddur compiled by the first Chabad Rebbe. He mainly based his Siddur on the Siddur Ha-Ari from the Ari Za"l, (who was one of the foremost Kabbalists of recent history), so it's possible that it came from there, although I don't have a Siddur Ha-Ari to verify. But to answer your question, the Chabad Siddur and Nusach Sefard are both Chassidic. The Ba'al Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, brought Kabbalah to the masses, in a way they can understand, through teaching Chassidus which is the inner dimensions of all 4 parts of Torah, פשט (simple meaning), רמז (hints), דרוש (expounding) and סוד (Kabbalah). Being that the Chassidic movement was more into Kabbalah than regular Jews, the Chassidic Siddurim resembled closer to Kabbalah. The paragraph that you're asking about is from Zohar, the main Kabbalistic text. So Chasidim, being more into Kabbalah, used it in the Siddur.

(b) Why is this passage only printed for erev Shabbat? It seems like if its recitation is an appropriate option at one time it should be good for any time. Is there something special about erev Shabbat that makes having no Barechu or 'Barechu-like' liturgical piece especially problematic?

This is the first sentence of the paragraph:

וְלוֹמַר בָּרְכוּ אֶת יְיָ הַמְבֹרָךְ, אֶת דַּיְקָא דָא שַׁבָּת דְּמַעֲלֵי שַׁבַּתָּא:

And let us say barechu es Hashem ham'vorach, ....... Shabbos, the eve of Shabbos. (The ... is where I wasn't able to translate, I don't know Aramaic to well.)

So, the verse is only taking Shabbos eve.

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