Siddur Ba-eir Hei-teiv --- The Transliterated Siddur

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Learn to sing Va-y'chu-lu (Vayichulu) Print E-mail
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All transliterations, commentary, and audio recordings are copyright © 1997, 1998, 2002, 2009, or 2016 by Jordan Lee Wagner. All rights reserved.

Here are some melodies for Va-y'chu-lu:

  • This is the way I heard it chanted in a conservative synagogue in Paramus, New Jersey in the 1960s.
  • Here's a slight variation of the same chant. This recording is hosted at VirtualCantor.com, a highly recommended resource.

Va-y'chu-lu is an Introduction to The Sanctification of the Day (K'dushat HaYom)

Since Sabbath and festivals are supposed to be en­tirely joyous days of rest, no personal requests may be made on those occasions. This is consistent with the practices of the Temple, where personal of­ferrings were not accepted on holy days. The central petitions of the Amidah could remind a person of their failings and trou­bles, hence they too are not permitted on Sabbath and festivals. Therefore the thirteen central blessings are replaced with one blessing that reflects on the significance of the day. This benediction is called "the Sanctification of the Day". Naturally, the "Sanctification of the Day" is different for each holiday.

The Sabbath is different from every other Jewish holiday. The Sabbath is the only demarcation between sacred and ordinary time that is not fixed by us. All other holidays depend for their timing on Israel's administration of the calendar. Each month, the Sanhedrin (the ancient Jewish "Supreme Court") heard testimony from witnesses concerning the timing of the new moon's appearance, and then fixed the day that would be the beginning of the new month, thus determining the length of the preceding month. This authority is mandated by the Torah, therefore their declaration establishes transcendental reality. For example, the Sanhedrin's monthly declaration, and not the astronomical testimony that led to it, is what makes a particular day be Yom Kippur (i.e., what turns a particular day into the tenth day of the month of Tishrei). Their declaration transformed ordinary time into sacred time. Thus the sanctity of the festivals is entirely dependent on the covenantal relationship between Jews and the Divine. In contrast, the holiness of the Sabbath predates Israel. Furthermore, the three annual Festivals commemorate national historical events, and so would not exist if not for the Exodus from Egypt.

All this explains why the Sanctification of the Day for the Festivals celebrates our being chosen, the election of Israel to a covenant establishing divine partnership. In contrast, the Sanctification of the Day for the Sabbath never mentions chosenness.

The original Sanctification of the Day for Shabbat [R'tsei Vim-nu-cha-tei-nu] was the same at each of the four Sabbath services. Various introductory paragraphs were added to give each service its own unique character. The key texts giving uniqueness to the various "Sanctification of the Day" blessings on Shabbat are:

(Genesis 2:1-3)
used in Shabbat Ma-ariv
Friday evening
(Exodus 31:16-17)
used in Shabbat Shacharit
Saturday morning
A-tah E-chad
(c.f., I Chron.17:20)
used in Shabbat Mincha
Saturday afternoon
used in Shabbat Musaf
(the Additional Service)

These texts explain various aspects of the relationship be­tween Jews and Shabbat. Va-y'chu-lu speaks of the Sabbath as a commemoration of creation. "V'sha-m'ru speaks of the Sabbath as an eternal sign of the covenant between God and the Jewish people. Atah Echad speaks of the Sabbath rest as a loving gracious gift, like a foretaste of the utopian world-to-come. Thus Ma-ariv, Shacharit, and Mincha are aligned with the themes of Creation, Revelation, and Redemption, respectively. The same themes appear in the same order in the Sh'ma Section of the service, and are discussed in detail later (on page 148).

Yis-m'chu speaks of the Sabbath as a delightful rejoicing in the everpresent Kingship of Heaven. The Shabbat Musaf Amidah also emphasizes the yearning for a return to Zion in very moving terms. It uses the theme of the resumption of the Musaf (Additional) sacrifice as a metaphoric touchstone of the fulfillment of national longing. "May it be thy will...to bring us in joy back to our land and to plant us within our borders"[*]...

... As noted earlier,[i] the Talmud considers Va-y'chulu and R'tsei Vim-nu-cha-tei-nu, to be an essential part of every Shab­bat Ma-ariv (Friday Evening) service. Va-y'chulu and R'tsei Vim-nu-cha-tei-nu are included in the "Sanctification of the Day" for Shab­bat Ma-ariv (the middle blessing of the Sabbath Amidah, replacing the thirteen weekday petitions).


But when a Festival happens to fall on Shabbat, the "Sanctification of the Day" for the Festival will be recited in lieu of the one for Shabbat. And this does not include Va-y'chulu, nor R'tsei Vim-nu-cha-tei-nu. Therefore, since Va-y'chulu and R'tsei Vim-nu-cha-tei-nu are essential to welcoming Shabbat, they would have to be recited after the Festival Amidah. Because of this, it has become the rule[ii] to include Va-y'chulu and R'tsei Vim-nu-cha-tei-nu after the Amidah on all Friday nights. That means that on most Friday nights they occur twice, once as part of the silent Amidah, and once aloud thereafter.


[*] It begins with a reverse alphabetical acrostic (starting withTikanta Shabbat).

[i] in the section beginnning on page 108

[ii] c.f., Tosafot, Pesachim 106a.

--- adapted from "The Synagogue Survival Kit" by Jordan Lee Wagner, publ. by Rowman & Littlefield. 1997.

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 December 2009 15:27

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