We have finished siman 6, where we discussed kol isha, and touched on the topic of zemiros. We are going to go off topic to understand some of the hashkafic and halachic aspects of zemiros shabbos. We will begin with an introduction.
There is a sefer about minhagim of Klal Yisroel known as Likutei Mahariach. In his section on Friday Night, he writes that the minhag of Klal Yisroel is to recite shiros v’sishbachos, songs and praises, to Hashem on Shabbos. He quotes the Sefer Chassidim (siman 1147), one of the Chassidei Ashkenaz known for composing Aanim Zemiros, who writes that when the pasuk says Hashem gave bracha to the seventh day (Bereishis 2:3), it teaches us a few ideas. First, it teaches us that our shabbos should be well lit. The Sefer Chassidim quotes Rabbeinu Meshulam, one of the earlier gedolei Ashkenaz, who writes that part of Iyov’s curse was that he sat in darkness. If curse is equated with darkness, bracha is equated with light. Furthermore, he writes that we infer from Iyov that the opposite of the things he felt were curses are bracha. For example, Iyov says there should not be any singing in his home (due to his misfortunes), so we see a person should sing on Shabbos.
The Mekor Hachessed, which is a peirush on Sefer Chassidim from the Chida, references a Midrash in Shir Hashirim. The Midrash brings a mashal of people sitting and eating and drinking with the king. Most of the people were praising the king, but a few got drunk and began saying negative things about the king. The king got upset and wanted to kill everyone present. Someone suggested that the king focus on the people who were being positive, rather than those being negative. Similarly, the Midrash says that when Klal Yisroel eat and drink, they say shiros and tishbachos, praises of and songs to Hashem. When the nations of the world eat and drink, they insult Hashem through various aveiros. When Hashem sees the reaction of the nations of the world, he considers destroying the world. The Torah comes and defends the world, and suggests that instead of looking at those who insult Him, look at those who praise Him. The Midrash applies this mashal to the last pasuk of Shir Hashirim, berach dodi, that Hashem should “run away” from the nations of the world and focus on Klal Yisroel.
The Gemara in Megillah (12a) brings a similar idea, saying that when the nations of the world eat and drink they talk about inappropriate things, but when Klal Yisroel eat and drink, we sing praises of Hashem. The Likkutei Mahariach concludes that these midrashim are the sources for the minhag to sing zemiros at a shabbos seuda.