- ZEMIROT (Heb. זְמִירוֹת "songs"). (1) Term applied by Sephardi, Italian, and eastern communities to the biblical verses, psalms, and doxologies recited before the main part (yoẓer , shema , and amidah ) of the morning service. The terms zemirot and pesukei de-zimra ("Passages of Song"), its Ashkenazi equivalent, are used interchangeably by the authorities as early as abudarham (14th century; cf. Sh. Ar., OḤ, 51:1, 8). (2) In Ashkenazi usage, the table hymns sung during or directly after Sabbath meals. Their recitation was considered meritorious (מצוה) by the early authorities (cf. Sefer ha-Ḥasidim, ed. Wistinetzki, 722; Or Zaru'a, 2:95). Three groupings achieved prominence and were printed in most prayer books: (a) eight zemirot for the Friday evening meal (Kol Mekaddesh Shevi'i, Menuḥah ve-Simḥah, Mah Yedidut, Mah Yafit, Yom Shabbat Kodesh, yah ribbon olam , Ẓur mi-Shello Akhalnu, Yom Zeh le-Yisrael); the first five apparently date from the early Middle Ages, the last two from the 16th century; eight for the Sabbath noon meal (Barukh Adonai Yom Yom, Barukh El Elyon, Yom Zeh Mekhubbad, Yom Shabbaton, Ki Eshmerah Shabbat, Shimru Shabbetotai, Deror Yikra, Shabbat ha-Yom la-Adonai); 10th to 15th centuries; (c) nine for the end of Sabbath (ha-mavdil , Eliyahu ha-Navi, Be-Moẓa'ei (Yom) Menuḥah, Ḥaddesh Sesoni, Agil ve-Esmaḥ, Elohim Yisadenu, Eli Ḥish Go'ali, Addir Ayom ve-Nora, Ish Ḥasid Hayah); early to late Middle Ages. A number of these are to be found in Maḥzor Vitry (11th century) and some were also accepted by Sephardi communities who had their own traditional table hymns. The kabbalists, especially Isaac Luria, added new zemirot. Among Sephardi and Oriental Jewry the writing of this type of hymn has continued. Designated for either home or synagogue, the zemirot are not a special literary category. Rather, they belong to the group of songs and liturgical poems called zemer or pizmon or shevaḥot by Sephardi communities; these are not recognized as obligatory prayer. Examples of these zemirot are the bakkashot ("requests") said each morning before prayer by Sephardi Jews (some of which are recited at meals by other communities) and the many songs dedicated to special occasions such as the Sabbath, festivals, marriage, circumcision, redemption of the firstborn son, Zeved ha-Bat (a Sabbath celebration for a newborn daughter), Simḥat Torah, the 15th of Shevat, Ḥanukkah, Purim, etc. Many have been printed in standard and holiday prayer books, while others have been published in collections such as Shirim u-Zemirot (Istanbul, 1539). Among collections with zemirot not found elsewhere are Sefer Shir u-Shevaḥah (1921, ed. by Rafael Ḥayyim Ha-Cohen, 561 songs), Sefer Pizmonim (1929, ed. by Mordekhai Ḥayyim Eliyahu Levi, 408 songs), Sefer Shirim, Tehillat Yesharim ha-Shalem (1954, ed. by Ẓalah Manẓur, 373 songs). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: N. Ben-Menahem, Zemirot shet Shabbat (1949); Idelsohn, Liturgy, 80–83, 151–7; M. Zobel, Der Schabbat (1935), 182ff.; Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 81–87. (Ernst Daniel Goldschmidt)
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.