We are obligated to “greet” Shabbos as it enters. What exactly does this entail? Our Sages set the prece¬dent for how to fulfill this mitzvah: Every week, just before Shabbos, Rabbi Chanina would wrap himself in his tallis and proclaim, “Let us go and greet the Shabbos Queen!” Rabbi Yannai would dress in his finest apparel and sing, “Enter, O bride! Enter, O bride!” (Shabbos 119a).
Both these methods of greeting Shabbos are cited as halacha. The Rambam writes, “On erev Shabbos one should sit reverently, longing to receive the Shabbos as if going out to welcome royalty” (Hilchos Shabbos 30: 2). The Smag includes in his list of positive commandments that “One should greet Shabbos by saying, ‘Enter, O bride! Enter, O bride!'” (Mitzvas Asei 30). Additionally, the Shulchan Aruch directs us to dress in our finest clothes and greet Shabbos with awe and joy (262: 3).
In some communities, the custom was to go outside and declare, “Let us greet the Shabbos Queen.” The Arizal would go out into a field or an orchard to greet Shabbos.
Today, most people “greet” Shabbos in synagogue through the recitation of Kabbalas Shabbos – welcoming Shabbos. We say six chapters of Tehillim (95- 99, 29), offering a poetic description of Hashem’s majestic rule over all of Creation. We then sing Lecha Dodi, a beautiful and inspiring poem about Hashem’s sovereignty, the holiness of Shabbos, and the yearning for redemption. At the end of Lecha Dodi we turn to the west, bowing in honor of the approaching Shabbos Queen, saying, “Enter, O bride! Enter, O bride!” (Mishna Berura 262: 10). Some communities finish Lecha Dodi by greeting the “royal bride” (see Bava Kama 32a and Nusach Sefard). A person should try to bear in mind that he is welcoming Shabbos at that moment.
Text Copyright © 2014 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org