Dec 172012

Probably Yehuda ha-Levi’s best-known poem, this Zionide to end all Zionides is, according to legend, what the poet was singing when he was trampled to death by an Arab horseman after finally arriving at his beloved Jerusalem. Probably a bit too romantic to be true, but “Tziyon ha-Lo Tish’ali” has made its way into many a Jewish liturgy, as well as serving (along with the host of other medieval Zionides) as an important source of inspiration for the nascent Zionist movement in later centuries. It is also, you will notice, quite lengthy.

Yehuda ha-Levi (1075? – 1141?)
Won’t You Ask After, O Zion

Won’t you ask after, O Zion, the weal of your captives —
That part of your flocks which seeks to know yours?
From West and from East, from North and from South
Near and far, bring forth weal from your every direction,
The weal of lust’s captive, his tears Hermon’s dews,
Who yearns to let them fall on the slopes your peaks!
To bewail your affliction I cry out like jackals,
But in times that I dream that your bondage might end,
I become like a lute for your songs.
For Beit El and Peniel, my heart stirs with longing,
For Mahanayim, for your pure ones’ assemblies,
There the Shekhinah dwelt within you, and before
Heaven’s gates, your creator threw open your own,
Your only light was God’s glory, you were never made bright
By the sun, by the moon, by the stars!
And I choose that my soul should be poured out upon
The place where God’s spirit was poured on your chosen.
You’re the house of the kingship, the throne of the Lord
How could slaves sit upon the thrones of your nobles?
And so may it be that I wander the places
Where God was revealed to your seers and your envoys!
Who would make me two wings that I might wander far?
I’d set loose my heart’s shards ‘twixt the clefts of your mountains!
I’d fall to my face on your earth, so desiring your stones,
Showing favor even unto your dust,
And even though I stand by the graves of my fathers,
How astonished I’d be by Hebron’s chosen tombs!
I’d pass through your forests and through your Carmel,
I’d stand stunned on your Gilead and your Mount Abarim,
Abarim and Hor, the peaks together which are
Your two greatest lights, your two wisest teachers.
The air of your land is a soul’s very life,
Your dust’s made of myrrh, your rivers are honey!
T’would be sweet to my soul to walk barefoot and naked
On the desolate ruins that were your holy shrines,
In the place that your ark once was hidden away,
Where your cherubs once dwelt in your innermost chambers!
I’d shear off my locks’ splendor and I’d curse wicked time
Which in a land made impure had defiled your Nazirites —
How could eating and drinking delight when I see
That the dogs have dragged off your glorious lions?
And how could the day’s light seem sweet to my eyes
When I see in crows’ mouths the flesh of your eagles?
Hold back, be restrained as you fill sorrow’s cup,
For my innards and soul have been filled with your gall.
When I remember Ohalah,1 I’ll drink of your wrath,
I’ll recall Ohalibah2 and drain all your lees!
O Zion, wholly lovely, how you’ve bound love and grace,
Within you are bound all the souls of your comrades —
Who are joyful to see how serene you might be,
Who ache at your waste, who cry for your ruins.
From captivity’s pit they bow yearning towards you,
Each man in his place turns his face toward your gates.
The flocks of your throngs who were scattered and exiled
From hill unto mountain still remember your borders;
To your garments’ fringes they’re yet holding fast,
They strive to take hold of your palm trees’ branches.
Could great Patros3 and Shinar4 be as worthy as you?
Could their vapors compare to your tumim and urim?
And who could compare to your anointed, your prophets?
Who could compare to your Levites and singers?
Your strength will sweep through and utterly void
All kingdoms of idols; your crowns are eternal.
Your God wanted you as the place of his dwelling,
Happy is he who draws near to dwell in your courtyards!
Happy is he who awaits, who arrives, and who sees
The ascent of your light when your dawn breaks upon him,
Who sees the good of your chosen, who exults in your joy
As you return to the days of your youth!

יהודה הלוי / يهوذا اللاوي
ציון הלא תשאלי

צִיּוֹן, הֲלֹא תִשְׁאֲלִי לִשְׁלוֹם אֲסִירַיִךְ,
דּוֹרְשֵׁי שְׁלוֹמֵךְ וְהֵם יֶתֶר עֲדָרָיִךְ?
מִיָּם וּמִזְרָח וּמִצָּפוֹן וְתֵימָן שְׁלוֹם
רָחוֹק וְקָרוֹב שְׂאִי מִכֹּל עֲבָרָיִךְ,
וּשְׁלוֹם אֲסִיר תַּאֲוָה, נוֹתֵן דְּמָעָיו כְּטַל–
חֶרְמוֹן וְנִכְסַף לְרִדְתָּם עַל הֲרָרָיִךְ!
לִבְכּוֹת עֱנוּתֵךְ אֲנִי תַנִּים, וְעֵת אֶחֱלֹם
שִׁיבַת שְׁבוּתֵך – אֲנִי כִנּוֹר לְשִׁירָיִךְ.
לִבִּי לְבֵית-אֵל וְלִפְנִיאֵל מְאֹד יֶהֱמֶה
וּלְמַחֲנַיִם וְכֹל פִּגְעֵי טְהוֹרָיִךְ,
שָׁם הַשְּׁכִינָה שְׁכֵנָה לָךְ, וְהַיּוֹצְרֵךְ
פָּתַח לְמוּל שַׁעֲרֵי שַׁחַק שְׁעָרָיִךְ,
וּכְבוֹד אֲדֹנָי לְבַד הָיָה מְאוֹרֵךְ, וְאֵין
שֶׁמֶשׁ וְסַהַר וְכוֹכָבִים מְאִירָיִךְ.
אֶבְחַר לְנַפְשִׁי לְהִשְׁתַּפֵּךְ בְּמָקוֹם אֲשֶר
רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים שְׁפוּכָה עַל בְּחִירָיִךְ.
אַתְּ בֵּית מְלוּכָה וְאַתְּ כִּסֵּא אֲדֹנָי, וְאֵיךְ
יָשְׁבוּ עֲבָדִים עֲלֵי כִסְאוֹת גְּבִירָיִךְ?
מִי יִתְּנֵנִי מְשׁוֹטֵט בַּמְּקוֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר
נִגְלוּ אֱלֹהִים לְחוֹזַיִךְ וְצִירָיִךְ!
מִי יַעֲשֶׂה לִי כְנָפַיִם וְאַרְחִיק נְדוֹד,
אָנִיד לְבִתְרֵי לְבָבִי בֵּין בְּתָרָיִךְ!
אֶפֹּל לְאַפַּי עֲלֵי אַרְצֵךְ וְאֶרְצֶה אֲבָ-
נַיִךְ מְאֹד וַאֲחֹנֵן אֶת-עֲפָרָיִךְ,
אַף כִּי בְעָמְדִי עֲלֵי קִבְרוֹת אֲבֹתַי וְאֶשְׁ-
תּוֹמֵם בְּחֶבְרוֹן עֲלֵי מִבְחַר קְבָרָיִךְ!
אֶעְבֹר בְּיַעְרֵךְ וְכַרְמִלֵּךְ וְאֶעְמֹד בְּגִלְ-
עָדֵךְ וְאֶשְׁתּוֹמֲמָה אֶל הַר עֲבָרָיִךְ,
הַר הָעֲבָרִים וְהֹר הָהָר, אֲשֶׁר שָׁם שְׁנֵי
אוֹרִים גְּדוֹלִים מְאִירַיִךְ וּמוֹרָיִךְ.
חַיֵּי נְשָׁמוֹת – אֲוִיר אַרְצֵךְ, וּמִמָּר דְרוֹר
אַבְקַת עֲפָרֵךְ, וְנֹפֶת צוּף – נְהָרָיִךְ!
יִנְעַם לְנַפְשִׁי הֲלֹךְ עָרֹם וְיָחֵף עֲלֵי
חָרְבוֹת שְׁמָמָה אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ דְבִירָיִךְ,
בִּמְקוֹם אֲרוֹנֵךְ אֲשֶׁר נִגְנַז, וּבִמְקוֹם כְּרוּ-
בַיִךְ אֲשֶׁר שָׁכְנוּ חַדְרֵי חֲדָרָיִךְ!
אָגֹז וְאַשְׁלִיךְ פְּאֵר נִזְרִי וְאֶקֹּב זְמָן,
חִלֵּל בְּאֶרֶץ טְמֵאָה אֶת-נְזִירָיִךְ–
אֵיךְ יֶעֱרַב לִי אֲכֹל וּשְׁתוֹת בְּעֵת אֶחֱזֶה,
כִּי יִּסְחֲבוּ הַכְּלָבִים אֶת-כְּפִירָיִךְ?
אוֹ אֵיךְ מְאוֹר יוֹם יְהִי מָתוֹק לְעֵינַי בְּעוֹד
אֶרְאֶה בְּפִי עֹרְבִים פִּגְרֵי נְשָׁרָיִךְ?
כּוֹס הַיְגוֹנִים, לְאַט! הַרְפִּי מְעַט, כִּי כְבָר
מָלְאוּ כְסָלַי וְנַפְשִׁי מַמְּרוֹרָיִךְ.
עֵת אֶזְכְּרָה אָהֳלָה – אֶשְׁתֶּה חֲמָתֵךְ, וְאֶזְ-
כֹּר אָהֳלִיבָה – וְאֶמְצֶה אֶת-שְׁמָרָיִךְ!
צִיּוֹן כְּלִילַת יֳפִי, אַהְבָה וְחֵן תִּקְשְׁרִי
מֵאָז, וּבָךְ נִקְשְׁרוּ נַפְשׁוֹת חֲבֵרָיִךְ–
הֵם הַשְּׂמֵחִים לְשַׁלְוָתֵךְ וְהַכּוֹאֲבִים
עַל שׁוֹמֲמוּתֵךְ וּבוֹכִים עַל שְׁבָרָיִךְ.
מִבּוֹר שְׁבִי שׁוֹאֲפִים נֶגְדֵּךְ וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים
אִישׁ מִמְּקוֹמוֹ אֱלֵי נֹכַח שְׁעָרָיִךְ,
עֶדְרֵי הֲמוֹנֵךְ, אֲשֶׁר גָּלוּ וְהִתְפַּזְּרוּ
מֵהַר לְגִבְעָה וְלֹא שָׁכְחוּ גְדֵרָיִךְ,
הַמַּחֲזִיקִים בְּשׁוּלַיִךְ וּמִתְאַמְּצִים
לַעְלוֹת וְלֶאְחֹז בְּסַנְסִנֵּי תְּמָרָיִךְ.
שִׁנְעָר וּפַתְרוֹס הֲיַעַרְכוּךְ בְּגָדְלָם, וְאִם
הֶבְלָם יְדַמּוּ לְתֻמַּיִךְ וְאוּרָיִךְ?
אֶל מִי יְדַמּוּ מְשִׁיחַיִךְ וְאֶל מִי נְבִי-
אַיִךְ וְאֶל מִי לְוִיַּיִךְ וְשָׁרָיִךְ?
יִשְׁנֶה וְיַחְלֹף כְּלִיל כָּל-מַמְלְכוֹת הָאֱלִיל
חָסְנֵךְ לְעוֹלָם, לְדוֹר וָדוֹר נְזָרָיִךְ.
אִוָּךְ לְמוֹשָׁב אֱלֹהַיִךְ, וְאַשְׁרֵי אֱנוֹשׁ
יִבְחַר יְקָרֵב וְיִשְׁכֹּן בַּחֲצֵרָיִךְ!
אַשְׁרֵי מְחַכֶּה וְיַגִּיעַ וְיִרְאֶה עֲלוֹת
אוֹרֵךְ וְיִבָּקְעוּ עָלָיו שְׁחָרָיִךְ,
לִרְאוֹת בְּטוֹבַת בְּחִירַיִךְ וְלַעְלֹז בְּשִׂמְ-
חָתֵךְ בְּשׁוּבֵךְ אֱלֵי קַדְמַת נְעוּרָיִךְ!


Tziyón, ha-ló tish’alí li-shelóm ‘asiráyikh,
Dorshéi sheloméikh ve-héim yéter ʕadaráyikh?
Mi-yám u-mizráḥ u-mi-tzafón ve-teimán shelóm
Raḥók ve-karóv se’í mi-kól ʕavaráyikh,
U-shelóm ‘asír ta’aváh, notéin demaʕáv ke-tál
Ḥermón ve-nikhsáf le-ridtám ʕal hararáyikh!
Livkót ʕenutéikh ‘aní taním, ve-‘ʕéit ‘eḥelóm
Shivát shevutéikh — ‘aní kinór le-shiráyikh.
Libí le-véit ‘eil ve-lifni’éil me’ód yeheméh
U-le-maḥanáyim ve-khól pigʕéi tehoráyikh,
Sham ha-shekhináh shekheináh lakh, ve-ha-yotzréikh
Patáḥ le-múl shaʕaréi sháḥak sheʕaráyikh,
U-khevód ‘adonái levád hayáh me’oréikh, ve-‘éin
Shémesh ve-sáhar ve-khokhavím me’iráyikh.
‘Evḥár le-nafshí lehishtapéikh be-makóm ‘ashér
Rúaḥ ‘elohím shefukháh ʕal beḥiráyikh.
‘At beit melukháh ve-‘át kiséi ‘adonái, ve-‘éikh
Yashvú ʕavadím ʕaléi khis’ót geviráyikh?
Mi yitnéini meshotéit ba-mekomót ‘ashér
Niglu ‘elohím le-ḥozáyikh ve-tziráyikh!
Mi yaʕaséh li khenafáyim ve-‘arḥík nedód,
‘Aníd le-vitréi levaví bein betaráyikh!
‘Epól le-‘apái ʕaléi ‘artzéikh ve-‘ertzéh ‘ava-
náyikh me’ód va-‘aḥonéin ‘et ʕafaráyikh,
‘Af ki ve-ʕomdí ʕaléi ‘kivrót ‘avotái ve-‘esh-
toméim be-ḥevrón ʕaléi mivḥár kevaráyikh!
‘Eʕvór be-yaʕréikh ve-kharmiléikh ve-‘eʕmód bi-gil-
ʕadéikh ve-‘eshtomamáh ‘el har ʕavaráyikh,
Har ha-ʕavarím ve-hór ha-hár, ‘ashér sham shnéi
‘Orím gedolím me’iráyikh u-moráyikh.
Ḥayéi neshamót — ‘avír ‘artzéikh, u-mi-mór derór
‘Avkát ʕafaréikh, ve-nofét tzúf — neharáyikh!
Yinʕám le-nafshí halókh ʕaróm ve-yaḥéif ʕaléi
Ḥarvót shemamáh ‘ashér hayú deviráyikh,
Bimkóm ‘aronéikh ‘ashér nignáz, u-vimkóm keru-
váyikh ‘ashér shakhnú ḥadréi ḥadaráyikh!
‘Agóz ve-‘ashlíkh pe’éir nizrí ve-‘ekóv zemán,
ḥiléil be-‘éretz temei’áh ‘et neziráyikh —
‘Eikh yeʕeráv li ‘akhól u-shetót be-ʕéit ‘eḥezéh,
Ki yisḥavú ha-kelavím ‘et kefiráyikh?
‘O ‘eikh me’ór yom yehí matók le-ʕeinái be-ʕód
‘Er’éh be-fí ʕorvím pigréi nesharáyikh?
Kos ha-yegoním, le’át! Harpí me’át, ki khevár
Mal’ú khesalái ve-nafshí mamroráyikh.
ʕeit ‘ezkeráh ‘ohaláh — ‘eshtéh ḥamatéikh, ve-‘ez-
kór ‘ohaliváh — ve-’emtzéh ‘et shemaráyikh!
Tziyón kelilát yófi, ‘aheváh ve-ḥéin tiksherí
Mei-‘áz, u-vákh niksherú nafshót ḥaveiráyikh —
Heim ha-semeiḥím le-shalvatéikh ve-ha-ko’avím
ʕal shomamutéikh u-vokhím ʕal shevaráyikh.
Mi-bór sheví sho’afím negdéikh u-mishtaḥavím
‘Ish mimkomó ‘eléi nókhaḥ sheʕaráyikh,
ʕedréi hamonéikh ‘ashér galú ve-hitpazrú
Mei-hár le-givʕáh ve-ló shakheḥú gedeiráyikh,
Ha-maḥazikím be-shuláyikh u-mit’amtzím
Laʕlót ve-le’ḥóz be-sansinéi temaráyikh.
Shinʕár u-fatrós ha-yaʕarkhúkh be-godlám, ve-‘ím
Hevlám yedamú le-tumáyikh ve-‘uráyikh?
‘El mi yedamú meshiḥáyikh ve-‘él mi nevi-
‘áyikh ve-‘él mi leviyáyikh ve-sharáyikh?
Yishnéh ve-yaḥlóf kelíl kol mamlekhót ha-‘elíl.
Ḥosnéikh le-ʕolám, le-dór va-dór nezaráyikh.
‘Ivákh le-mosháv ‘eloháyikh, ve-‘ashréi ‘enósh
Yivḥár yekaréiv ve-yishkón ba-ḥatzeiráyikh!
‘Ashréi meḥakéh ve-yagíaʕ ve-yir’éh ʕalót
‘Oréikh ve-yibakʕú ʕaláv sheḥaráyikh,
Lir’ót be-továt beḥiráyikh ve-laʕlóz be-sim-
ḥatéikh be-shuvéikh ‘eléi kadmát neʕuráyikh!

  1. Samaria.
  2. Jerusalem.
  3. Byzantium (i.e., Christianity).
  4. Baghdad (i.e., Islam).

  3 Responses to “Yehuda ha-Levi, “Tziyon, Ha-Lo Tish’ali””

  1. Is it bad that I actually had to think for a second as to what 15-6 actually adds up to? Anyway, I’m Ari and I initially found your blog because I was seeking out a recipe for kubbe soup (which I’ve not yet attempted, but I will soon), and i stayed for the poetry. I am in the midst of translating “Tzyion Ha-Lo Tish’Ali” for possible use in a thesis on the narrative arc of Zionist poetry, and I’m seeing in pretty much all of the translations the use of “cherubim” for the line “בַיִךְ אֲשֶׁר שָׁכְנוּ חַדְרֵי חֲדָרָיִךְ” Without spoiling the fun of researching this on my own for the thesis, I ask how you came to that translation. Let me know if you can. Thanks a lot, and keep up the great work; it’s a nice breath of fresh air to find a site for a food recipe, and end up checking its poetry.

  2. Hello Ari. I’m glad I’m beginning to get readers beyond my knucklehead friends and blood relatives. To answer your question, there’s really no potential translation for “כְּרוּבַיִךְ” other than “your cherubs.” Ha-Levi is talking about visiting the former site of the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the Temple, where the Ark of the Covenant was housed before its disappearance. According to the Bible, the ark’s lid had two cherubs facing each other on it, between which the divine presence would appear. Rav Wikipedia should tell you most of what you need to know.

    Good luck with the kubeh.

  3. Right. That makes quite a bit of sense upon actually reading the translation that I’ve come up with so far. Funny how you can completely get lost in the translating bits and forgo the meaning bits, as I’m sure you know. Thank you for the clarification

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