Feb 112013

True, I rarely translate piyut (although if I wanted to, I could translate one a day until I turned 120 and still probably not run out). There is a method to my madness here, though. My Hebrew professor recently had me read through the Avodah portion of the Musaf service for Yom Kippur, which describes in almost loving detail the (frankly somewhat wacky) special sacrifices and communal services on Yom Kippur in Jerusalem when the Temple still stood. It brought to mind this ibn Gabirol piyut, which deals directly with the loss of the various accouterments of Yom Kippur worship (and general worship) in the Temple, and is in fact added to the Yom Kippur Musaf after the Avodah in several Sephardic liturgies.

Oh, and of course, Berry Sakharof did a version of it on his ibn Gabirol album, which helped. It may be a piyut about animal sacrifice and sin expiation, but our favorite Israeli post-punk imbues it with a dirgelike arrangement and dispassionate delivery perfect for a song about a more modern and fitting topic (say, heroin). He also moves the opening line to the end, which I approve of. Again, if you dig it, show Berry your love by purchasing and downloading the album here for a very reasonable 30 NIS/~$8.

Berry Sakharof and Rea Mokhiach - Uv-khen Hayah le-Ayin

Shlomo ibn Gabirol (1021? – 1058?)
And So It Came to Naught

And so it came to naught:
Every eye’s delight.
No holy palace, no earthly dwellings,
No Sanhedrin’s court, no priestly chambers,
No sanctuary, and no hanging-hooks,
No fats reserved, no sacrifices,
No immersion, and no choice portions,
No expiation, and no confessions,
No holy altar, and no libations,
No fine flour, no valuations,1
No woven curtain, no caper bushes,2
No fragrant incense, no burning embers,
No blood poured out, and no smoky pillars,
No priestly vestments, and no grand splendors,
No beast sent to death, no wildernesses,
No scapegoat sent forth and no Azazel.

שלמה אבן גבירול / سليمان ابن جبيرول
ובכן היה לאין

וּבְכֵן הָיָה לְאַיִן
מַחְמַד כָּל עָיִן
לֹא אַרְמוֹן וְלֹא בִירָה
לֹא גָזִית וְלֹא דִירָה
לֹא הֵיכָל וְלֹא וָוִים
לֹא זֶבַח וְלֹא חֲלָבִים
לֹא טְבִילָה וְלֹא יָדוֹת
לֹא כֹפֶר וְלֹא לְהִתְוַדּוֹת
לֹא מִזְבֵּחַ וְלֹא נְסָכִים
לֹא סֹלֶת וְלֹא עֲרָכִים
לֹא פָרֹכֶת וְלֹא צְלָפִים
לֹא קְטֹרֶת וְלֹא רְצָפִים
לֹא שְׁפִיכָה וְלֹא תִימֹרֶת
לֹא שְׁמוֹנָה וְלֹא תִפְאֶרֶת
לֹא מִדְבָּר וְלֹא הָאוֹזֵל
לֹא שָׂעִיר וְלֹא עֲזָאזֵל


Uv-khéin hayah le-‘áyin
Maḥmád kol ʕáyin
Lo ‘armón ve-ló viráh
Lo gazít ve-ló diráh
Lo heikhál ve-ló vavím
Lo zévaḥ ve-ló ḥalavím
Lo teviláh ve-ló yadót
Lo khófer ve-ló lehitvadót
Lo mizbéiaḥ ve-ló nesakhím
Lo sólet ve-ló ʕarakhím
Lo farókhet ve-ló tzelafím
Lo ketóret ve-ló retzafím
Lo shefikháh ve-ló timóret
Lo shemonáh ve-ló tif’éret
Lo midbár ve-ló ha-‘ozéil
Lo saʕír ve-ló ʕazazéil.

  1. Of the worth of a person or animal to be dedicated to the Temple.
  2. Caper bushes have three different “fruits” which must be tithed (to the Temple). Which is a lot.

  One Response to “Shlomo ibn Gabirol, “Uv-khein Hayah le-Ayin””

  1. One of my favourite YK piyyutim. So striking in its simplicity, overwhelming and ineluctable in mourning the Temple’s total nothing-ness. Reading it on YK always leaves me with a powerful impression.

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