Apr 282014
 

“I bet the [girl] [he] was singing that about was real happy.”
“Well, actually, [he] was singing about God.”
“Oh, well, he’s always happy. No, wait, he’s always mad…”

Yisrael Najara (1555? – 1625?)
Arrows the Bow of Your Eye Has Drawn

Arrows the bow of your eye has drawn; opposed my heart stands as their aim
Away turn your eyes from my own; pity the heart that your wand’ring shan’t tire,
With desire for you, doe of dazzling acclaim.

I labored to wonder and gaze on the eye that would sparkle with flame
Many maidens are worthy, but you are valued and precious, and none are the same
How might I forget you, O daughter of nobles, if my soul to yours has been chained?
To the place you desire, arise and return; the scattered lambs I shall reclaim
Be you firm, for you’ll no longer be least among wives;1 “princess” shall be your name.

ישראל נג’ארה
ידרוך חציו קשת עינך

 
יִדְרוֹךְ חִצָּיו קֶשֶׁת עֵינֵךְ לִּבִּי נִצָּב לוֹ מַטָּרָה
הָסֵבִּי עֵינֵךְ מִנֶּגְדִּי חוּסִי עַל־לֵב לִנְדוּדֵךְ לֹא יָנוּם
לְחִשְׁקֵךְ לֹא יָנוּם יַעֲלַת תִּפְאָרָה.
 
שָׁקַדְתִּי לִהְיוֹת מִשְׁתָּאֶה מַבִּיט עַיִן תּוֹפַע נְהָרָה
רַבּוֹת בָּנוֹת יָקְרוּ אַךְ אַתְּ עֲרוּכָה בַכֹּל וּשְׁמוּרָה
אֵיךְ אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ בַּת נָדִיב אִם נַפְשֵׁךְ עִם נַפְשִׁי נִקְשָׁרָה
לִמְחוֹז חֶפְצֵךְ קוּמִי עֲלִי עַתָּה אֶקְבֹּץ שֶׂה פְּזוּרָה
חִזְקִי כִּי לֹא יִקָּרֵא עוֹד שְׁמֵךְ צָרָה כִּי אִם שָׂרָה.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Yidrókh ḥitzáv qéshet ʕeinéikh libí nitzáv lo mataráh
Haséibi ʕeinéikh mi-negdí ḥúsi ʕal leiv lindudékh lo yanúm
Le-ḥishqéikh lo yanúm yaʕalát tif’aráh.

Shaqádeti lihyót mishta’éh mabít ʕáyin tofáʕ neharáh
Rabót banót yaqrú ‘akh ‘at ʕarukháh va-kól u-shemuráh
‘Eikh ‘eshkaḥéikh bat nadív ‘im nafshéikh ʕim nafshí niqsharáh
Limḥóz ḥeftzéikh qúmi ʕalí ʕatáh eqbótz seh pezuráh
Ḥizqi ki lo yiqaréi ʕod shméikh tzaráh ki ‘im saráh.

  1. צרה here can have a number of potentially correct readings: “sorrow,” “enemy” or “subordinate wife.” I think the latter is correct, since “princess” (sarah) is of course the name of Abraham’s beloved primary wife.
Mar 022013
 

Hey, it’s more piyut. And more Berry. I mean, you know how it is with me and poems drawing heavily on the Song of Songs. Like the Song itself, this poem is built as a dialogue between lovers; unlike the Song itself, this one actually is allegorical.1 The female speaker’s (i.e., Israel’s) lines are set in italics.

Standard Berry streaming music disclaimer: show Berry your love by purchasing and downloading Adumei Ha-Sefatot for a very reasonable 30 NIS/~$8.

Berry Sakharof and Rea Mokhiach - Shalom Lekha Dodi

Shlomo ibn Gabirol (1021? – 1058?)
Peace to You, My Love

O, peace to you, my love, so pure and ruddy!2
  O, peace to you from her with cheeks of pomegranate3
Towards your sister run, hasten you to save her
  And triumph like the son of Jesse o’er Ammon’s Rabbah4

Wherefore, lovely girl, do you try to waken Love5
  And make your voice ring out, cloaked in sounds of bells?
The moment Love desires6 I’ll draw near you with all speed
  And pour myself upon you like the dews of Mount Hermon.

שלמה אבן גבירול / سليمان ابن جبيرول
שלום לך דודי

 
שָׁלוֹם לְךָ דּוֹדִי הַצַּח וְהָאַדְמוֹן
 שָׁלוֹם לְךָ מֵאֵת רַקָּה כְמוֹ רִמּוֹן
לִקְרַאת אֲחוֹתַךְ רוּץ צֵא נָא לְהוֹשִׁיעָהּ
 וּצְלַח כְּבֶן יִשַּׁי רַבַּת בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן
מַה לָּךְ יְפֵהפִיָּה כִּי תְעוֹרְרִי אַהֲבָה
 וּתְצַלְצְלִי קוֹלֵךְ כִּמְעִיל בְּקוֹל פַּעֲמוֹן
הָעֵת אֲשֶׁר תַּחְפֹּץ אַהֲבָה אֲחִישֶׁנָּה
 עִתָּהּ וְעָלַיִךְ אֵרֵד כְּטַל חֶרְמוֹן.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Shalóm lekhá dodí ha-tzaḥ ve-ha-‘admón
Shalóm lekhá mei-‘éit rakáh khemó rimón
Likrát aḥotákh rutz, tzei na lehoshiʕáh
Utzláḥ ke-vén yishái rabát benéi ʕamón
Mah lakh yefeifiyáh ki teʕorerí ‘ahaváh
U-tetzaltzelí koléikh kimʕíl be-kól paʕamón
Ha-ʕéit ‘ashér taḥpótz ‘ahaváh ‘aḥishénah
ʕitáh ve-ʕaláyikh ‘eiréid ke-tál ḥermón.

  1. Oh snap.
  2. Song of Songs 5:10.
  3. Song of Songs 4:3.
  4. Ezekiel 21:25, Jeremiah 49:2.
  5. Song of Songs 2:7.
  6. Same as above.
Feb 162013
 

Technically, the addressee here is God, but at a certain point with the mystic poets, it gets really hard to tell. That’s probably why they engendered (no pun intended) such controversy (Najara was a disciple of the Arizal, who firmly supported him against his many critics). This is a wonderful poem in Hebrew, in my favorite meter. I’ve written personal poems in this exact meter before I even knew there was historical precedent for it, which is, if you can imagine, a strange thing to discover. (Seriously, there’s even one in a notebook somewhere where every other line starts with “lu ‘ehyeh.)

Yisrael Najara (1555? – 1625?)
Sleep Strays from My Eyes

Sleep strays from my eyes, storm-tossed like a ship
On seas of your love, these things I recall:
If I were a babe, and you were my nurse,
I’d nurse your fair breasts, and break my parched thirst.
If I were a stream, and you and I sat
In my garden’s shade, I’d guard your sweet fruits.
If I were a spear, and by you was thrust
In your rivals’ hearts, I’d drink of their blood.
If I were a tent, and you dwelt within,
We’d couple with love, and be clad in joy.
If I were a tongue, and you my reply,
The flame of my lust I’d quiet with song.
If I were a slave, and you were my lord,
I’d long but to serve, I’d shun liberty.

ישראל נג’ארה
תדד שנת עיני

 
תִּדַּד שְׁנַת עֵינִי וְאֶסְעַר כָּאֳנִי
תּוֹךְ יָם תְּשׁוּקָתָךְ, וְאֵלֶּה אֶזְכְּרָה:
לוּ אֶהְיֶה יוֹנֵק וְאַתָּה אוֹמְנִי,
אִינַק שְׁדֵי יָפְיָךְ, צְמָאִי אֶשְׁבְּרָה.
לוּ אֶהְיֶה שֶׁלַח, וְאַתָּה וַאֲנִי
נֵשֵׁב בְּצֵל גַּנִּי, לְפִרְיָךְ אֶשְׁמְרָה.
לוּ אֶהְיֶה רֹמַח וְאַתָּה נוֹתְנִי
תּוֹךְ לֵב מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, בְּדָמָם אֶשְׁכְּרָה.
לוּ אֶהְיֶה אֹהֶל וְאַתָּה שׁוֹכְנִי,
נִתְעַלְּסָה אַהַב, בְּגִיל נִתְאַזְּרָה.
לוּ אֶהְיֶה לָשׁוֹן וְאַתָּה מַעֲנִי,
אַשְׁקִיט יְקוֹד חִשְׁקִי בְּשִׁיר וַאְזַמְּרָה.
לוּ אֶהְיֶה עֶבֶד וְאַתָּה רוֹזְנִי,
אֶשְׁאַף עֲבוֹדָתָךְ, דְּרוֹר לֹא אֶבְחֲרָה.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Tidád shenát ʕeiní ve-‘esʕár ka-‘oní
Tokh yam teshukatákh, ve-‘éleh ‘ezkeráh:
Lu ‘ehyéh yonéikh ve-‘atáh ‘omní,
‘Inák shedéi yofyákh, tzema’í ‘eshberáh.
Lu ‘ehyéh shélaḥ, ve-‘atáh va-‘aní
Neishéiv be-tzéil ganí, le-firyákh ‘eshmeráh.
Lu ‘ehyéh rómaḥ ve-‘atáh notní
Tokh leiv mesanékha, be-damám ‘eshkeráh.
Lu ‘ehyéh óhel, ve-‘atáh shokhní,
Nitʕalsáh ‘áhav, be-gíl nit’azráh.
Lu ‘ehyéh lashón ve-‘atáh maʕaní,
‘Ashkít yekód ḥishkí be-shír va’zamráh.
Lu ‘ehyéh ʕéved ve-‘atáh rozní,
‘Esh’áf ʕavodatákh, derór lo ‘evḥaráh.

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
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

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.
Oct 102012
 

Like a lot of mystical piyut, this poem is framed as a conversation between two lovers (the model for which is of course the Song of Songs). And like any good mystical poetry, whether by Jewish Kabbalists or Muslim Sufis, the ecstasy of the divine encounter is expressed as a heady combination of the frankly erotic, the puzzlingly esoteric, and the slightly drunken. Since English isn’t gendered in the manner of Hebrew, I’ve set the female speaker’s lines in italics.

Shalom Shabazi (1619 – 1720?)
Graceful Doe

A graceful doe supports me in exile
And here in her bosom she’ll lodge me.
To drink from her cup I am always prepared,
She mingles her wine with my lees.
Before me, my friends, drink and be drunk,
Rouse the reason that’s sleeping within me.
There in her palace sits the daughter of kings,
Her table ready for those who are with me.
For every lover there comes a time to part,
But with ardor my love shall recall me.
He adorns his lady with grace and with kindness,
In paths of grace and of kindness he leads me.

For my beloved I spread out the clouds of the heavens,
My desire she never denies me.
Fifty are her gates, solid and firm, and with
The favor of Leah her wisdom sustains me.
She arouses Rachel’s love for her children,
Unto the tenth kingdom’s secret she’ll raise me.
God, hasten to bring unto thine people salvation,
And may my tongue be made pure within me.
Thy great peace shall encompass those whole of heart,
The sons of the pure man, a charm unto thee.

שלום שבזי / سالم الشبزي
איילת חן

 
אַיֶלֶת חֵן בְּגָלוּת תִּסְמְכֵנִי
וּבַלַּיְלָה בְּתוֹךְ חֵיקָהּ מְלוֹנִי
לְכוֹס יֵינָהּ אֲנִי תָּמִיד מְזוּמָּן
וְנִתְעָרַב חֲמַד יֵינָהּ בְּיֵינִי
שְׁתוּ דוֹדִים לְעוּמָּתִי וְשִׁכְרוּ
וְהָעִירוּ לְשֵׂכֶל רַעֲיוֹנִי
בְּהֵיכַל בַּת מְלָכִים הַכְּבוּדָה
וְשׁוּלְחָנָהּ מְזוּמָּן לַהֲמוֹנִי
זְמָן הִפְרִיד לְכָל רֵעִים וְדוֹדִים
אֲבָל דּוֹדִי בְּאַהֲבָה יִזְכְּרֵנִי
יְקַשֵּׁר חֵן וְחֶסֶד עַל גְּבֶרֶת
בְּמַעְגַּל חֵן וְחֶסֶד יִמְשְׁכֵנִי
מְפַרְשֵׁז בַּעֲנַן עָבֵי שְׁחָקִים
לְרַעְיָתִי וְהִיא תָפִיק רְצוֹנִי
שְׁעָרֶיהָ חֲמִשִּׁים הֵם קְבוּעִים
זְכוּת לֵאָה בְּבִינָה תִסְעֲדֵנִי
תְּעוֹרֵר אַהֲבַת רָחֵל לְבָנִים
בְּסוֹד מַלְכוּת עֲשִׂירִית תַּעֲלֵנִי
אֱלֹהִים חִישׁ לְעַמֶּךָ יְשׁוּעָה
בְּעֵת רָצוֹן תְּצַחְצֵחַ גְּרוֹנִי
שְׁלוּמֵי לֵב בְּרוֹב שָלוֹם תְּסוֹבֵב
בְּנֵי אִישׁ תָּם סְגוּלַת אַב הֲמוֹנִי
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

‘Ayélet ḥein be-galút tismekhéini
U-ve-láilah be-tókh ḥeikáh meloní
Le-khós yeináh ‘aní tamíd mezumán
Ve-nitʕaréiv ḥemád yeináh be-yeiní
Shetú dodím le-ʕumatí ve-shikhrú
Ve-haʕíru le-séikhel raʕayoní
Be-heikhál bat melakhím ha-kevudáh
Ve-shulḥanáh mezumán la-hamoní
Zemán hifríd le-khól reiʕím ve-dodím
‘Avál dodí be-‘ahaváh yizkeréini
Yekashér ḥein ve-ḥesed ʕal gevéret
Be-maʕgál ḥein ve-ḥesed yimshekhéini
Mefarshéiz ba-ʕanán ʕavéi sheḥakím
Le-raʕyatí ve-hí tafík retzoní
Sheʕaréha ḥamishím heim kevuʕím
Zekhút lei’áh be-vináh tisʕadéini
Teʕoréir ‘ahavát raḥeil le-vaním
Be-sód malkhút ʕasirít taʕaléini
‘Elohím ḥish le-ʕamékha yeshuʕáh
Be-ʕéit ratzón tetzaḥtzéiaḥ geroní
Sheluméi leiv be-róv shalóm tesovéiv
Benéi ‘ish tam segulát ‘av hamoní

Sep 302012
 

Readers with some background in the Hebrew Bible will doubtless notice that this poem is mostly constructed from snatches of the Song of Songs (which, as it is my absolute favorite work of Hebrew poetry, I’ve also translated, but I need some time to further ruminate before posting). However, while the female lover (the “Shulamite”) comes across as the dominant voice in the Song of Songs, here the perspective is entirely the male lover’s. The last line, of course, quotes Psalm 137.

I also feel compelled to point out that the Hebrew word “dodim” is not so much “love” as “lovemaking” (i.e., it implies a degree of physicality rather than just an emotion), but for whatever reason, I cannot use the word “lovemaking” with a straight face. Perhaps it has something to do with my youthful intellectual corruption by noted scholar of Hebrew poetry Frank Zappa זצ”ל:

What I think is very cynical about some rock and roll songs – especially today – is the way they say: “Let’s make love.” What the fuck kind of wussy says shit like that in the real world? You ought to be able to say, “Let’s go fuck,” or at least, “Let’s go fill-in-the-blank – but you gotta say “Let’s make love” in order to get on the radio. This creates a semantic corruption, by changing the context in which the word ‘love’ is used in the song.1

And yet, I could hardly translate “Et Dodim Kallah” as “Fucking Time, Bride!”, so we’ll have to make do with an unfortunately semantically corrupted “love.” May Zappa forgive me.

And on the subject of rock and roll songs, “Et Dodim Kallah” was made a hit by none other than Ha-Melekh bikhvodo uve’atzmo, the Voice, the only Israeli musician from whose life could be made an appropriate tawdry and maudlin biopic: Zohar Argov. You’ll find it attached below. Argov’s abridged version shuffles the order of the lines and partially rewrites a couple. If you’d like to, um, sing along (not that most people could sing along with Zohar Argov זצ”ל), the song’s line order when compared to the original poem is: first (repeated once) and second (the “maawal“); then, after the band comes in, first, second, third, fourth, eleventh, twelfth, seventh and eighth (with each line repeated).

And do not forget to glory in the magnificent Yehuda Keisar on the Mizrachi guitar (which is invariably an Gibson 335, which I suppose makes it basically Lucille in a galabiyeh).

Zohar Argov - Et Dodim Kallah

Ḥaim ben Sahel (10th century)
The Time for Love has Come, My Bride

The time for love has come, my bride – come into my garden
The grapevines have blossomed, my pomegranate blooms
The rains have passed, the winter’s gone
Arise, my darling – how desire overwhelms!
We’ll go out into the fields, we’ll spend the night in the desert
There, o delight of my eyes, I’ll give you my love
Ah, you are fair and so lovely – your teeth are like snow
Honey and milk lie under your tongue
Go now, and tend in the tracks of your flock
Let me hear your voice – show yourself to me
I’ve come, gazelle, to shepherd in the gardens,
To see your beauty; your eyes are doves
I’ve gathered myrrh and picked the lilies
I’ve prepared a table and poured the wine
Many waters could not quench
the love which will know no rest tonight
Since the day you left to wander I’ve taken other maidens
Yet if I forget you, may my right hand forget its cunning

חיים בן סהל
עת דודים כלה

  
עֵת דּוֹדִים כַּלָּה בּוֹאִי לְגַנִּי
פָּרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן הֵנֵץ רִמּוֹנִי
חָלַף הַגֶּשֶׁם הַסְּתָו עָבַר
קוּמִי רַעְיָתִי הַחֵשֶׁק גָּבַר
נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה נָלִין בַּמִּדְבָּר
שָׁם אֶתֵּן דּוֹדַי לָךְ מַחְמַד עֵינִי
יָפִית וְנָעַמְתְּ כַּשֶּׁלֶג שִׁנֵּךְ
דְּבַשׁ וְחָלָב תַּחַת לְשׁוֹנֵךְ
צְאִי נָא וּרְעִי בְעִקְבֵי צֹאנֵךְ
קוֹלֵךְ הַשְׁמִיעִינִי מַרְאֵךְ הַרְאִינִי
יָרַדְתִּי עָפְרָה לִרְעוֹת בַּגַּנִּים
לִרְאוֹת בְּיָפְיֵךְ עֵינַיִךְ יוֹנִים
אָרִיתִי מוֹרִי לִלְקוֹט שׁוֹשַׁנִּים
עָרַכְתִּי שֻׁלְחָן מָסַכְתִּי יֵינִי
מַיִם רַבִּים לֹא יוּכְלוּ לְכַבּוֹת
אֶת הָאַהֲבָה לַיְלָה לֹא תִשְׁבּוֹת
מִיּוֹם נְדוֹדֵךְ נָשָׂאתִי רִיבוֹת
עוֹד אִם אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

ʕeit dodím kaláh, bó’i le-ganí
Parḥáh ha-géfen, heinéitz rimoní
Ḥaláf ha-géshem, ha-setáv ʕavár
Kúmi raʕyatí, ha-ḥéishek gavár
Netzéi ha-sadéh, nalín ba-midbár
Sham ‘etéin dodái lakh, maḥmád ʕeiní
Yafít va-naʕámt, ka-shéleg shinéikh
Devásh ve-ḥaláv táḥat leshonéikh
Tze’í na u-reʕí ve-ʕikvéi tzonéikh
Koléikh hashmiʕíni, mar’éikh har’íni
Yarádeti ʕofráh lirʕót ba-ganím
Lir’ót be-yofyéikh ʕeináyikh yoním
‘Aríti morí lilkót shoshaním
ʕarákhti shulḥán, masákhti yeiní
Máyim rabím lo yukhlú lekhabót
‘Et ha-ahaváh láilah lo tishbót
Mi-yóm nedodéikh nasá’ti rivót
ʕod ‘im ‘eshkáḥeikh tishkáḥ yeminí

  1. The Real Frank Zappa Book, 90.
Sep 292012
 

Im Tahpetzah

The rabbi-king of the Yemeni-Jewish poet-kabbalists, Shabazi writes in an elliptical, allusive and highly condensed style that can make translation an interesting puzzle. I’ll admit to not fully understanding the line “galgal ve-‘adrikhal melavim lo” – the words can be translated easily enough, but I have the feeling I’m missing some key allusion or context. If anyone out there knows, please share.

This particular piyut happens to have been recorded by the occasionally compelling Israeli pan-Jewish world music collective the Idan Raichel Project. Click the thingy below to hear it – this partial version of “Im Taḥpetzah” starts at the nineteenth line (“luḥót shnáyim heim be-yósher nikhtevú“) and runs through the twenty-sixth (“kabéitz pezuréinu ‘ashér nitpazrú“). I must admit that the Zionist in me always appreciated how Raichel’s version ends with the poem’s plaintive supplication for the ingathering of the exiles, which also serves Raichel’s cross-Diasporic mélange well. As befits Yemenite piyut, the Yemeni-Israeli singers of Raichel’s “Im Taḥpetzah” deliver it in the particularly badass Yemenite liturgical accent, which is a treat (although who told them they could have a shva carry stress?). Have fun.

Idan Raichel - Im Taḥpetzah

Shalom Shabazi (1619 – 1720?)
If You Should Desire

If you should desire, son of man, to know the most select secrets
Obtain for yourself a fellow, and dear friends
So that your heart might live, and your soul rejoice
That discernment and spirit might be one
Clothe yourself in humility from youthful days onward
Despise the counsel of those prideful in their ignorance
Your good name shall go forth and you shall gain your desire
Seek truth in the volumes the sages composed
The doctrine of the wise, received from their ancestors
On the day they encircled and thronged about Sinai, in their wisdom
The father of all prophets ascended to the heights
Towards the fog his footsteps hurried
Graciously accompanied by the heavenly sphere and the Architect
He ascended on high and opened every closed gate
Facing toward Sinai, my tribes were assembled
And the angels on high advanced with banners
Whirling flames came down from the Presence
Thunder, lightning and cloud were joined
Two tablets are they, written forthrightly
On which are ten commandments, examined and witnessed
They heard my voice, but you will not
The commandments flow from the mouth of the Mighty; and so was kept the Torah
Blessed is he who has merited to behold his congregation
Purity lies within the Torah, and from it souls prosper
Recall, Lord of All, the grace of your Torah
Gather your dispersed, who were scattered
Straighten our way for the sake of your kindness
For loving-kindness overwhelms those who fear you

שלום שבזי / سالم الشبزي
אם תחפצה

 
אִם תַּחְפְּצָה בֶן אִישׁ לְסוֹדוֹת נִבְחֲרוּ
תִּקְנֶה לְךָ חָבֵר וְרֵעִים יָקְרוּ
בַּעְבוּר יְחִי לִבָּךְ וְתִשְׂמַח נַפְשְׁךָ
שֵׂכֶל וְהַנֶּפֶשׁ בְּטוֹב יִתְחַבְּרוּ
וּלְבַשׁ עֲנָוָה מִיְּמֵי בַּחְרוּתְךָ
וּמְאַס עֲצַת רֵיקִים אֲשֶׁר יִתְיָהֲרוּ
שֵׁם טוֹב לְךָ יֵצֵא וְתַשִּׁיג חֶפְצְךָ
חַפֵּשׂ בְּמַסֶּכְתּוֹת גְּאוֹנִים חִבְּרוּ
מִשְׁנַת חֲכָמִים מֵאֲבוֹתָם קִבְּלוּ
יוֹם סָבְבוּ סִינַי בְּשִׁכְלָם נָהֲרוּ
עָלָה אֲבִי כָל הַנְּבִיאִים עַד מְרוֹם
אֶל הָעֲרָפֶל פְּעָמָיו מִהֲרוּ
וְגַלְגַּל וְאַדְרִיכַל מְלַוִּים לוֹ בְּחֵן
עָלָה וּפָתַח כָּל שְׁעָרִים נִסְגְּרוּ
נוֹכַח פְּנֵי סִינַי שְׁבָטַי נִקְהֲלוּ
גַּם מַלְאֲכֵי מַעְלָה דְּגָלִים עָבְרוּ
אֵשׁ יָרְדָה מֵהַשְּׁכִינָה סָחֲרָה
קוֹלוֹת וּבְרָקִים וְעָנָן נֶחְבְּרוּ
לוּחוֹת שְׁנַיִם הֵם בְּיוֹשֶׁר נִכְתְּבוּ
בָּם דִּבְּרוֹת עֶשֶׁר בְּעֵדוּת נֶחְקְרוּ
שָׁמְעוּ לְאָנֹכִי וְלֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ
מִפִּי גְבוּרָה הֵם וְתוֹרָה שָׁמְרוּ
בָּרוּךְ אֲשֶׁר זִכָּה עֲדָתוֹ לַחֲזוֹת
תּוֹרָה תְמִימָה בָה נְפָשׁוֹת כָּשְׁרוּ
זָכְרָה אֲדוֹן הַכֹּל לְחֵן תּוֹרָתְךָ
קַבֵּץ פְּזוּרֵינוּ אֲשֶׁר נִתְפַּזְּרוּ
יַשֵּׁר דְּרָכֵינוּ לְמַעַן חַסְדְּךָ
כִּי עַל יְרֵאֶיךָ חֲסָדִים גָּבְרוּ
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

‘Im taḥpetzáh, ben ‘ish, le-sodót nivḥarú
Tiknéh lekhá ḥavéir u-reiʕím yakrú
Baʕvúr yeḥí libákh ve-tismáḥ nafshekhá
Séikhel ve-ha-néfesh be-tóv yitḥabrú
U-levásh ʕanaváh mi-yeméi baḥrutekhá
U-me’ás ʕatzát reikím ‘ashér yityaharú
Sheim tov lekhá yeitzéi ve-tasíg ḥeftzekhá
Ḥapéis be-masekhtót ge’oním ḥibrú
Mishnát ḥakhamím mei-‘avotám kiblú
Yom savevú sinái be-sikhlám naharú
ʕaláh ‘aví khol ha-nevi’ím ʕad maróm
‘El ha-ʕarafél peʕamáv miharú
Ve-galgál ve-‘adrikhál melavím lo be-ḥéin
ʕaláh u-fatáḥ kol sheʕarím nisgerú
Nokháḥ penéi sinái shevatái niqhalú
Gam mal’akhéi máʕlah degalím ʕavrú
‘Eish yardáh mei-ha-shekhináh saḥaráh
Kolót u-verakím ve-ʕanán neḥberú
Luḥót shnáyim heim be-yósher nikhtevú
Bam dibrót ʕéser be-ʕeidút neḥkerú
Shamʕú le-‘anokhí ve-ló yihiyéh lekhá
Mi-pí ha-gevuráh heim ve-toráh shamrú
Barúkh ‘ashér zikáh ʕadató laḥazót
Toráh temimáh bah nefashót kashrú
Zakhráh ‘adon ha-kól le-ḥein toratekhá
Kabéitz pezuréinu ‘ashér nitpazrú
Yashéir derakhéinu lemáʕan ḥasdekhá
Ki ʕal yerei’ékha ḥasadím gavrú

Sep 242012
 

A central part of the Yom Kippur liturgy, this piyut was composed by an anonymous poet, most likely in the Land of Israel. Some credit it to one of the two most well-known Palestinian paytanim, either Yannai or his student Eleazar ben Kallir.

חלק מרכזי מסדר התפילות של יום הכיפורים, פיוט זה נכתב על ידי משורר אלמוני, כנראה בארץ ישראל. יש סוברים שניתן לזקוף אותו לזכותו של אחד מהפייטנים הארץ-ישראליים הידועים ביותר, או ינאי או תלמידו אלעזר בן קליר.
י

Anonymous (6th – 7th century CE?)
Shall We Recount the Power?

 
Shall we recount the power of this day’s sanctity?
For it is a day of awe and dread
On which your kingship shall be exalted
And your throne established
To sit upon in truth.

Truly: you are judge and inquisitor, knower and witness
Writer and sealer, scribe and counter;
You remember all that is forgotten,
And open the book of memories,
Which by itself is read,
Containing the seal of every man’s hand.
And with the blast of the great shofar
A small sound of silence is heard,
And haste seizes the angels
Fear and trembling take hold,
And they say, “Behold the Day of Judgment –
Visiting judgment upon the heavenly host!”
For not even they are worthy in your eyes.

And all those who walk upon this earth pass before you like a flock;
As the shepherd counts his herd,
Letting each pass beneath his rod,
So shall the souls of all life be gathered and counted, numbered and reckoned.
And you cut out a portion for all your creations
And write each judgment’s sentence:
On Rosh Hashanah are they written,
On the fast of Yom Kippur are they sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be created?
Who shall live and who shall die?
Who at his appointed time, and who before?
Who by water, and who by fire?
Who by sword, and who by beast?
Who by hunger, and who by thirst?
Who by storm, and who by plague?
Who by choking, and who by stoning?
Who shall be still, and who shall stir?
Who shall be at peace, and who shall be devoured?
Who shall know serenity, and who suffering?
Who shall be impoverished, and who made rich?
Who shall be brought low, and who raised up?
But repentance, prayer and charity –
Only they may alter the decree’s severity!

To name you is to praise you,
Hard to anger, easy to please,
For you have no wish that the dead should die,
But rather that he might return to the path and live;
Until the day he dies you await him,
If he would return you would embrace him.

Truly, it was you who created men,
And you know well their ways,
For they are flesh and blood,
Dust is man’s beginning, and dust his end,
At the risk of his soul he brings home his bread.
Man is as shattered clay
As dry straw, as withered blossoms
A passing shadow and a fleeting cloud
Blowing wind and scattered dust
Flitting away as a dream.

You are King, the living and eternal God
Your years are limitless, your days without end
The dimensions of your glory are beyond estimation;
The mysteries of your name beyond discernment.
Your name befits you; you befit your name,
And our name is part of yours.
Act for the sake of your name; let those who sanctify it make it holy
For the glory of your holy, admired name
Like the secret of the holy seraphs’ speech
Who sanctify your name in holiness;
Those who dwell above and those below
Call out and triple its sanctity.*

פייטן אלמוני
ונתנה תוקף

 
וּנְתַנֶּה תֹּקֶף קְדֻשַּׁת הַיּוֹם
כִּי הוּא נוֹרָא וְאָיוֹם
וּבוֹ תִנָּשֵׂא מַלְכוּתֶךָ
וְיִכּוֹן בְּחֶסֶד כִּסְאֶךָ
וְתֵשֵׁב עָלָיו בֶּאֱמֶת
 
אֱמֶת כִּי אַתָּה הוּא דַיָּן וּמוֹכִיחַ וְיוֹדֵעַ וָעֵד
וְכוֹתֵב וְחוֹתֵם וְסוֹפֵר וּמוֹנֶה
וְתִזְכֹּר כָּל הַנִּשְׁכָּחוֹת
וְתִפְתַּח אֶת סֵפֶר הַזִּכְרוֹנוֹת
וּמֵאֵלָיו יִקָּרֵא
וְחוֹתָם יַד כָּל אָדָם בּוֹ
וּבְשׁוֹפָר גָּדוֹל יִתָּקַע
וְקוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה יִשָּׁמַע
וּמַלְאָכִים יֵחָפֵזוּן
וְחִיל וּרְעָדָה יאֹחֵזוּן
וְיֹאמְרוּ הִנֵּה יוֹם הַדִּין
לִפְקֹד עַל צְבָא מָרוֹם בַּדִּין
כִּי לֹא יִזְכּוּ בְעֵינֶיךָ בַּדִּין
 
וְכָל בָּאֵי עוֹלָם יַעַבְרוּן לְפָנֶיךָ כִּבְנֵי מָרוֹן
כְּבַקָּרַת רוֹעֶה עֶדְרוֹ
מַעֲבִיר צֹאנוֹ תַּחַת שִׁבְטוֹ
כֵּן תַּעֲבִיר וְתִסְפֹּר וְתִמְנֶה וְתִפְקֹד נֶפֶשׁ כָּל חָי
וְתַחְתֹּךְ קִצְבָה לְכָל בְּרִיּוֹתֶיךָ
וְתִכְתֹּב אֶת גְּזַר דִּינָם:
בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה יִכָּתֵבוּן
וּבְיוֹם צוֹם כִּפּוּר יֵחָתֵמוּן
כַּמָּה יַעַבְרוּן וְכַמָּה יִבָּרֵאוּן
מִי יִחְיֶה וּמִי יָמוּת
מִי בְקִצּו וּמִי לֹא בְקִצּו
מִי בַמַּיִם וּמִי בָאֵשׁ
מִי בַחֶרֶב וּמִי בַחַיָּה
מִי בָרָעָב וּמִי בַצָּמָא
מִי בָרַעַשׁ וּמִי בַמַּגֵּפָה
מִי בַחֲנִיקָה וּמִי בַסְּקִילָה
מִי יָנוּחַ וּמִי יָנוּעַ
מִי יִשָּׁקֵט וּמִי יִטָּרֵף
מִי יִשָּׁלֵו וּמִי יִתְיַסָּר
מִי יֵעָנִי וּמִי יֵעָשֵׁר
מִי יִשָּׁפֵל וּמִי יָרוּם
וּתְשׁוּבָה וּתְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה
מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רֹעַ הַגְּזֵרָה
 
כִּי כְּשִׁמְךָ כֵּן תְּהִלָּתֶךָ
קָשֶׁה לִכְעֹס וְנוֹחַ לִרְצוֹת
כִּי לֹא תַחְפֹּץ בְּמוֹת הַמֵּת
כִּי אִם בְּשׁוּבוֹ מִדַּרְכּוֹ וְחָיָה
וְעַד יוֹם מוֹתוֹ תְּחַכֶּה לּוֹ
אִם יָשׁוּב מִיַּד תְּקַבְּלוֹ
 
אֱמֶת כִּי אַתָּה הוּא יוֹצְרָם
וְאַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ יִצְרָם
כִּי הֵם בָּשָׂר וָדָם
אָדָם יְסוֹדוֹ מֵעָפָר וְסוֹפוֹ לֶעָפָר
בְּנַפְשׁוֹ יָבִיא לַחְמוֹ
מָשׁוּל כְּחֶרֶס הַנִּשְׁבָּר
כְּחָצִיר יָבֵשׁ וּכְצִיץ נוֹבֵל
כְּצֵל עוֹבֵר וּכְעָנָן כָּלָה
וּכְרוּחַ נוֹשָׁבֶת וּכְאָבָק פּוֹרֵחַ
וְכַחֲלוֹם יָעוּף
 
וְאַתָּה הוּא מֶלֶךְ אֵל חַי וְקַיָּם
אֵין קִצְבָה לִשְׁנוֹתֶיךָ וְאֵין קֵץ לְאֹרֶךְ יָמֶיךָ
וְאֵין לְשַׁעֵר מַרְכְּבוֹת כְּבוֹדֶךָ
וְאֵין לְפָרֵשׁ עֵלוּם שְׁמֶך
שִׁמְךָ נָאֶה לְךָ וְאַתָּה נָאֶה לִשְׁמֶךָ
וּשְׁמֵנוּ קָרָאתָ בִּשְׁמֶךָ
עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן שְׁמֶךָ וְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת שִׁמְךָ עַל מַקְדִּישֵׁי שְׁמֶךָ
בַּעֲבוּר כְּבוֹד שִׁמְךָ הַנַּעֲרָץ וְהַנִּקְדָּשׁ
כְּסוֹד שִׂיחַ שַׂרְפֵי קֹדֶשׁ
הַמַּקְדִּישִׁים שִׁמְךָ בַּקֹּדֶשׁ
דָּרֵי מַעְלָה עִם דָּרֵי מַטָּה
קוֹרְאִים וּמְשַׁלְּשִׁים בְּשִׁלּוּשׁ קְדֻשָּׁה בַּקֹּדֶשׁ

* This final part of “Unetaneh Tokef” is a lead-up to the recitation of the Kedushah (“Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh…” / “Holy, holy, holy…”), thus the references to the seraphim tripling the sanctity of God’s name.

Transliteration/תעתיק:

U-netanéh tókef kedushát ha-yóm
Ki hu norá ve-‘ayóm
U-vó tinaséi malkhutékha
Ve-yikón be-ḥésed kis’ékha
Ve-teishéiv ʕaláv be-’emét

‘Emét ki ‘atáh hu dayán u-mokhíaḥ
Ve-khotéiv ve-ḥotéim ve-soféir u-monéh
Ve-tizkór kol nishkaḥót
Ve-tiftáḥ ‘et séifer ha-zikhronót
U-mei’eiláv yikaréi
Ve-ḥotám yad kol ‘adám bo
U-ve-shofár gadól yitakáʕ
Ve-kól demamáh dakáh yishamáʕ
U-mal’akhím yeiḥaféizun
Ve-ḥíl u-reʕadáh yoḥéizun
Ve-yomrú hinéi yom ha-dín
Lifkód ʕal tzevá maróm ba-dín
Ki lo yizkú ve-ʕeinéikha ba-dín

Ve-khól ba’éi ʕolám yaʕavrún lefanéikha kivnéi marón
Ke-vakarát roʕéh ʕedró
Maʕavír tzonó táḥat shivtó
Kein taʕavír ve-tispór ve-timnéh ve-tifkód néfesh kol ḥai
Ve-taḥtókh kitzváh le-khól briyotékha
Ve-tikhtóv et gezár dinám
Be-rósh ha-shanáh yikatéivun
U-ve-yóm ha-kipurím yeiḥatéivun
Kámah yaʕavrún ve-khámah yibaréi’un
Mi yiḥyéh u-mí yamút
Mi ve-kitzó u-mí lo ve-kitzó
Mi va-máyim u-mí va-‘éish
Mi va-ḥérev u-mí va-ḥayáh
Mi va-ráʕav u-mí va-tzamá
Mi va-ráʕash u-mí va-mageifáh
Mi va-ḥanikáh u-mí va-sekiláh
Mi yanúaḥ u-mí yanúʕa
Mi yishakéit u-mí yitaréif
Mi yishaléiv u-mí yityasár
Mi yeiʕaní u-mí yeiʕashéir
Mi yishapéil u-mí yarúm
U-teshuváh u-tefiláh u-tzedakáh
Maʕavirín et róʕa ha-gezeiráh

Ki ke-shimkhá kein tehilatékha
Kashéh likhʕós ve-nóaḥ lirtzót
Ki lo taḥpótz be-mót ha-méit
Ki ‘im be-shuvó mi-darkó ve-ḥayáh
Ve-ʕád yom motó teḥakéh lo
‘Im yashúv miyád tekabló

‘Emét ki ‘atáh hu yotzrám
Ve’atáh yodéiʕa yitzrám
Ki heim basár ve-dám
‘Adám yesodó mei-ʕafár ve-sofó le-ʕafár
Be-nafshó yaví laḥmó
Mashúl ke-ḥéres ha-nishbár
Ke-ḥatzír yavéish u-khe-tzítz novéil
Ke-tzéil ʕovéir u-khe-ʕanán kaláh
U-khe-rúaḥ noshévet u-khe-‘avák poréiaḥ’
Ve-kha-ḥalóm yaʕúf

Ve-‘atáh hu mélekh ‘eil ḥai ve-kayám
‘Ein kitzváh lishnotékha ve-‘éin keitz le-‘órekh yamékha
Ve-‘éin leshaʕéir markevót kevodékha
Ve-‘éin lefaréish ʕeilúm shmékha
Shimkhá na’éh lekhá ve-‘atáh na’éh lishmékha
U-shméinu karáta bishmékha
ʕaséh le-máʕan shmékha ve-kadéish et shimkhá ʕal makdishéi shmékha
Baʕavúr kevód shimkhá ha-naʕarátz ve-ha-nikdásh
Ke-sód síaḥ sarféi kódesh
Ha-makdishím shimkhá ba-kódesh
Daréi máʕlah ʕim daréi mátah
Kor’ím u-meshalshím be-shilúsh kedusháh ba-kódesh