This is an illustration from a larger poster paying tribute to the Jewish composer, Zavel Zilberts, special call number DR8-R22. The poster’s from Lodz, 1918; it’s in Yiddish, which is why I didn’t photograph all of it.

What caught my eye–and hopefully also caught yours–was that the music is written right-to-left. Makes sense, given that Hebrew goes right-to-left and he was a Hebrew liturgical composer, but you more usually see Hebrew music notated by transliterating into a left-to-right alphabet.

There’s a biography of Zilberts at Naxos. It says that Zilberts had been working in Moscow, but had to leave in 1914 when occupations permitted to Jews were restricted. He got stuck in Lodz during the war and worked there, and after the war went on to the USA; I imagine the poster is saying, hey, thanks for all your work here in Lodz, best of luck in your new home.

There’s a synagogue with a choir in Montreal. I wonder if they ever do any of this stuff–the choral music from pre-war Europe.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

Part 1

Since this is a poem for Shabbat Nachamu, a poem which references the first verse of the haftara we say that day, I wanted to have that haftara in the border. It’s Isaiah chapter 40:2 ff and a bit of 41; it starts in the top right-hand corner.

top corner

There are a couple of scribal errors in the haftara part (click here for closeup of entire thing). It’s hard copying a text you’re not totally familiar with into a pattern, when your attention is largely focused on getting the pattern right. I could have avoided that by writing it all out in pencil first, but…well, I just didn’t want to bother, and I paid the price!

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

This is a liturgical piece, a Magen by Qallir for Shabbat Nachamu. A Magen is the first in a sequence of poems adorning the first three berakhot of the Amidah, up to the Kedusha; the Magen adorns the first berakha, “Magen Avraham.”

adjusted

Translation from the ever-estimable Mar Gavriel:

With Me, from Lebanon, you shall not be shamed;
Your raiments of strength you will don with honor;
Nations you will trample with your legs, and trod over them;
Your flags I shall adorn with linen and silk.

Rouse yourself up, O daughter of Zion, from the dust,
And get up and enrobe in beautiful clothing!
Your later halo will be more beautiful than your first;
Your sin will be over, and atoned like [the passing of] a cloud.

Your palaces, which were dimmed due to My fury,
Burned in anger, and with destruction were wrathed –
They shall be robed in glory, and given compassion from My mouth.
Announce to them: “Give ye comfort, give ye comfort!”

As it is written: Give ye comfort, give ye comfort to my people, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 40:1)
And it is written: Though there be a multitude of [anxious] thoughts within me, thy consolations charm my soul. (Psalm 94:19)
And it is written: And let this be my consolation, though I be anxious with unsparing fear: I have not rejected the words of the Holy One. (Job 6:10)
And it is written: Rejoice with Jerusalem, yea, be glad with her, all who love her; celebrate a celebration with her, all who mourn for her. (Isaiah 66:10)
And it is written: So that ye may nurse, be satisfied from the teat of her consolations; so that ye may suck, and enjoy the breasts of her glory. (ibid.,
verse 11)

Her glory will be elevated above all,
And Thy glory shalt Thou then reveal in her.
Our days – may you fill them, like the days of yore,
And in the strength of Thy shield may we be uplifted in glory.

More tomorrow :)

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

hatam_soferet: (esther)
( Aug. 3rd, 2011 10:48 pm)

I write Torah scrolls for congregations, and part of my job is working closely with the congregation to make appropriate programming. Such as, for instance, an opening ritual.

A good ritual starts by speaking to who the community is, and inspires them with a vision of who they want to be. My job as the consulting scribe is to come up with Torah-related ideas that will make that connection.

The clergy and lay leaders have some idea of both ends (you hope), but since I’m not part of the community, I don’t. A meeting with the Torah committee to plan the ritual can be rather intimidating, because it’s my job to figure out, in an hour, what sorts of things they are likely to find familiar, relevant, exciting, and inspirational, and to present those in ways which will fit into the logistical and emotional parameters of ritual.

They have classes on this stuff in rabbinical school, you know. I could ace one of those classes.

Well, so. This is a community that’s celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, its jubilee year. It recently-ish (within communal memory) moved into a shiny new building, and walked the Torah scrolls from the old building to the new. The dedication is right after Simchat Torah.

Elements that got thrown into the mixing bowl, when talking with clergy and lay leaders:

* Children (or perhaps adult bat mitzvah class, convert class, etc) bringing the blank parchment sheets into the sanctuary
* 42 sheets, for the 42 journeys made by the Israelites, and the 42 lines per column. The rabbi has a dvar Torah connecting the 42 journeys to the poem Ana b’koach.
* Collecting turkey feathers from local turkeys beforehand; a quill-cutting moment
* There are pre-writing kavvanot which include Ana b’koach. A kavannah moment.
* Another pre-writing thing is vidui. Since we will just have had Yom Kippur, Ashamnu will be fresh in people’s minds. A solemn moment.
* Blank sheets, Book of Life, fresh starts (see “Jubilee”). Journeys (see “New building”).
* Having six different people write the letters of the first word, images projected onto screen
* Having those people share a minute or two each of their stories
* Talking about the symbolism of each letter, matching that up with their stories
* Having the kids sing alphabet and Torah songs
* Having cards and envelopes under each chair and getting people to write about what their Torah journey this year might be; cards to be sent to participants after the completion ceremony

Yes, that’s not a complete list of every possible element of an opening ritual. That would be cumbersome. This is a good starting list, tailored to this community. Now the clergy and Torah committee will figure out how they’d like to put all this together, and we’ll go from there.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

hatam_soferet: (esther)
( Nov. 22nd, 2010 12:41 pm)

I went to a talk at the Jewish Theological Seminary a while back, on the poetry of Yehuda haLevi. Specifically, two translators were talking about their approaches to translating haLevi’s poetry.

Those of us who work with Bible translations frequently have occasion to remark that translations are necessarily also commentaries, and this talk emphasised the commentarial nature of any translation, but from a more artistic perspective, which I found striking.

In particular, one got a fine sense of how these two translators take a poem and get inside it, inside the language and the words and as far as they can inside the mind of the poet – and having got there, they then describe what they see.

Here’s the first lines of the example they used:

הבא מבול ושם תבל חרבה
ואין לראות פני ארץ חרבה
ואין אדם ואין חיה ואין עוף
הסף הכל ושכנו מעצבה

Of course, what they see from the inside of the poem depends upon who they are, so what they choose to communicate and the manner of said communication varies tremendously. Scheindlin translates “Is this the Flood, and has the world been drowned? / You can’t see land, or beast, or bird, or man. / Are they all finished, lying in the pit of sorrow?” But Halkin translates “Has a new Flood drowned the land / And left no patch of dry ground, / Neither bird, beast, nor man? / Has nothing remained?”

This was interesting of itself, but it also gave me a perspective on artistic representation that is probably standard fare for any fine arts undergraduate, but since I make a living as an artist of sorts without the benefit of a university education in the arts, I had to learn it this way.

Specifically, the Hebrew poem spoke to these two translators in different ways. One was most struck by, and most focused on conveying, the poet’s use of rhythm and meter, and in his translation he tried to represent that. The other was more focused on the images and the power in the poem, and his translation spoke of that.

Accordingly, it made me think about illustrating a poem – as an artistic calligrapher, one’s job is to convey a piece of text visually, and one goes through a similar process. Sometimes you might want your writing to convey the imagery and feeling you get from the text, but sometimes you might want to use pattern and structure to convey a visual echo of the text’s own structure. A calligraphic rendition of something is also a translation, in a way, and as such it is also a form of commentary.

The sifrei kodesh, of course, have a strongly-defined mode of rendition, meaning that a scribe-artist’s capacity for commentary is severely limited. In ancient times, when the concept of writing was still new, I understand that the scribe’s role was frequently one of embellisher as well as transmitter, but today’s scribe does not have that aspect. Scribes do have some room for individual expression, and in fact I shall be exploring that in a session at Limmud UK, subsequently appearing on this blog, but on the whole, not nearly as much as does an artist-calligrapher.

In any case, I had not conceived of, or articulated, my calligraphic activities in quite this way before, and I shall be bearing it in mind next time I do something creative I’m not expecting anything profound, but perhaps it will serve towards understanding whatever it is I presently do instinctively. Cheers, JTS.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

Rosh Chodesh guest post from MarGavriel

In many Jewish communities, part of the blessing for each upcoming month is sung in a tune which is emblematic of that month. In the South German tradition, it is typically the last words of the prayer, beginning with לחיים ולשלום, which are chosen for this purpose. The cantor sings these words to the theme-tune of the month, and the congregation concludes the tune by responding אשרי יושבי ביתך עוד יהללוך סלה.

Thus, when blessing the month of Nisan, the words are sung to the Passover theme tune (Addir Hu); Sivan, the Shavuoth theme tune (Aqdamuth), etc.

But what about the month of Marheshvan? We typically do not associate any specific tune with this month. And thus, at KAJ of New York City today, the words in the blessing for the month of Marheshvan are simply sung to a neutral tune, associated with Psalm 126 (שיר המעלות בשוב ה’ את שיבת ציון). This was the case yesterday, when this prayer was recited.

However, in 19th-century Germany, there was a tune associated with this occasion. Shelomo Zalmen Geiger tells us the following, in דברי קהלות (a diary of the synagogal customs of the Frankfurt community for each day of the Jewish year), published in 1862, p. 363:

ונהגו החזני[ם] לנגן נגון שיש בו כעין נגון למוד גמ[רא], בברכת חדשי מרחשון ואייר, כי אחר סכות ואחר פסח היה דרך הרב להודיע לבחורי ישיבה הלכה בש”ס שילמדו בשקידות עם תוס[פות] ופוסקי[ם] ומפרשי[ם], ואחרי שבוע אמר הוא וכן לומדי[ם] אחרי[ם] לפני הבחורי[ם], מה שחדשו בהלכה הזאת. והמנהג הזה נקרא: הוצאת הלכה ותוספות. וע”כ נקרא גם הנגון הזה: נגון הלכה ותוס[פות].

And the cantors have the custom to sing a tune which is similar to the tune used in studying the Gemara, in the blessings for the months of Marheshvan and Iyyar. For after Sukkoth and after Pesah, the practice was for the rabbi to inform the young men studying in the yeshiva what halakha [=tractate] they should study diligently [in the upcoming semester], with Tosafoth and posqim and commentators. After a week, he and other scholars would tell the young men what innovative ideas they had come up with regarding this halakha. This custom was called hotza’ath halakha ve-thosafoth [“the bringing out of halakha and Tosafoth”], and therefore this tune is called “Niggun Halakha Ve-thosafoth” [“the tune of halakha and Tosafoth”].

In other words, the theme of the month of Marheshvan (and of Iyyar) is “Back to School”, after the long holiday break. And thus, the theme tune is the “Back to School” tune.

Here is the tune, as notated by Fabian Ogutsch, in his book Der Frankfurter Kantor (J. Kauffmann Verlag: Frankfurt am Main, 1930):

marheshvan
Click to see bigger.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

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hatam_soferet: (esther)
( Sep. 15th, 2010 08:11 pm)

Tisha b’Av seems a long time ago, now that Yom Kippur is on us, but I am finally posting those pictures of Megillat Eicha I promised you all those weeks ago.

First – Eicha scroll, bodaciously swathed in black.

Eicha scroll

Next – reading from the scroll, mostly backlit by candlelight. The candles were very atmospheric, but very HOT.

Eicha scroll

Now, a picture with the light on, so that you can see the most interesting part of the layout – the third chapter. In this tikkun, the verses are arranged in a sort of descending staircase form, which I find rather powerful. We have psalms which start “Shir haMaalot” – “A Song of Ascent” – associated (so tour guides always tell you) with the ascents of the Temple steps. This is the scroll of the destruction, and here the stairs go down.

Eicha scroll

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

A Livejournal friend mused:

During the Ten Days of Repentance, we change the wording “Oseh shalom bimromav” (The One who creates peace on high) to “Oseh HA-shalom bimromav” (The One who creates THE peace on high) in two places — at the end of Amidah and at the end of Kaddish. But apparently we don’t do it in the third place where this sentence appears in our liturgy, towards the end of Birkat ha-Mazon. I wonder: why not?

I asked Gabriel about this, and his answer merits a post to itself, judiciously edited into prose by me.

In very brief, the answer is:

The phrase oseh HAshalom starts as a Ten Days of Repentance Amidah Blessing implant from ancient Palestinian liturgy, gains independent meaning in the realm of the Hasidei Ashkenaz, is axed in the eighteenth century by well-meaning championers of liturgical authenticity, is sorely missed by those who liked the extra layer of meaning from the Hasidei Ashkenaz, is adopted into the Kaddish by way of compromise, is well-established there and has spread into the Amidah meditation by the twentieth century, and incidentally some Ashkenazim never accepted its axing from the Amidah Blessing in the first place.

It’s a phrase grounded in the Amidah and extended awkwardly to Kaddish, not a wholesale theological search-and-replace on the concept of “the maker of peace” for the Ten Days. We could do that if we liked, but there’s no particular reason to, for reasons which will become clear in the long version.

So here’s the long version.

If you open up a siddur for ordinary weekday davening, you notice that there are four supplemental sentences in the Amidah, which are said only during the Ten Days of Repentance. One in each of the first and last two blessings of the prayer.

These supplemental sentences are from the Geonic era — the Geonim debate just how okay it is to say them, but they make it into virtually all modern rites.

During the year, the theme of the last blessing is שלום, and during the year, Jewish communities today conclude the blessing with the words ברוך אתה ה’ המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום. This is a Babylonian version, quite an old one; it appears in the Siddur of Rav Saadia Gaon, for instance. But there were other versions of this blessing, too. From the Palestinian liturgy, we have ברוך אתה ה’ מעון הברכות ואדון השלום, or possibly מעון הברכות ועושה השלום, or simply ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום. Look familiar? This version is very old, at least as old as המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום, if not older.

The Supplemental Sentence for this, the last blessing of the Amidah, is בספר חיים ברכה ושלום ופרנסה טובה נזכר ונכתב לפניך אנ(חנ)ו וכל עמך בית ישראל לחיים טובים ולשלום, and it seems to have been adopted from a liturgy which concluded the blessing ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום; the Conclusion got chopped and pasted along with the Supplemental Sentence. The other three Supplemental Sentences are inserted into the middles of their respective blessings; this one is right at the end. The theme of the Supplemental Sentence is שלום, and the theme of the Conclusion is שלום.

So, for the 800 years following the Geonic era, Ashkenazim happily continue saying ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום, just ten days a year.

(Unlike, for instance, Sephardim, who say the Supplement בספר חיים ברכה ושלום, but keep the Conclusion from the rest of the year — unclear whether they tried oseh HAshalom and then stopped, or whether they never tried it at all.)

Anyway, the eighteenth century arrives, and with it a certain quest for authenticity. The phrase שינוי ממטבע שטבעו חכמים makes an appearance – the concept of divergence from the fixed text instituted by the Legendary Sages. Since the text of the blessing is המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום on the other 355 days a year (and always, for Sephardim), that had to have been the correct version.

(Ignoring the fact that עושה השלום appears in earlier sources, because the implications of that are much worse, namely, we NEVER have it right except during these ten days.)

So. Some innovators among the Ashkenazim decided to change the concluding text of the blessing back to the regular one, thus bringing their text in line with that of the Sephardim. No more ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום; back to ברוך אתה ה’ המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום.

Now, among Ashkenazim in the Diaspora, this didn’t catch on, for the most part. But where it did, therein lay a problem.

The problem had its roots with the Hasidei Ashkenaz, in the 12th-13th centuries. The דורשי רשומות, “seekers of hidden things”, would find all sorts of messages in the numerical values of words, and the acronyms and other letterplays of the liturgy. And at some point, somebody noticed that the numerical value of השלום is that of ספריאל. Safri’el – that must be the angel who inscribes us in the books, just as we’ve been praying for!

So how, we might ask the innovators, how can you possibly pray בספר חיים ברכה ושלום ופרנסה טובה נזכר ונכתב לפניך אנ(חנ)ו וכל עמך בית ישראל לחיים טובים ולשלום and NOT conclude it ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום? How can you ask to be inscribed and cut out the reference to the inscribing angel? Ridiculous! But on the other hand, if ברוך אתה ה’ המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום is the Correct Original Sage-Instituted version, how CAN you conclude otherwise? An intractable problem.

By way of solution, Efrayim Zalmen Margolies, the מטה אפרים (late eighteenth century), suggested that instead, one could change the last line of Kaddish — עושה שלום במרומיו — to עושה השלום במרומיו. The last line of Kaddish isn’t a Blessing, so it’s much less problematic to mess with it, but it’s enough part of the liturgy that people would be consoled.

Even though, of course, this change would be completely made-up, whereas the one in the last blessing of the Amidah was actually not a change at all, but a retention of a really ancient nusach. It was a solution of sorts, and the consideration of “retention of really ancient nusach” wasn’t on the radar anyway.

So, that became a Thing in the 18th-19th centuries, among some groups: to change עושה שלום במרומיו in Kaddish to עושה השלום במרומיו. And all the New! Frum! Siddurim in the 1970s and afterwards started printing it, and then everyone was doing it.

Some siddurim, in fact, printed עושה השלום במרומיו, whilst still instructing you to conclude your Amidah ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום, thus bringing in Safri’el twice, completely redundantly. But even the siddurim which got rid of ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום in the Amidah sometimes kept it in the Kaddish. (Check out a few different siddurim, see the different combinations – it’s interesting.)

This would have annoyed the Hasidei Ashkenaz no end, by the way, because their original problem would have remained — how can you ask to be inscribed but cut out the reference to the inscribing angel? What good does it do to bring him up in Kaddish, eh?

Which is perhaps why, once people started doing oseh HAshalom in Kaddish, they took also to doing it in the meditative section at the end of the Amidah. Okay, it’s not where it used to be, in the text of the blessing, where Safri’el would be most relevant, but it’s kind of nearby.

So the phrase oseh HAshalom starts as a Ten Days of Repentance Amidah Blessing implant from ancient Palestinian liturgy, gains independent meaning in the realm of the Hasidei Ashkenaz, is axed in the eighteenth century by well-meaning championers of liturgical authenticity, is sorely missed by those who liked the extra layer of meaning from the Hasidei Ashkenaz, is adopted into the Kaddish by way of compromise, is well-established there and has spread into the Amidah meditation by the twentieth century, and incidentally some Ashkenazim never accepted its axing from the Amidah Blessing in the first place.

Now we can see why it isn’t theological search-and-replace on the concept of “the maker of peace” for the Ten Days. We could take that step, I suppose — change it in Grace After Meals, prayers while lighting candles, prayers while giving tzedakah, write to Artscroll and request a special Ten Days version of the song “Oseh Shalom Bimromav — Ya’ase shalom, ya’ase shalom, shalom alenu ve’al kol yisrael,” etc. — but there’s no reason to. If nothing else, then there wouldn’t be that interesting inconsistency, which wouldn’t lead to people asking questions, which would mean you’d never have read this blog post.

A peaceful and historically-accurate New Year to you all.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

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We have just emerged from the doom and gloom of the Ninth of Av. In the various Ashkenazic Rites, as well as in the Italian and the old Byzantine (“Romanioti”) rites, the largest and most central piece of the morning service of this day is the Qinoth (poems of lamentation) by the great poet Eleazar be-Ribbi Qallir (“the Qalliri”). These poems are excruciatingly difficult to follow – the poet has weighed down his own artistry with literary structures which leave little room for comprehensible content: the poems contain backwards alphabetical acrostics, forwards alphabetical acrostics, acrostics of the poet’s name; allusions in each line to each sequential verse in the biblical book of Ekha; allusions in each stanza to the 24 groups of priests (משמרות כהונה), and more. Moreover, they contain unexplained, opaque allusions to rabbinic literature, and difficult, rare Hebrew words.

The excruciatingly difficult structure and language of these poems surely must be intentional and inherent: they are meant to be painful to read, for they are written for the Ninth of Av, a painful day [They're Vogon poetry, basically - JTF]. Moreover, the communities recite so many of them. The Shaharith service on the Ninth of Av can easily last five and a half hours, as it did at my synagogue yesterday, and at many other synagogues around the world.

Alas to those for whom these Qinoth are the totality of their acquaintance with Qallirian piyyut! If only they knew about his other work, they would have a much fuller, and more positive, picture.

For in fact, the Qalliri, who gave us the pain of the Qinoth, also gave us the antidote. For each of the seven Sabbaths of Consolation which follow the Ninth of Av, he wrote beautiful, lyrical Qedushtaoth. (A Qedushta is a sequence of piyyutim which adorns the first three berakhoth of a Shaharith ‘Amida for a Sabbath or festival, and culminates with the recitation of the Qedusha.)

The greatest living scholar of piyyut, Professor Shulamit Elizur, writes the following about these compositions:

In the Qallirian Qedushtaoth for the Sabbaths of Consolation, we see the smiling face of the paytan. Rather than linguistic tricks and copious allusions to midrashim, which are characteristic of a large subset of Qallir’s piyyutim, these piyyutim are written in clear, flowing language, based primarily on Biblical Hebrew.

Moreover, at least in the surviving sections, there is a complete lack of any reference to apocalyptic midrashim about redemption, which we would have expected in piyyutim about the redemption and consolation of Jerusalem. Bits and pieces from the Pesiqtoth and other midrashim do show up here and there, complementary to the biblically-based structure; but the main novelty of these piyyutim is in the paytan’s creative composition, in which he skillfully builds up delicate lyrical passages of sorrow and mourning for the troubles of the exile, and then erodes them with waves of joy and consolation that uncontrollably drown out the sorrow.

Interspersed between descriptions of Zion sitting poor and storm-tossed [עניה סוערה], and claiming “the Lord hath forsaken me” [עזבני יי], we find delicate passages of consolation, which come to soften her, comfort her, and calm her down. And beyond these, there are passages of unmixed consolation and hope, overflowing with “double joy, and double, and double more” [שמחה כפולה בכפלי כפלים]. All this is written in clear, readable, fluent Hebrew, such that the poems are in need of practically no explanation at all.
(קדושה ושיר, Jerusalem, 1988, p. 102)

Let us look at the first stanza of the Qalliri’s Qedushta for Nahamu, the first of the Seven Weeks of Consolation. It is addressed entirely to a personified Jewish People, in the feminine singular (except for the concluding stanza, addressed to God, which is in the masculine singular, leading into the conclusion of the first berakha of the ‘Amida). Already in the first two words, the poet alludes to Song of Songs 4:8 (“With me, O bride, come from Mt. Lebanon!”), and thus places us in the context of the Song of Songs, where God is addressing His bride, the personified Jewish People, with love.

Finally, note that the Qallir uses one word in this poem which is Aramaic, rather than Hebrew, namely the root שפר (beautiful). Aramaic was the everyday spoken language of his audience, and perhaps the use of this word is meant to reach out to them, using a familiar word.

אִתִּי מִלְּבָנוֹן לֹא תֵבוֹשִׁי
בִּגְדֵּי עֻזֵּךְ בְּכָבוֹד לִבְשִׁי
גּוֹיִם בְּרַגְלַיִךְ תִּדְרְכִי וְתָדוּשִׁי
דְּגָלַיִךְ אַעֲדֶה שֵׁשׁ וָמֶשִׁי
With Me, from Lebanon, you shall not be shamed;
Your raiments of strength you will don with honor;
Nations you will trample with your legs, and trod over them;
Your flags I shall adorn with linen and silk.
הִתְנַעֲרִי בַּת צִיּוֹן מֵעָפָר
וְקוּמִי עֲטִי מַלְבּוּשׁ שְׁפָר
זֵרֵךְ הָאַחֲרוֹן מִן הָרִאשׁוֹן יְשֻׁפַּר
חֶטְאֵךְ יוּתַם וּכְעָב יְכֻפָּר
Rouse yourself up, O daughter of Zion, from the dust,
And get up and enrobe in beautiful clothing!
Your later halo will be more beautiful than your first;
Your sin will be over, and atoned like [the passing of] a cloud.
טִירוֹתַיִךְ אֲשֶׁר בְּאַפִּי הוּעָמּוּ
יָקְדוּ בְחֵמָה וּבְכָלָה הֻזְעָמוּ
כָּבוֹד יַעֲטוּ וּמִפִּי יְרֻחָמוּ
לָהֶם יַשְׁמִיעוּ נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ
Your palaces, which were dimmed due to My fury,
Burned in anger, and with destruction were wrathed –
They shall be robed in glory, and given compassion from My mouth.
Announce to them: “Give ye comfort, give ye comfort!”
ככתוב: נחמו נחמו עמי יאמר אלהיכם As it is written: Give ye comfort, give ye comfort to my people, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 40:1)
ונאמר: ברב שרעפי בקרבי תנחומיך ישעשעו נפשי And it is written: Though there be a multitude of [anxious] thoughts within me, thy consolations charm my soul. (Psalm 94:19)
ונאמר: וּתהי עוד נחמתי ואסלדה בחילה לא יחמל, כי לא כִחדתי אמרי קדוש And it is written: And let this be my consolation, though I be anxious with unsparing fear: I have not rejected the words of the Holy One. (Job 6:10)
ונאמר: שמחו את ירושלם וגילו בה כל אהביה, שישו אתה משוש כל המתאבלים עליה And it is written: Rejoice with Jerusalem, yea, be glad with her, all who love her; celebrate a celebration with her, all who mourn for her. (Isaiah 66:10)
ונאמר: למען תינקו ושבעתם משֹׁד תנחומיה, למען תמֹצּו והתענגתם מזיז כבודה And it is written: So that ye may nurse, be satisfied from the teat of her consolations; so that ye may suck, and enjoy the breasts of her glory. (ibid.,
verse 11)
כְּבוֹדָהּ עַל כֹּל יִתְעַלֶּה
וּכְבוֹדָךְ בָּהּ כְּאָז תְּגַלֶּה
יָמֵינוּ כִּימֵי קֶדֶם תְּמַלֵּא
וּבְעֹז מָגִנָּךְ בְּכָבוֹד נִתְעַלֶּה
Her glory will be elevated above all,
And Thy glory shalt Thou then reveal in her.
Our days – may you fill them, like the days of yore,
And in the strength of Thy shield may we be uplifted in glory.
ברוך אתה ה’ מגן אברהם Blessed art Thou, O Lord, shield of Abraham.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

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I’m having a home reading of Eicha – from a klaf – *because* of reading from a klaf, yay – in Washington Heights, on leyl 9 Av, 9pm.

If a minyan of people are interested, there could also be maariv, kinot, etc.

Normally I would append “and watermelon, cookies and so forth” to such sentiments, but not for leyl 9 Av :-/

Email me if interested so’s a) I can give you the address b) I know how much floor space to clear.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

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(Joint post from me and MarGavriel)

I don’t know about you, but when someone says “Selihot,” my heart sinks, because in my experience, selihot are Hebrew Text Walls of Doom, muttered incomprehensibly and far too fast, punctuated by wails of Divine Attributes which are the only bits I actually recognise. Sound familiar?

Apparently (who knew?) when done properly, they’re actually poems with actual meaning. Not just text walls of doom. More on one verse of one of them in just a moment, but first – liturgically, what exactly are selihot?

Selihot are poems originally recited by the cantor, in his repetition of the Amidah. On weekday fasts, they form part of the berakha סלח לנו, and on Yom Kippur, part of the middle berakha, the Yom Kippur one. Before, after, and between the poems, the 13 Attributes of Divine Mercy (ה’ ה’ אל רחום וחנון) are recited, prefaced by eitherאל ארך אפים or אל מלך יושב.

In recent centuries, almost all our communities have removed the Selihot liturgy from its original context, and placed it after the whole Hazzan’s Repetition, presumably because of concerns of hefsek [thought-train derailment]. Some few communities resist the urge to destroy, and retain the original structure; if yours does, feel free to leave a note in the comments for the edification of others.

In recent years, communities have also removed the Selihot liturgy from the prayerbook and placed it instead on grubby photocopied handouts, but you can find this one (by Solomon ibn Gabirol) in Artscroll, on page 868. Here’s a sound file of the stanza.

גְּדוֹר פִּרְצִי בְּבֶן פַּרְצִי / וּמֵחֶדֶק לְקוֹט שׁוֹשָׁן Repair my breach with the descendant of Peretz [i.e., the Messiah], / and collect the lilies [Israel] from amidst the brambles.
בְּנֵה בֵּית זְבוּל וְהָשֵׁב גְּבוּל / הַכַּרְמֶל וְהַבָּשָׁן Build the Temple Dwelling, and restore the borders / of Carmel and Bashan.
וְעַיִן פְּקַח וְנָקָם קַח / מֵאֵצֶר וּמִדִּישָׁן Keep thine eye alert, and take vengeance / from Etzer and Dishan [Biblical Edomite groups, i.e. Roman-Christians].
שְׁפוֹט אִלֵּם וְאָז יְשַׁלֵּם / הַמַּבְעֶה וְהַמַּבְעִיר Bring justice to the mute one [the Jewish people], and then / may the destroyer and burner pay back –
יוֹם גָּבַר הָאוֹיֵב וַתִּבָּקַע הָעִיר The day when the enemy overpowered [us], and the City went under siege.

17 Tammuz, by the way, is the only Minor Fast to be mentioned in the Mishna (m. Taanit 4:6), where it is juxtaposed to 9 Av:

חמישה דברים אירעו את אבותינו בשבעה עשר בתמוז, וחמישה בתשעה באב. בשבעה עשר בתמוז נשתברו הלוחות, ובטל התמיד, והובקעה העיר, ושרף אפסטמוס את התורה, והעמיד צלם בהיכל… Five things befell our ancestors on 17 Tammuz, and five on 9 Av. On 17 Tammuz, (a) the Tablets were smashed, (b) the Tamid-offering ceased, (c) the City was besieged, (d) Apostomos burned the Torah-scroll, and (e) an idol was set up in the Temple…

This kind of text isn’t unknown in the Mishnah, but it’s perhaps a trifle unexpected. The Mishnah is the realm of legalese, of rulings, of law. Why here does it speak of history, of identity, of nonlegal matters?

The poem’s line שְׁפוֹט אִלֵּם וְאָז יְשַׁלֵּם / הַמַּבְעֶה וְהַמַּבְעִיר (bring justice to the mute one, and then / may the destroyer and burner pay back) is very clever language, when you look at it. In just a few words, the poet invokes huge swathes of Talmudic discourse, all developing very central Jewish ideas of justice and obligation – where people play fair, and bring disputes to the court, and things are settled properly.

But that’s just the problem. Our enemies, whether Titus or anyone else, don’t play fair. And they get away with it. And we can’t judge them in human courts. And it’s beastly unfair.

So we pray to God: שפוט אלם – “give fair judgment to the mute [‘Am Yisra'el], and only then will the מבעה ומבעיר pay up”. Bring the judgements the court would render, if we could only get these people into court.

…בתשעה באב נגזר על אבותינו שלא ייכנסו לארץ, וחרב הבית בראשונה, ובשנייה, ונלכדה ביתר, ונחרשה העיר. משנכנס אב, ממעטין בשמחה. …On 9 Av, (a) it was decreed that our ancestors would not enter the Land [at the time of the Spies], and the Temple was destroyed (b) the first time, and (c) the second time, and Bethar was captured [by the Romans, from Bar Kosiva's insurgents, in the year 135], and (e) the City was plowed [to utter destruction]. Once the month of Av enters, we decrease our joy.

So these are the Three Weeks of Doom, starting now and culminating on 9 Av, in the destructions of Jewish direction, spirituality, hope, pride, identity. This is the time of year when we remind ourselves what it is like to have nothing.

Nothing save what’s inside. The voice of the poet, calling from the brambles, praying for God to bring us justice. “God – we are Jews, and we try to play by the rules – the Torah’s שלם ישלם המבעיר את הבערה and Bava Kamma’s ארבעה אבות נזיקין: השור והבור והמבעה וההבער and that sense of fairness and justice is part of what makes us Jewish. Take that away, and we are disoriented unbearably. Restore that. Please.”

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

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