בסיעתא דשמיא

סדר לקריאת מגילת העצמאות | Reading of the Israeli Declaration of Independence

Jews have read sacred texts to commemorate miracles of redemption for a long time. Purim has Megilat Esther. Many communities read Megilat Antiochus or Megilat Yehudit for Chanukah. But to many modern Jews, the most miraculous redemption in recent history was the founding of the state of Israel, as we commemorate on Yom haAtzmaut. Like Purim, the story of the founding of Israel was entirely secular on a surface level, with no big showy miracles like a sea splitting or a mountain aflame. Like Chanukah, a Jewish state in the land of Israel won its independence against mighty forces allied in opposition. But we don’t have a megillah to read for Yom haAtzmaut. Or do we? Just as Megillat Esther is said to be a letter written by Mordekhai to raise awareness of the events of Shushan, so too does the Israeli Scroll of Independence, Megilat haAtzmaut, raise awareness of the events of the founding of the State of Israel. In this vein, I decided to create a cantillation system for Megilat haAtzmaut. Ta’amei miqra were chosen attempting to follow Masoretic grammatical rules – since modern Hebrew has a different grammatical structure, the form is somewhat loose. Because of the thematic similarities to Purim, I chose Esther cantillation for the majority of the text. Just as some tragic lines in Esther are read in Eikhah cantillation, some lines regarding the Shoah or bearing grim portents for the wars to follow are to be sung in Eikhah cantillation. And the final phrases of chapters II and III are to be sung in the melody for the end of a book of the Chumash, or the Song of the Sea melody. They can be done in a call-and-response form, with the community reading and the reader repeating. . . .

Inauguration Day Prayer for Donald Trump by Rabbi Marvin Hier (2017)

Rabbi Marvin Hier offered this prayer of blessing for “President” Donald Trump and the United States of America on January 20, 2017 at the inauguration day ceremony. . . .

Prayer at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom by Rabbi Uri Miller, August 28, 1963

Prayer delivered by Rabbi Uri Miller, President of the Synagogue Council of America, at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963 . . .

MLK Day | Readings from the Speeches and Letters of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Selections from speeches and letters by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. read in ecumenical services for Martin Luther King Day in the United States. . . .

Megillat Antiokhus in Ladino by Rabbi Isaac Magriso (Me’am Lo’ez: Bamdibar BeHa’alothekha, Constantinople 1764)

This is a largely uncorrected transcription of Rabbi Isaac Magriso’s telling of Megillat Antiokhus in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) from the Me’am Loez: Bamidbar Parshat BeHe’alotekha (Constantinople, 1764). The paragraph breaks are a rough estimation based on my comparison with the English translation of Dr. Tzvi Faier (1934-2009) appearing in The Torah Anthology: Me’am Loez, Book Thirteen – In the Desert (Moznaim 1982). I welcome all Ladino speakers and readers to help correct this transcription and to provide a complete English translation for non-Ladino readers. . . .

תפילה למצביעי המדינה | Prayer for the Electorate by David Zvi Kalman (2016)

A prayer for the electorate to be recited together with the Prayer for Government on the Shabbat before an election (federal, state, or local). David Zvi Kalman’s “Prayer for the Electorate” was initially published on Ritualwell here and linked from an explanation of the prayer posted here. Vocalization of the unpointed text by Josh Soref. (Thank you!) . . .

A Prayer on Voting by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

On Tuesday, we go to the polls in a momentous election that for many of us has generated a combination of anxiety, excitement, fear, and confusion. We offer you this prayer, which you can recite this Shabbat, before you vote, or while you are waiting for returns. . . .

יום הפועלים | A Worker’s Prayer

dedicated to Noam Ezra ben haRav Moshe z”l

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלִּפְֿנֵי אָבִֽֿינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַֽיִם,‏ בּוֹרְאֵֽנוּ, יוֹצְרֵֽנוּ, יוֹצֵר בְּרֵאשִׁיתֿ, הָאֻמָּן הָעֶלְיוֹן,‏ כְּאָמְרָם ”אֵין צוּר כֵּאלֹהֵֽינוּ“ – ‏ ”אֵין צַיָּר כֵּאלֹהֵֽינוּ“,‏ שֶׁיְּחָנֵּ֫נוּ בְכָֿל הַחָכְֿמוֹתֿ —‏ חָכְֿמוֹתֿ הַלֵּבֿ, וְחָכְֿמוֹתֿ הַנֶּֽפֶֿשׁ,‏ וְחָכְֿמוֹתֿ הַיָּדַֿיִם;‏ וְיַנְחֵֽנוּ בִדְֿרָכָֿיו לַעֲשׂוֹתֿ אֶתֿ מְלַאכְֿתֵּנוּ בְּיֹֽשֶׁר, וּבְֿחֶֽסֶדֿ, וּבֶֿאֱמוּנָה;‏ וִיבָֿרֵךְֿ אֶתֿ מַעֲשֵֽׂינוּ וְאֶתֿ מַעֲשֵׂי מַעֲשֵֽׂינוּ,‏ לְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת שְׁמוֹ . . .

בורא עד אנה | Borei Ad Anah, “Creator! How long” (after 1492 C.E.)

Bore ‘Ad Anah” is a kinah recited in a number of Sephardic communities on Tisha B’av (or in some cases on Shabbat Hazon, the Shabbat preceding Tisha B’av), particularly in the Spanish-Portuguese and North African traditions. The author is unknown, but his name is likely Binyamin based on the acrostic made up of the first letters of the verses. In the kinah, the Children of Israel are compared to a wandering dove caught in a trap by predators, crying out its father, God. The kinah was likely written as a poignant response to the Spanish Inquisition, appropriate to Tisha B’av since the expulsion of the Jews from Spain occurred on the 9th of Av in the year 1492. The version presented here was likely censored, as many manuscripts have the fifth verse presented in the following manner directly calling out their Catholic oppressors,” יועצים עליה עצות היא אנושה זרים העובדים אלילים שלושה אם ובן ורוח כי אין להם בושה גדול ממכאובי.” “They counsel against her and she languishes, the strangers who worship three idols, father, son and spirit, for they have no shame and great is my suffering.” . . .

מגילת איכה | Megillat Eikhah (Lamentations) for Tisha B’Av by Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org, 2015)

[For this translation, I used] two translations of Laments, [and] the book of mourning poems read on Tish’a B’Av. Chapters 1, 2, 4 and 5 were translated by Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg, with attention to the principles of the Buber-Rosenzweig Bible. This translation strives to be “concordant” by translating related Hebrew words with related English words, and by following the order and syntax of the Hebrew as much as possible. In some cases alternate translations are given, indicated by a slash. This translation also focuses on the more physical, earthy meaning of words, drawing the reader from modern thought patterns towards more ancient ways of seeing and feeling. Chapter 3 is partly retranslated from James Moffat’s 1922 translation. Moffat followed the principles of “idiomatic” translation, recasting the Hebrew according to the word order, meaning, and sense of everyday English. Moffat, more than most idiomatic translators, evokes the emotional depth of the Hebrew. For brief essays on the theology of Eikhah and links to songs, see the end of this booklet. . . .

חנוכה | Yotser (Hymn) for the Shabbat of Ḥanukah by Yosef bar Shlomo of Carcassone (ca. 11th cent.)

Yosef ben Shlomo of Carcassonne composed two yotsrot (hymns) for the Shabbat of Hanukkah, one reflecting the events read in the Megillat Antiokhus, the other specific to Megillat Yehudith. This yotser is the latter of the two and was crucial in dating the composition of Megillat Yehudit to the 11th century. (The only manuscript witness of the megillah dates from 1402.) A.M. Dubarle made a translation of the yotser in French in Judith: formes et sens des diverses traditions II: textes (Rome, 1966), but we are endeavoring to translate it for the first time into English. Our transcription relies on Dubarle’s but is corrected it against the digital edition held in the Ma’agarim database. . . .

מגילת יהודית | Megillat Yehudit (before 1402 CE)

Below we have made a faithful transcription of the text of the medieval Megillat Yehudith (the Scroll of Judith), not to be confused with the deutero-canonical Book of Judith, authored in Antiquity. We have further set this text side-by-side with the English translation made by Susan Weingarten, originally published as “Food, Sex, and Redemption in Megillat Yehudit: Appendix to Chapter 6,” in Sword of Judith. ed., Kevin R. Brine, Elena Ciletti, Henrike Lähnemann (Open Book Publishers, 2010) p.110-125. Our transcription sources are the same as Dr. Weingarten’s: A.M. Habermann’s transcribed text in “Megillat yehudit le-omrah be-hanukkah,” Mahanayim 52 (1961), pp. 42–47, and the “Midrash No.8” found in A.M. Dubarle’s Judith: formes et sens des diverses traditions II: textes (Rome, 1966), pp. 140–53. Dubarle provided section numbers by which the extant variations of the midrashim for Judith might be compared. As Dr. Weingarten notes, Dubarle only transcribed the second portion of the only extant manuscript. We have provided his section numbers in curly brackets. “Missing” numbers refer to portions of the story appearing outside the Megillah in the other variations transcribed by Dubarle. (Please refer to Dubarle’s work for these.) We are grateful to Dr. Weingarten and to Open Book Publishers for sharing their work under an Open Content license. Please read Dr. Weingarten’s complete chapter in Sword of Judith for additional context. . . .

חנוכה | Odekha Ki Anafta Bi, a Yotser (Hymn) for Ḥanukah by Yosef bar Shlomo of Carcassone (ca. 11th cent.)

Odecha ki anafta bi (I give thanks to you although you were angry with me) was composed by Joseph ben Solomon of Carcassonne, who is dated to the first half of the eleventh century. This elegant and abstruse poem tells an epic tale of the Jews’ resistance to the decrees of Antiochus IV and includes accounts of both the Hasmonean bride and Judith. It bears a considerable resemblance to texts 4 and 12 of the Hanukkah midrashim[ref]See Grintz, Sefer Yehudit, pp. 205, 207–08[/ref] and this is evidence for the circulation of the joint Hasmonean daughter-Judith tales in the eleventh century, even if the surviving manuscripts of these stories are from a later date.” (Deborah Levine Gera, “The Jewish Textual Traditions” in The Sword of Judith: Judith Studies Across the Disciplines (2010).) . . .

על הניסים ליום העצמאות | Al Hanissim for Yom Ha’atsmaut by Amos Ḥakham z”l

על הניסים ועל הפורקן ועל הגבורות ועל המלחמות ועל התשועות ועל הנפלאות שעשית לעמך בימים ההם בזמן הזה. בימים אשר שארית פליטת ישראל עם שרידי חרב הצר והאויב מצא מנוח בארץ אשר נשבעת לאבותינו לתת לנו ונוספו על בני ישראל היושבים שם מלפנים, יחד כולם ביקשו לפרוק מעליהם עול מלכות זדון השולטת בארץ ולייסד . . .

‏אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים תְפִילָה לַנִּסְפִּים בַּשּׁוֹאָה | El Malé Raḥamim Prayer for the Victims of the Shoah by Rabbi Yehoyada Amir

God, full of compassion, who dwells in the heights, provide a fitting rest upon the wings of the Shekhina, within the ascents of the holy and the pure, who shine like the starry heaven for our six million sisters and brothers who lost their lives in the Shoah: that were killed and slaughtered, suffocated and buried alive, burned and tortured — the young and the elderly, women and men, leaders and simpletons, those faithful in Torah along with rebels and dreamers. Beloved and pleasant in life, and not separated from that love even after death. . . .

יום ניקנור | A Reading for Yom Nikanor, the Day of the Elephantarch: II Maccabees Chapter 13-15

It is challenging to think of how to mark Nicanor Day, as it remains at a disadvantage, not only on years when it conflicts with Ta’anit Esther but on all years since it has no mitzvot. This is probably the main reason that, unlike Chanukah and Purim, it was lost to Jewish practice for more than a thousand years. Nevertheless, we do have its megillah, which has been translated into Hebrew and English. Perhaps, if we start reading chapters 13-15 of 2 Maccabees, even just to ourselves, on the 13 of Adar, we can begin to resurrect a holiday that was celebrated and instituted by Judah Maccabee and his followers over two millennia ago, and which they envisioned would continue throughout Jewish History. With the return of Jews to Israel and Jewish sovereignty to Jerusalem, I believe it is about time. . . .

ז׳ אדר | Ḥonenu Yah Ḥonenu (Forgive Us Yah in the Merit of Moshe Rabbenu)

The 7th of Adar is the traditional date for the yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu and it is also remembered as the day of his birth 120 years earlier. This variation of of the piyyut, Hanenu Yah Hanenu (Forgive Us Yah, Forgive Us), sung on 7 Adar, is attributed to Rabbi Yosef Ḥayyim of Baghdad (the Ben Ish Ḥai, 1832-1909). The earliest published version we could find appears in בקשות: ונוסף עוד פתיחות ופיוטים הנוהגים לומר בזמה הזה (1912) containing piyyutim by Israel ben Moses Najara (1555-1625), a Jewish liturgical poet, preacher, Biblical commentator, kabbalist, and rabbi of Gaza. The contemporary audio recording of the Iraqi nusaḥ presented here was made by משה חבושה (Moshe Ḥavusha). . . .

ז׳ אדר | Tsa’akah Yokheved, a piyyut attributed to Shmuel Shlomo (before 1050 CE)

The 7th of Adar is the traditional date for the yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu and it is also remembered as the day of his birth 120 years earlier. This variation of of the piyyut, Tsa’akah Yokheved, popularly sung on 7 Adar, is first attested in a 1712 Sepharadi mahzor published in Amsterdam, as transcribed above with some minor changes with the contemporary audio recording of the Iraqi nusaḥ made by משה חבושה (Moshe Ḥavusha). (The piyyut appear without niqqud.) An older version (perhaps the original version), attributed in the Maagarim database to Shmuel Shlomo and dated before 1050 CE, is attested in two manuscripts: “London, British Library 699” and “Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Ham. 288”. Ibn Ezra (1089-1167) quotes a stanza from the version we have presented here (“וכבד אמי אחרי התנחמי”) indicating that this version may be at least as old. . . .

שִׁיר לְשִׂמְחָה | Shir l’Simḥa (an ode To Joy, 1795), a Jewish interpretation of Friedrich Schiller’s An die Freude (1785)

In 1785 Friedrich Schiller wrote his ‘An die Freude\ an ode ‘To Joy’, describing his ideal of an equal society united in joy and friendship. Numerous copies and adaptations attest to its popularity at the time. The slightly altered 1803 edition was set to music not only by Ludwig van Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony but also by other composers such as Franz Schubert and Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Hs. Ros. PL B-57 contains a Hebrew translation of the first edition of the ode (apparently rendered before the 1803 alteration), revealing that the spirit of the age even managed to reach the Jewish community in the Netherlands. Whereas the imagery of Schiller’s original is drawn from Greek mythology, the author of the שִׁיר לְשִׂמְחָה relies on the Bible as a source. In fact, he not only utilises Biblical imagery, but successfully avoids any allusion to Hellenistic ideas whatsoever. . . .

שִׁיר לְשִׂמְחָה | Brider — Y.L. Peretz’s Yiddish Parody of Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy

Y.L. Peretz rejected cultural universalism, seeing the world as composed of different nations, each with its own character. Liptzin comments that “Every people is seen by him as a chosen people…”; he saw his role as a Jewish writer to express “Jewish ideals…grounded in Jewish tradition and Jewish history.” This is Peretz lampoon of the popularity of Friedrich Schiller’s idealistic paean made famous as the lyrics to the climax of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. . . .

A Jewish Prayer for Peace between England and her Colonies on a public day of fasting and prayer, May 17, 1776

Fred MacDowell: “Then, as now, war was looked upon by many as a great evil, especially between brothers, and many American Colonists only wanted the oppressive measures of King George III to be lifted, bloodshed ended, and peace restored. The nascent American Congress called for a day of “Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” along these lines for May 17, 1776. It was for this occasion that this prayer was recited in Congregation Shearith Israel in New York. As you can see, a complete service was arranged for this occasion, meant to invoke the solemnity and seriousness of the occasion; after morning prayer, Taḥanun was to be sung to the tune of a Yom Kippur pizmon; a dozen Psalms recited, and then the Ḥazan would recite this prayer written for the occasion, and of course all were to be fasting. The prayer hopes for a change of heart for King George III and his advisors, that they would rescind their wrath and harsh decrees against “North America,” that the bloodshed should end, and peace and reconciliation should obtain between the Americans and Great Britain once more, in fulfillment of the Messianic verse that Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Of course this was not meant to be, and six weeks later the American Congress declared independence from Great Britain, and there was no walking back from the hostilities which had already occurred.” . . .

תפילה לשלום המלכות | Prayer for the Welfare of George Washington, George Clinton, and the 13 States of America by Hendla Jochanan van Oettingen (1784)

Prayers recited on special occasions and thus not part of the fixed liturgy offered America’s foremost Jewish congregation far greater latitude for originality in prayer. At such services, particularly when the prayers were delivered in English and written with the knowledge that non-Jews would hear them, leaders of Shearith Israel often dispensed with the traditional prayer for the government and substituted revealing new compositions appropriate to the concerns of the day. A prayer composed in 1784 (in this case in Hebrew) by the otherwise unknown Rabbi (Cantor?) Hendla Jochanan van Oettingen, for example, thanked God who “in His goodness prospered our warfare.” Mentioning by name both Governor George Clinton and General George Washington, the rabbi prayed for peace and offered a restorationist Jewish twist on the popular idea of America as “redeemer nation”: “As Thou hast granted to these thirteen states of America everlasting freedom,” he declared, “so mayst Thou bring us forth once again from bondage into freedom and mayst Thou sound the great horn for our freedom.” . . .

חנוכה | Ḥanukkah Sameaḥ Mandala by Ḥatul Yehudi (Cat Jew)

A mandala for Ḥanukkah by Brazilian Yemenite Jewish artist, GatoJudeau . . .

צער בעלי־חיים | Tsar Balei Ḥayyim [It is forbidden to cause] suffering to a living creature, a song in Yiddish

“Tsaar Balei Ḥayyim” ([It is forbidden to cause] suffering to a living creature), source unknown. Many thanks to Tiferet Zimmern-Kahan for recording the niggun for the song and to Naftali Ejdelman and The Jewish Daily Forward for providing the lyrics. . . .

חנוכה | Midrash Ma’aseh Ḥanukkah

This digital edition of Midrash Ma’seh Ḥanukah was transcribed from the print edition published in Otzar Hamidrashim (I. D. Eisenstein, New York: Eisenstein Press, 5675/1915, p.189-190). We are sharing this transcription in the hopes that excellent translations will be prepared from it and shared under an Open Content license. . . .

חנוכה | Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages), singing translation by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

A singing translation of the popular piyyut (devotional poem), “Maoz Tzur,” by Reb Zalman for Ḥanukah. . . .

קינות לתשעה באב | A Memory’s fire burns within me still, adapted from “Esh Tukad b’kirbi” by Andrew Meit

“A Memory’s fire burns within me still” was adapted by Andrew Meit from Gabriel Seed’s translation of the kinah, Aish Tukad b’kirbi (“A Fire Shall Burn Within Me”). . . .

קינות לתשעה באב | Alelai Li: Woe is me! by Elazar ben Killir, circa 7th century CE (translated by Rachel Salston)

Alelai Li” is a kinah recited on the morning of Tisha bAv. It was written by HaKalir around the 7th century. According to the Koren Mesorat HaRav Kinot, it is number 17 of 50. The title is the refrain of the poem and is an onomatopoeic whimper (try saying it aloud, focusing on the alliteration). It is difficult to translate the opening word “im” which means “if” or “should”. This is an allusion to Job 10:15, “If I have done evil, then woe unto me.” I have decided to translate the kinah not in the conditional tense (which would render “If these horrible things happened, then woe is me!”) but as a lament upon memory; however, the former would be a more accurate (if not more awkward in English) translation. Adding to the awkwardness of the poem’s language is the feminine conditional verb that each line has after the word “im”. I have maintained this strange verb tense and placement in my translation by using the English progressive tense. The kinah ends with a collection in lines in a different meter suggesting that the Holy One (and the paytan himself) is angered that the Jewish people announce their sufferings but not their transgressions. . . .

קינות לתשעה באב | Oy Meh Haya Lanu: Oy What Has Happened to Us, by Baruch ben Samuel d.1221 (translated by Rachel Salston)

Oy Meh Haya Lanu” is a kinah traditionally recited on the night of Tisha b’Av directly after the reading of Eikha. According to the Koren Mesorat HaRav Kinot, it is number 1 of 50. The title is the refrain of the poem, a reflective lament. This kinah is based on the fifth and final chapter of Eikha, taking the opening phrase of each line of the megillah as the first line of each couplet and poetically expanding the description for the second. This translation is an attempt to convey the vulgarity and horror of the paytan’s depiction of the destroyed Jerusalem in vernacular English. The kinah ends just as the megillah ends, with the four verses of pleas for redemption. . . .

קינות לתשעה באב | Az Bahalokh Yirmiyahu: Then As Jeremiah Went, by Elazar ben Killir circa 7th century CE (translated by Gabriel Seed)

Az Bahalokh Yirmiyahu is a kinah, “based on Eikhah Rabati Petikhta 24, in which Jeremiah says to God: “I am like a father who prepared to take his only son to be married, and the son tragically died under the wedding canopy. Do you not feel any pain for me or for my son?” God responds: “Go and rouse Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses from their graves, for they know how to cry…” (Daniel Goldschmidt, Seder Kinot le-Tisha b’Av, Jerusalem, 1972, 98). . . .


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