זמר לט״ו באב | Zemer for Tu b’Av, by Avraham ben Ḥalfon (ca. 12th c.)

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

הִתְבַּשֵּׂ֫רוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן
כִּי נִחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן
Children of Elyon, be told the good tidings
That YHVH has consoled Tsiyon.[1]Isa. 51:3

אַזְכִּיר חֲסָדֶ֫יךָ מַלְכִּי
לְנֶ֫גֶד כָּל נִבְרָאֶ֫יךָ
וּדְבַר גְּבוּרוֹת יְחַו חִכִּי
אֲשֶׁר פְּעַלְתָּם לִירֵאֶ֫יךָ
בַּחֲמִשָּׁה־עָשָׂר בְּאָב, כִּי
נִמְלְצוּ לְחִכִּי פְלָאֶ֫יךָ
וְאֶכְתְּבֵ֫ימוֹ עַל גִּלָּיוֹן
וְאָשִׁיר בָּם עֲלֵי הִגָּיוֹן
 
הִתְבַּשֵּׂ֫רוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן
כִּי נִחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן
I declare your kindness, King,[2]Isa. 63:7
Before all your creations,
And my palate shall form words for the mighty acts
You did for those who fear you
On the 15th of Av, for
Your wonders are sweet to my palate;[3]Ps. 119:103
I shall write them on a sheet
And sing them on a lyre.[4]Ps. 92:4
 
Children of Elyon, be told the good tidings
That YHVH has consoled Tsiyon.[5]Isa. 51:3

בְּיוֹם זֶה נֶעְצַר מִקֶּ֫דֶם
נֶ֫גֶף מִמֵּיתֵי מִדְבָּר
וּבִנְיָמִין צָעִיר רוֹדֵם
לְשִׁבְטֵי יָהּ בּוֹ הִתְחַבָּר
וְרָצָה בָהֶם צוּר פּוֹדֵם
אַחֲרֵי בָ֫מוֹ הִתְעַבָּר
כִּי טִיהֲרוּ לֵבָב וְרַעְיוֹן
וְרָחֲצוּ כַפָּם בְּנִקָּיוֹן
 
הִתְבַּשֵּׂ֫רוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן
כִּי נִחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן
Today long ago the plague
Ceased to claim the desert dead,
And Benyamin, young ruler,[6]Ps. 68:28
Joined this day the tribes of Yah
And the Rock who redeems favored them
After they felt his wrath
Since they purified their heart and thoughts
And washed their hands clean.[7]Ps. 26:8
 
Children of Elyon, be told the good tidings
That YHVH has consoled Tsiyon.[8]Isa. 51:3

רוֹן פָּצְחוּ שְׁבָטִים בְּיוֹם זֶה
וְיֶ֫שַׁע וְעוֹז הִתְאַזָּ֫רוּ
כִּי בוֹ לָבוֹא זֶה בָזֶה
וּלְהִתְחַבֵּר הֻתָּ֫רוּ
וַהֲרוּגִים בְּיַד צָר נִבְזֶה
בְּבֵית־תֵּר הַיּוֹם נִקְבָּ֫רוּ
כִּי לֹא יַעֲשֶׂה כִּלָּיוֹן
צוּר וְיָחוֹס עַל דַּל וְאֶבְיוֹן
 
הִתְבַּשֵּׂ֫רוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן
כִּי נִחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן
The tribes burst in song today
And grew confident in redemption and strength[9]Ps. 93:1
For on it they were permitted to intermarry
And with one another join
And the victims of a despicable enemy
Were buried today in Bet-Tar
For the Rock will not annihilate
But have pity on the poor and needy.[10]Ps. 72:13
 
Children of Elyon, be told the good tidings
That YHVH has consoled Tsiyon.[11]Isa. 51:3

הַיּוֹם בִּיטֵּל בֶּן־אֵלָה
שׁוֹמְרֵי אוֹרַח תַּהֲלוּכָה
שָׂם יְרָבְעָם עַל מְסִלָּה
לְהַשְׁמִיד חַג מֵעִיר בְּרוּכָה
וּבוֹ פָסְקוּ שָׂרֵי סְגֻלָּה
לִכְרוֹת עֵצִים לְמַעֲרָכָה
כִּי מָצְאוּ בַשֶּׁ֫מֶשׁ רִפְיוֹן
וְחֻומָּהּ נִסְתַּר בְּתוֹךְ חֶבְיוֹן
 
הִתְבַּשֵּׂ֫רוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן
כִּי נִיחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן
On this day Ela’s son removed
The watchers of the pilgrimage path
Whom Yerovam stationed
To extirpate the festival from the blessed city
And today the leaders of precious Israel
Stopped felling wood for the altar pyre
Because they found the sun to grow weak
And its heat to enter hiding.
 
Children of Elyon, be told the good tidings
That YHVH has consoled Tsiyon.[12]Isa. 51:3

מָתַי יְחֻדַּשׁ הוֹד בּוֹלֶה
לְבֵן בַּגּוֹלָה זָנ֫וּחַ
וּמָתַי יְנֻחַם לֵב חוֹלֶה
וּמֵעֹל אוֹיְבַי אָנ֫וּחַ
מְהֵרָה מְשִׁיחִי יִגָּלֶה
וְנָחָה עָלָיו הָר֫וּחַ
וְיִקְרָא לַאֲסִירַי פִּדְיוֹן
ק֫וּמוּ וְנַעֲלֶה צִיּוֹן
 
הִתְבַּשֵּׂ֫רוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן
כִּי נִחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן
When will the withered glory be renewed
For God’s child in exile abandoned?
And when will a sick heart be consoled
And I rest from my enemies’ yoke?
May my annointed one be revealed quickly
And the spirit rest on him[13]Isa. 11:2
And he call redemption for my prisoners
“Rise and let us go up to Tsiyon.”[14]Jer. 31:5
 
Children of Elyon, be told the good tidings
That YHVH has consoled Tsiyon.[15]Isa. 51:3

This poem is based on the Babylonian Talmud Taanit 30b-31a:

Why should the 15th of Av be a day of rejoicing? Said Rav Yehudah in the name of Shmuel: “On that day it was permitted to the members of the different tribes to intermarry.” Whence is this deduced? Because it is written [Numb. 36:6]: “This is the thing which YHVH has commanded concerning the daughters of Zelopheḥad,” etc., they claim that “this is the thing” implies that only for that generation was it decreed, but for later generations the decree does not apply.

Rav Yoseph in the name of Rav Naḥman said: On that day the members of the tribe of Benyamin were permitted to intermarry with the other tribes, as it is written [Judges 21:1]: “Now the men of Yisrael had sworn in Mizpah, saying: Not any one of us shall give his daughter unto Benyamin for wife.” Whence was it deduced that subsequently permission might be given to intermarry with the tribe of Benyamin? Because the quoted passage says “Any one of us,” and Rav said that their descendants were not included in the vow.

Rabba bar bar Ḥana said in the name of Rebbi Yohanan: On that day the last of those who were destined to die in the desert died, and the destiny was thus fulfilled; for the Master said that so long as the destiny was still unfulfilled, YHVH did not speak to Moses for his particular sake, as it is written [Deut. 2:16-17]: “So it came to pass, when all the men of war were spent by dying from the midst of the people, that YHVH spoke unto me, saying”; and “unto me” signifies that YHVH spoke unto Moshe in particular.

Ula said: “On that day the guards appointed by Yeroboam to prevent the Israelites from coming to Jerusalem were abolished by Hoshea the son of Elah, and he said: ‘Let them go wherever they choose.'”

Rav Mattanah said: “On that day permission was given to bury the dead who were killed in battle at the city of Beitar.” And Rav Mattanah said again: “On that day, when it was permitted to bury those killed at Beitar, the assembly at Yamnia ordained the benediction reading: ‘Blessed are you, YHVH (Hashem) the good, that does good.’ What is meant thereby? By ‘good’ is meant that the bodies were not left to putrefy, and by ‘does good’ that burial was permitted.”

Rabba and Rav Yoseph both said: On that day they ceased to cut wood for the altar, as we have learned in a Baraita: Rebbi Eliezer the Great said: “From the fifteenth day of Av the heat of the sun was lessened and the timber was no longer dry, so they ceased to cut wood for the altar.” [Said Rav Menashya: “That day was called the day on which the axes were broken”], and from that day on, he who adds the night to his time for study may have years and days added to his life.

(adapted from the Rodkinson translation)

The refrain and last stanza also allude to Isaiah 40, read as the haftara of the shabbat after Tisha be’Av, with its theme of consolation from the exile.

We are grateful to Gabriel Wasserman for contributing a transcription of this piyyut, and to Nir Karakauer for translating it.

Notes   [ + ]

  1, 5, 8, 11, 12, 15. Isa. 51:3
  2. Isa. 63:7
  3. Ps. 119:103
  4. Ps. 92:4
  6. Ps. 68:28
  7. Ps. 26:8
  9. Ps. 93:1
  10. Ps. 72:13
  13. Isa. 11:2
  14. Jer. 31:5

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