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שיר חדש אשיר | Shir Ḥadash Ashir (“Song Anew”) — a traditional piyyuṭ before the Song of the Sea

This piyyuṭ, bearing the acrostic signature שמואל (“Samuel”), is traditionally recited in the communities of Babylonia and India as a petiḥah, or opening poem, before the Song of the Sea. It is also sung on Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath where we read the Song of the Sea in public. This translation is an attempt to preserve the original meaning as well as the rhyme scheme and poetic form.

Note: “The CAUSE” is used to translate the Divine Name YHVH, based on the philosophical idea of God as the Prime Mover and on the interpretation of the Name as a causative form of the copula – “causes to be.”

For translation and cantillation work, check out my new website at igmjewishcreativeworks.com.


Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

שִׁ֯יר חָדָשׁ אָשִׁיר וְשֵׁם אֵל
אַקְדִּישׁ בַּעֲדַת אֲרִיאֵל
אָ֣ז יָשִֽׁיר־מֹשֶׁה֩ וּבְנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל
אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֤ה הַזֹּאת֙ לַֽיהֹוָ֔ה (שמות טו:א)
Song anew will I sing, and the name of EL
I will sanctify in the assembly of the Lion of EL
As Moses would sing with the children of Israel
this song, to the CAUSE. (Exodus 15:1)

מַ֯ה נִכְסְפָה כָּלְתָה נַפְשִׁי
לִשְׁכּוֹן בְּחַצְרוֹת בֵּית קׇדְשִׁי
לְהַקְרִיב לוֹ לֶֽחֶם אִשִּׁי
רֵֽיחַ־נִיח֖וֹחַ לַֽיהֹוָֽה׃ (כגון ויקרא א:ט ואחרים)
My soul, how it longs — as feeling dead —
for in the Holy House’s court to tread
and offer to God my fire-bread
a sweet scent for the CAUSE. (Leviticus 1:9 and elsewhere)

וַ֯אֲרַנֵּן לוֹ בְּרוֹב גִּילָה
וּבְרוֹב חֶדְוָה וְצׇהֳלָה
שֶֽׁבַח וּתְהִלָּה הַ֥לְלוּ־יָ֨הּ ׀
הַ֭לְלוּ עַבְדֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה (תהלים קיג:א)
Upon my exulting God in greatest cheer
and happiness and joy sincere
lauding and praising for all to hear —
Hallelujah! Praise, servants of the CAUSE! (Psalms 113:1)

אֲ֯נִי לֶאֱלֹהִים אֶקְרָא
תַצִּילֵֽנוּ מִכׇּל־צָרָה
וְהוּא יִהְיֶה לָֽנוּ עֶזְרָה
נִדְב֣וֹת פִּ֭י רְצֵה־נָ֣א יְהֹוָ֑ה (תהלים קיט:קח)
Entreating, I to God address:
save us all from every stress!
and God will all our wants redress —
accept my sworn offerings, CAUSE! (Psalms 119:108)

לָֽ֯נוּ יִשְׁלַח מְשִׁיחֵֽנוּ
בִּמְהֵרָה יָבֹא אֵלֵֽינוּ
וְיַעֲלֵֽנוּ לְאַרְצֵֽנוּ
לַחֲז֥וֹת בְּנֹעַם־יְ֝הֹוָ֗ה (תהלים כז:ד)
Lastly, send the anointed heir
to quickly come and answer our prayer
and bring us to the land, so there
we may envision the beauty of the CAUSE. (Psalms 27:4)

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