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יָהּ רִבּוֹן | Yah Ribōn, a piyyut by Rabbi Yisrael Najara (16th c.) translated by Paltiel Birnbaum (1949)


Source (Aramaic)Translation (English)
יָהּ רִבּוֹן עָלַם וְעָלְמַיָּא
אַנְתְּ הוּא מַלְכָּא מֶֽלֶךְ מַלְכַיָּא
עוֹבַד גְּבוּרְתֵּךְ וְתִמְהַיָּא
שְׁפַר קֳדָמָךְ לְהַחֲוָיָּא׃ (דניאל ג:לב חלק)
Yah, eternal Master of the worlds,
you are the supreme King of kings.
Your mighty acts and wondrous deeds,
it is my pleasure to declare. (Daniel 3:32 part)
שְׁבָחִין אֲסַדֵּר צַפְרָא וְרַמְשָׁא
לָךְ אֱלָהָא קַדִּישָׁא דִּי בְרָא כָּל נַפְשָׁא
עִירִין קַדִּישִׁין וּבְנֵי אֱנָשָׁא
חֵיוַת בָּרָא וְעוֹפֵי שְׁמַיָּא׃
Morning and evening I praise you,
holy Elo’ah, who didst form all life:
sacred spirits, human beings,
beasts of the field, birds of the sky.
רַבְרְבִין עוֹבְדֵיךְ וְתַקִּיפִין
מָכִיךְ רְמַיָּא וְזַקִּיף כְּפִיפִין
לוּ יִחְיֶה גְבַר שְׁנִין אַלְפִין
לָא יֵעוֹל גְּבוּרְתֵּךְ בְּחֻשְׁבְּנַיָּא׃
Great and mighty are thy deeds,
humbling the proud, raising the meek;
were man to live a thousand years,
yet he could not recount thy might.
אֱלָהָא דִּי לֵהּ יְקַר וּרְבוּתָא
פְּרוֹק יַת עָנָךְ מִפּוּם אַרְיְוָתָא
וְאַפֵּיק יַת עַמֵּךְ מִגּוֹ גָלוּתָא
עַמֵּךְ דִּי בְחַרְתְּ מִכָּל אֻמַּיָּא׃
O elo’ah of glory and greatness,
save your flock from the lions’ jaws;
free your people from captivity,
your people chosen from all nations.
לְמִקְדָּשֵׁךְ תּוּב וּלְקֹֽדֶשׁ קֻדְשִׁין
אֲתַר דִּי בֵהּ יֶחֱדוּן רוּחִין וְנַפְשִׁין
וִיזַמְּרוּן לָךְ שִׁירִין וְרַחֲשִׁין
בִּירוּשְׁלֵם קַרְתָּא דְשׁוּפְרַיָּא׃
Return to your most holy shrine,
the place where all souls will rejoice
and sing melodic hymns of praise –
Jerusalem, city of beauty.

The piyyut “Yah Ribon” by Rabbi Israel Najara (1555-1625) is presented here translated in English by Paltiel Birnbaum as found in his HaSiddur HaShalem (1949) where he offers the following commentary:

יה רבון was written in Aramaic by Rabbi Israel Najara, one of the most prolific Hebrew writers of the sixteenth century. His signature is seen in the initials of the five stanzas of this beautiful poem. At the end of the sixteenth century, he published a second and enlarged edition of his Zemiroth Yisrael, comprising three hundred and forty-six poems, which soon became the most popular songbook among the Jewish communities in the Orient. He was familiar with several languages, and was inspired by the kabbalistic school of Rabbi Isaac Luria at Safed, Palestine. His song “Yah Ribōn,” which contains no allusion to the Sabbath, is chanted on Friday evenings all over the world. After describing the wonders of God’s creation, the poet concludes with a prayer that God may redeem Israel and restore Jerusalem, the city of beauty. The phrase שפר קדמי להחויה is borrowed from Daniel 3:32.

I have removed archaisms and re-Hebraized divine names. –Aharon Varady






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