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צָמְאָה נַפְשִׁי | Tsam’ah Nafshi, a piyyut by Avraham ibn Ezra (interpretive translation by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi)


Source (Hebrew)Translation (English)
צָמְאָה נַפְשִׁי
לֵאלֹהִים לְאֵל חָי
לִבִּי וּבְשָׂרִי
יְרַנְּנוּ לְאֵל חָי
אֵל אֶחָד בְּרָאָנִי
וְאָמַר חַי אָנִי
כִּי לֹא יִרְאַנִי הָאָדָם וָחָי
All potent God! You made me
“Alive I am,” You told me
Yet no one’s eyes can see Me
remaining flesh — alive.
My heart and my flesh
they sing to You,
to You the Source of Life!
בָּרָא כֹּל בְּחָכְמָה
בְּעֵצָה וּבִמְזִמָּה
מְאֹד נֶעֱלָמָה
מֵעֵינֵי כָל חָי
Brought forth we were by intent
in counsel and consent
yet hidden is what this meant
from us who are alive
רָם עַל כֹּל כְּבוֹדוֹ
כָּל פֶּה יְחַוֶּה הוֹדוֹ
בָּרוּךְ אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדוֹ
נֶפֶשׁ כָּל חָי
Resplendent in Your glory
all tales are but Your story
praise to You who is pouring
into our souls our life
הִבְדִּיל נִינֵי תָם
חֻקִּים לְהוֹרוֹתָם
אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה אוֹתָם
הָאָדָם וָחָי
How generous on Your side
To teach us laws which guide
those who by them abide
as sources of good life
מִי זֶה יִצְטַדַּק
נִמְשַׁל לְאָבָק דָּק
אֶמֶת כִּי לֹא יִצְדַּק
לְפָנֶיךָ כָּל חָי
Might we be ever right
and live all in the light
what are we but a mite
and yet You give us life
בְּלֵב יֵצֶר חָשׁוּב
כִּדְמוּת חֲמַת עַכְשׁוּב
וְאֵיכָכָה יָשׁוּב
הַבָּשָׂר הֶחָי
Born as we are of passion
at times we lack compassion
if only we could fashion
a God-filled way of life
נְסוֹגִים אִם אָבוּ
מִדַרְכָּם שָׁבוּ
טֶרֶם יִשְׁכָּבוּ
בֵּית מוֹעֵד לְכָל חָי
Near God to be we yearn
From wicked ways to turn
before bodies to dust return
and souls to the Source of Life
עַל כֹּל אֲהוֹדֶךָ
כָּל פֶּה תְּיַחֲדֶךָ
פּוֹתֵחַ אֶת יָדֶךָ
וּמַשְׂבִּיעַ לְכָל חָי
Every way will I adore You
my fervent prayer implore You
to open my path before You
to sate my soul with life.
זְכוֹר אַהֲבַת קְדוּמִים
וְהַחֲיֵה נִרְדָּמִים
וְקָרֵב הַיָּמִים
אֲשֶׁר בֶּן יִשַׁי חָי
Zeal filled our sires with fervor
do rouse us from our torpor
and help us meet our saviour
Of Yishai’s stock — in Life
רְאֵה לִגְבֶרֶת אֱמֶת
שִׁפְחָה נוֹאֶמֶת
לֹא כִי בְנֵךְ הַמֵּת
וּבְנִי הֶחָי
Remember! we kept Your trust
May Your response be just
and being fair You must
decree us toward life
אֶקּוֹד עַל אַפִּי
וְאֶפְרוֹשׂ לְךָ כַּפִּי
עֵת אֶפְתַּח פִּי
בְּנִשְׁמַת כָּל חָי
Awed am I, amazed at You
my arms I raise in pray’r to You
my mouth will sings its praise to You
Oh Source and Soul of Life!


This “praying translation” of the piyyut Tsamah Nafshi by Avraham ibn Ezra is included in Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi’s Sabbath Supplement to his Siddur Tehillat Hashem Yidaber Pi ~ As I Can Say It (for Praying in the Vernacular) (2009).

The piyyut is now familiar as a Shabbat table song, although it was initially composed as an introduction to Nishmat Kol Ḥai.






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