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נִשְׁמַת כָּל חַי | Nishmat Kol Ḥai, interpretive translation by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

נִשְׁמַת כָּל חַי
תְּבָרֵךְ אֶת שִׁמְךָ
יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ.
וְרוּחַ כָּל בָּשָׂר
תְּפָאֵר וּתְרוֹמֵם זִכְרְךָ
מַלְכֵּנוּ תָּמִיד.
All breathing life
adores Your Name
Yah, our God —
All flesh alive
is raised to ecstasy
each time we become aware of You!

מִן הָעוֹלָם
וְעַד־הָעוֹלָם
אַתָּה אֵל. (תהלים צ:ב)
וּמִבַּלְעָדֶיךָ אֵין לָנוּ מֶלֶךְ (להשוואה ישעיה מד:ו)
גּוֹאֵל וּמוֹשִׁיעַ פּוֹדֶה וּמַצִּיל
וּמְפַרְנֵס וְעוֹנֶה וּמְרַחֵם
בְּכָל עֵת צָרָה וְצוּקָה
אֵין לָנוּ מֶלֶךְ אֶלָּא אָתָּה:
Beyond endless Time
and Space that’s vast
You are Divine.[1]Psalms 90:2.
Only You are the One who
ultimately extricates and frees
ransoms, saves and sustains us
and cares when we are in distress
You, You alone secure our lives.

אֱלֹהֵי הָרִאשׁוֹנִים וְהָאַחֲרוֹנִים
אֱלֹהַּ כָּל בְּרִיוֹת
אֲדוֹן כָּל תּוֹלָדוֹת
הַמְּהֻלָל בְּרֹב הַתִּשְׁבָּחוֹת.
הַמְנַהֵג עוֹלָמוֹ
בְּחֶסֶד
וּבְרִיּוֹתָיו בְּרַחֲמִים.
You ultimate Cause and ultimate Effect,
Source of all Creation
You manifest in all birthing
In every compliment it is You we praise
You manage Your universe
with kindness —
with compassion all beings in it.

וַיְהֹוָה הִנֵה לֹא־יָנוּם וְלֹא־יִישָׁן.
הַמְּעוֹרֵר יְשֵׁנִים וְהַמֵּקִיץ נִרְדָּמִים (תהלים קכא:ד)[2](נ״א: מְחַיֵי מֵתִים, וְרוֹפֵא חוֹלִים, פּוֹקֵֽחַ עִוְרִים) 
וְהַמֵּשִׂיחַ אִלְּמִים
וְהַמַּתִּיר אֲסוּרִים (להשוואה תהלים קמו:ז-ח)
וְהַסּוֹמֵךְ נוֹפְלִים
וְהַזּוֹקֵף כְּפוּפִים. (להשוואה תהלים קמה:יד)
(נ״א: וְהַמְפַעֲנֵֽחַ נֶעְלָמִים.)
Yah ever awake and ever alert![3]Psalms 121:4. 
You rouse us from the deepest sleep
You give words to the speechless
You release the imprisoned[4]Cf. Psalms 146:7-8.
You support the stumbling
You give dignity to the downtrodden[5]Cf. Psalms 145:14.
Every appreciation we offer is Yours.

לְךָ לְבַדְּךָ אֲנַחְנוּ מוֹדִים.
אִלּוּ פִינוּ מָלֵא שִׁירָה
כַּיָּם וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה כַּהֲמוֹן גַּלָּיו
וְשִׂפְתוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁבַח כְּמֶרְחֲבֵי רָקִיעַ
וְעֵינֵינוּ מְאִירוֹת כַּשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְכַיָּרֵחַ
וְיָדֵינוּ פְרוּשׂוֹת כְּנִשְׂרֵי שָׁמַיִם
וְרַגְלֵינוּ קַלּוֹת כָּאַיָּלוֹת:
אֵין אָנוּ מַסְפִּיקִים לְהוֹדוֹת לְךָ
יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
וּלְבָרֵךְ אֶת־שְׁמֶךָ עַל־אַחַת
מֵאֶלֶף אַלְפֵי אֲלָפִים
וְרִבֵּי רְבָבוֹת פְּעָמִים
הַטּוֹבוֹת נִסִּים וְנִפְלָאוֹת
שֶׁעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּנוּ וְעִם־אֲבוֹתֵינוּ מִלְּפָנִים:
If ocean-full our mouth were with music
Our tongues singing
like the ceaseless surf
Our lips praising You to the skies
Our eyes blazing like sun and moon
Our arms spread like soaring eagles
Our legs sprinting like those of deers
We could not thank You enough
Yah! Our God, our parents’ God!
Neither could we celebrate by naming
the times exceeding millions
the places exceeding billions
the favors You did
for our parents and for us.

מִמִּצְרַיִם גְּאַלְתָּנוּ
יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ.
מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים פְּדִיתָנוּ.
בְּרָעָב זַנְתָּנוּ
וּבְשָׂבָע כִּלְכַּלְתָּנוּ
מֵחֶרֶב הִצַּלְתָּנוּ
וּמִדֶּבֶר מִלַּטְתָּנוּ
וּמֵחָלָיִם רָעִים וְנֶאֱמָנִים דִּלִּיתָנוּ:
עַד־הֵנָּה עֲזָרוּנוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ
וְלֹא־עֲזָבוּנוּ חֲסָדֶיךָ.
וְאַל תִּטְּשֵׁנוּ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ לָנֶצַח:
Yah! Oh God!
From oppression You redeemed us
Now we can never be at home in slavery –
During famines You fed us
enough to live on
You shielded us from wars and plagues
From diseases of body and mind
You pulled us out.
To this moment Your caring helped us
We never lacked Your kindness
— Please don’t ever abandon us God! —

עַל כֵּן אֵבָרִים שֶׁפִּלַּגְתָּ בָּנוּ
וְרוּחַ וּנְשָׁמָה שֶׁנָּפַחְתָּ בְּאַפֵּינוּ
וְלָשׁוֹן אֲשֶׁר שַׂמְתָּ בְּפִינוּ:
הֵן הֵם יוֹדוּ וִיבָרְכוּ
וִישַׁבְּחוּ וִיפָאֲרוּ וִירוֹמְמוּ וְיַעֲרִיצוּ וְיַקְדִּישׁוּ
וְיַמְלִיכוּ אֶת שִׁמְךָ מַלְכֵּנוּ:
Therefore the limbs which you set within us,
and the spirit and soul which you breathed into our nostrils,
and the tongue which you placed in our mouth –
they shall all thank, bless,
praise, glorify, exalt, adore, sanctify,
and crown your Name our King.

Our limbs want each to thank You
The air of each breath
You breathed into us
Their very substance bless with gratitude
with praise and celebration
honoring that exalted holiness
so majestic, that is Your fame!

כִּי כָל־פֶּה לְךָ יוֹדֶה
וְכָל לָשׁוֹן לְךָ תִשָּׁבַע. וְכָל עַיִן לְךָ תְצַפֶּה
וְכָל־בֶּרֶךְ לְךָ תִכְרַע (להשוואה ישעיה מה:כג)
וְכָל־קוֹמָה לְפָנֶיךָ תִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה.
וְכָל הַלְבָבוֹת יִירָאוּךָ
וְכָל־קֶרֶב וּכְלָיוֹת יְזַמְּרוּ לִשְׁמֶךָ.
כַּדָּבָר שֶׁכָּתוּב
כָּל־עַצְמוֹתַי תֹּאמַרְנָה
יְהֹוָה מִי כָמוֹךָ.
מַצִּיל עָנִי
מֵחָזָק מִמֶּנוּ
וְעָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן
מִגֹּזְלוֹ: (תהלים לה:י)
Our speech is appreciation
our expression an oath of loyalty
our attitude surrender
our stance before You obedience
our feelings overwhelming awe
our inners singing scales of Your Names
As it is in Scripture:
“All my very essence exclaims:
‘Yah! Who? Like You?
You inspire the gentle
to stand up to the bully
The poor disempowered
to stand up to the thug.’”[6]Psalms 35:10.

מִי יִדְמֶה־לָּךְ וּמִי יִשְׁוֶה־לָּךְ
וּמִי יַעֲרָךְ־לָךְ. (להשוואה תהלים פט:יז, ישעיה מ:כה)
הָאֵל הַגָּדוֹל
הַגִּבּוֹר וְהַנּוֹרָא
אֵל עֶלְיוֹן
קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ:
No other can claim to be what You are
No other can pretend to be [7]Cf. Psalms 89:17, Isaiah 40:25. 
THE GREAT GOD
THE MIGHTY, THE AWESOME,
THE GOD, MOST HIGH
Yet nesting in Heavens and Earth!

נְהַלֶּלְךָ וּנְשַׁבֵּחֲךָ
וּנְפָאֶרְךָ
וּנְבָרֵךְ אֶת־שֵׁם קָדְשֶׁךָ.
כָּאָמוּר לְדָוִד
בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת יְהֹוָה
וְכָל קְרָבַי אֶת־שֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ: (תהלים קג:א)
So we will keep celebrating
and delighting
and blessing Your Holy Name
with David:
“Yahhh! breathes my soul out to You.
all my inners pulse with You!”[8]Psalms 103:1.

הָאֵל בְּתַעֲצֻמוֹת עֻזֶּךָ.
הַגָּדוֹל בִּכְבוֹד שְׁמֶךָ.
הַגִּבּוֹר לָנֶצַח
וְהַנּוֹרָא בְּנוֹרְאוֹתֶיךָ.
הַמֶּלֶךְ הַיּוֹשֵׁב עַל כִּסֵּא רָם וְנִשָּׂא.
Potent God Force!
Magnanimous in Glory
Ever prevailing
Awesome Mystery!
Majestic One, who presides over all destiny!

שׁוֹכֵן עַד מָרוֹם וְקָדוֹשׁ שְׁמוֹ.
וְכָתוּב רַנְּנוּ צַדִּיקִים בַּיְהֹוָה
לַיְשָׁרִים נָאוָה תְהִלָּה:
בְּפִי יְשָׁרִים תִּתְרוֹמָם.
וּבְשִׂפְתֵי צַדִּיקִים תִּתְבָּרַךְ.
וּבִלְשׁוֹן חֲסִידִים תִּתְקַדָּשׁ.
וּבְקֶרֶב קְדוֹשִׁים תִּתְהַלָּל:
Eternal Sh’khinnah, Holy Beyond
Saints sing Yah!
In harmony with decent folks.
Good people exalt You
Saints are Your blessing
Devotees sanctify You
You delight in our inner holiness.

This “praying translation” of the piyyut Nishmat Kol Ḥai 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 translation includes several prayers that follow the piyyut: Ha-El B’ta’atsumot Uzekha, and Shoḥen Ad.

Macy Nulman writes in his entry on “Nishmat Kol Hai” in Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer (1993, pp. 255-256):

The prayer is partially cited in the Talmud as a prayer of thanksgiving for rainfall following a drought.[9]Berakhot 59b; Ta’anit 6b. Reciting Nishmat also has its origin in the talmudic discussion that calls for its recitation after Hallel over the fourth cup of wine at the Seder.[10]Pesachim 117b-118a. According to the Zohar it was first recited on Shabbat during the Tannaitic period (10-220 C.E.),[11]Parashat Terumah 138a; Parashat Vayakhayl 205b. and according to Rabbaynu Yonah it was instituted as a congregational prayer in the Geonic period (c. 10th century).[12]Ber. 24a, s.v. Hokoraya Behoda’oh.

The Talmud refers to Nishmat as Birkat Hashir (“Benediction of the Song”),[13]Pesachim 118a though it does not have the standard blessing formula. It was given this appellation because it is an extended blessing resembling a poem (shir).[14]Seligman Baer, Siddur Avodat Yisrael, p.206. It is recited on the Sabbath to allude to the Neshamah Yetayrah[15]Bez. 16a. that a Jew has on the Sabbath, and its recital was instituted in its honor. In addition, on Shabbat, when we abstain from work, rest allows sufficient time for us to express additional gratitude to God for His mercies in sustaining us.[16]Matt Mosh, par. 445; Moses ibn Makhir, Sefer Seder Hayyom, Seder Zemirot Shel Shabbat (Venice: Mefitzay Or, 1599); Tur, OH, chap. 281. The prayer also mentions the Exodus from Egypt, a fundamental concept embodied in the Sabbath and thus further qualifying the reason for its inclusion in the Sabbath service.[17]Rabbi J.M. Epslein, Arukh Hashulhan, vol. 2 (E. Grossman’s Publishing House, 1884-1906), 285:5. Tosafot comments that it is called Birkat Hashir because it is said on Shabbat after Pesukay Dezimrah, after all the psalms and other biblical poetry of the early morning service.[18]Pesachim 118a, s.v . R. Yohanan. Thus, Nishmat pertains to all the verses that were uttered previously in the service. Significantly, when the last phrase of the previous passage, AZ YASHIR, ends with “in that day shall the Lord be one, and His Name one,” it follows ideally with Nishmat Kol Hai, “The breath of every living thing shall bless Thy Name.”[19]Arugat Habosen in Otz Hat, Shaharit LeShabbat. Nishmat follows Az Yashir because its contents also include the Exodus of Egypt.[20]Tur, ibid. Since it is so relevant to the festival that celebrates our freedom from Egypt, it is recited at the Passover Seder.

On Hoshana Rabbah the Ashkenazic rite as well as some Sephardic rites omit Nishmat in Shaharit, although other Sabbath psalms are said. The rationale for this practice is that the soul does not become as vigorous with joy on this day as on another complete holiday,[21]Levush quoted in Ket Shem Tob, vol. 7, p. 151. The Egyptian as well as other Sephardic rites recite Nishmat up to umayolom ve’ad olam attah Ayl after ALAYNU, while the ark is open. A special prayer is uttered: “Behold, we accept upon us completely, without a vow, for in the year that comes upon us for good life and peace, in this time and season on Hoshana Rabbah, that after Shaharit we will again be able to give praise by singing Nishmat Kol Hai,” etc.[22]Ket Shem Tob, vol. 7, pp. 151-153 .

In Sephardic congregations Nishmat is recited with tunefulness[23]BIH, Shanoh Sheniah, Parshat Toldot, 3. and elaborate singing and chanting takes place, especially when saying shavat anyim (”the cry of the afflicted Thou hearest”).[24]Cf. Abudraham, Kol Bo. See also CJMP, p. 124, and TSLC, p. 233. There are differences in textual phraseology between the Ashkenazic and Sephardic rites.[25]Cf. Ket Shem Tob, vol. I, 218:216.

Source(s)

 


 

Notes   [ + ]

  1. Psalms 90:2.
  2. (נ״א: מְחַיֵי מֵתִים, וְרוֹפֵא חוֹלִים, פּוֹקֵֽחַ עִוְרִים)
  3. Psalms 121:4.
  4. Cf. Psalms 146:7-8.
  5. Cf. Psalms 145:14.
  6. Psalms 35:10.
  7. Cf. Psalms 89:17, Isaiah 40:25.
  8. Psalms 103:1.
  9. Berakhot 59b; Ta’anit 6b.
  10. Pesachim 117b-118a.
  11. Parashat Terumah 138a; Parashat Vayakhayl 205b.
  12. Ber. 24a, s.v. Hokoraya Behoda’oh.
  13. Pesachim 118a
  14. Seligman Baer, Siddur Avodat Yisrael, p.206.
  15. Bez. 16a.
  16. Matt Mosh, par. 445; Moses ibn Makhir, Sefer Seder Hayyom, Seder Zemirot Shel Shabbat (Venice: Mefitzay Or, 1599); Tur, OH, chap. 281.
  17. Rabbi J.M. Epslein, Arukh Hashulhan, vol. 2 (E. Grossman’s Publishing House, 1884-1906), 285:5.
  18. Pesachim 118a, s.v . R. Yohanan.
  19. Arugat Habosen in Otz Hat, Shaharit LeShabbat.
  20. Tur, ibid.
  21. Levush quoted in Ket Shem Tob, vol. 7, p. 151.
  22. Ket Shem Tob, vol. 7, pp. 151-153 .
  23. BIH, Shanoh Sheniah, Parshat Toldot, 3.
  24. Cf. Abudraham, Kol Bo. See also CJMP, p. 124, and TSLC, p. 233.
  25. Cf. Ket Shem Tob, vol. I, 218:216.

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