Friday Eve, a poem by Rabbi Alter Abelson (1931)

The poem “Friday Eve” by Rabbi Alter Abelson (1931). . . .

Sambatyon, a poem for Shabbat by Rabbi Alter Abelson (1931)

The poem “Sambatyon” (1931) by Rabbi Alter Abelson. . . .

גַּמָּדֵי לָיִל | Gnomes of the Night, a poem by Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik (ca. 1894)

The poem “Gamodei Layil” (Gnomes of the Night) by Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik, ca. 1894. . . .

צַפְרִירִים | Tsafririm (“Morning Spirits”), a poem by Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik (1900)

The poem “Tsafririm” (1900) by Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik with an English translation by Ben Aronin. . . .

שִׁיר לְשִׂמְחָה | Shir l’Simḥa, Friedrich Schiller’s An die Freude (ode to Joy) in Hebrew, 1795

In 1785 Friedrich Schiller wrote his ‘An die Freude an ode ‘To Joy’, describing his ideal of an equal society united in joy and friendship. Numerous copies and adaptations attest to its popularity at the time. The slightly altered 1803 edition was set to music not only by Ludwig van Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony but also by other composers such as Franz Schubert and Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Hs. Ros. PL B-57 contains a Hebrew translation of the first edition of the ode (apparently rendered before the 1803 alteration), revealing that the spirit of the age even managed to reach the Jewish community in the Netherlands. Whereas the imagery of Schiller’s original is drawn from Greek mythology, the author of the שִׁיר לְשִׂמְחָה relies on the Bible as a source. In fact, he not only utilises Biblical imagery, but successfully avoids any allusion to Hellenistic ideas whatsoever. . . .

סנדלפון | Sandalphon by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1858)

Have you read in the Talmud of old,
In the Legends the Rabbins have told
    Of the limitless realms of the air,–
Have you read it,–the marvellous story
Of Sandalphon, the Angel of Glory,
    Sandalphon, the Angel of Prayer? . . .

Spiritual Alienation and the Siddur (PresenTense, 2009)

Giving an individual a choice of how verses that are tripping them up are translated, or even how the ineffable name, YHVH, and other divine names in Hebrew are represented in a siddur, can make a difference in their experience of t’fillah (prayer) for someone engaging in individual or communal prayer. Giving someone a place to share their personally authored t’fillot, meditation or commentary, or else collaborate on a translation of a medieval piyut (liturgical poem) can connect Jews to each other in a meaningful way where before they were isolated in their passion and earnest devotion. Providing historical data revealing the siddur as an aggregate of thousands of years of creatively inspired texts can help a Jew understand that their creativity and contribution is also important in this enduring conversation. . . .


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