STJ#1044, Eli, Eli

Happy New Year! In the words of Colonel Sherman Potter (M*A*S*H), “may it be a damn sight better than the old one.” If today’s hymn is any indication, it will be full of beautiful reminders that there is a love holding us.

This haunting song, composed by David Zehavi, is based on a poem by an Israeli hero I’d never heard of but am excited to learn about. This is the opening paragraphs from Wikipedia (there’s a longer bio at J*Grit, the Internet Index of Tough Jews):

Hannah Szenes (often anglicized as Hannah Senesh or Chanah Senesh; Hebrew: חנה סנש‬; Hungarian: Szenes Anikó; July 17, 1921 – November 7, 1944) was a poet and Special Operations Executive (SOE) paratrooper. She was one of 37 Jewish parachutists of Mandate Palestine parachuted by the British Army into Yugoslavia during the Second World War to assist in the rescue of Hungarian Jews about to be deported to the German death camp at Auschwitz.

Szenes was arrested at the Hungarian border, then imprisoned and tortured, but refused to reveal details of her mission. She was eventually tried and executed by firing squad. She is regarded as a national heroine in Israel, where her poetry is widely known.

Wow.

That definitely puts this poem, written in 1943 – just a year before her death – into some perspective.

Eli, Eli shelo yigamer l’olam,
Hachol v’hayam,
Rishrush shel hamayim
B’rak hashamayim,
T’filat haadam.
Hachol v’hayam,
Rishrush shel hamayim,
B’rak hashamayim,
T’filat haadam.

And the English translation:

My God of all, God’s love shall never end;
The sand and the sea,
the rush of the waters.
The thundering heavens,
the prayers of our heart.
The sand and the sea,
the rush of the waters.
The thundering heavens,
the prayers of our heart.

Wow. I might have found a hero to study in this upcoming year – a year where we need faith, grit, a moral center, and resolve.

Musically, I will say that I was  a bit anxious entering it, as I don’t know it and it seemed to go in unexpected places. But then I found this gorgeous version online, and suddenly the song made sense to me both musically and lyrically, even though I don’t know Hebrew. I leave you with this blessing:

Leave a Reply