Ma Navu Alei

Iraq

About the Piyut

The Babylonian repertoire suffers from a dearth of overtly joyous poems, which is probably why this poem, introduced relatively late into it, has rapidly gained popularity. Not only the words but also the melody are joyous and exuberant and it is sung at every happy occasion, especially at wedding-related events. The poem was written by R. Shimon Bar Nissim, who followed his poetry and immigrated to Israel, from Babylonia to Zion. His poem also “immigrated” and was absorbed and accepted by all Jews, Sephardic and Ashkenazi alike.

The poem draws heavily on Biblical verses but especially on the last chapters of Isaiah which also served as an inspiration to the famous poem welcoming the Shabbat, Lekha Dodi.

The central analogy of the poem along the lines of Isaiah’s prophecies is that of the Nation of Israel as a woman. She is the bride, the beloved, who was driven away and sought comfort amongst strangers but is now called to come back home where she will reunite with her children and where her “spouse”, the Lord, will build her a palace and a throne.

It is not surprising, given the positive atmosphere of the poem and the wealth of imagery related to the bride and her beloved, that this poem became a very popular wedding song. The divine, historical love of God, the Nation and the Land of Israel reverberates through the poem and illuminates the bridal canopy of the newlyweds.

Ma Navu Alei can be found on the recordings of Piyutim North America. The author is Rabbi Shimon Bar Nissim, Baghdad, Jerusalem, 19th-20th Century.

Lyrics

Transliteration:

Ma navu alei heharim raglei / mevaser shalom bevinyan irech
Kol tzofaich yis’u kol rina / hitna’ari mitoch megina
Ayin be’ayin tir’i shechina / veshavu banayich legvulech

Lishvuyim dror beshir u’mizmor / el beit har hamor yehi shvilech
Solu solu et hamsila / pitzchu renana u’tehila
Yavo mevasser bilshono mila / kumi uri ki ba orech

Tze’i mibavel kiryat ovdei bel / kinor vanevel az yehi shirech
Sos yasissu kol avelei zion / lavo lachasot betzel ha’elion
Bano evneh lach neveh apirion / achin kiseh ledavid malkech

Se’ee enayich u’re’ee vanayich / ba’u elayich la’or be’orech
Tachat choshech assim lach ora / az metzion tetzeh hatora
Hineh gadol hu ayom venora / beyom simi keter leroshech

Ad matai kalla yaffa u’me’ulla / lezar be’ulla kedal vahelech
Uri uri adat yisrael achish / eshlach yinon ve’goel
Vegam akim lach chomat ariel / zachor ezkor chessed ne’urech

Translation:

How pleasant atop the mountains are the footsteps of the messenger / bearing tidings of peace in your city
The voices of your watchmen will rise up in joy / shake off your sorrow
Your eyes shall behold the Shechina / and your sons shall return to your borders

Freedom to the captives in song and melody / to the Temple may your path lead
Pave pave the pathway / break forth in delight and glory
A messenger will come with a word on his tongue / Arise and shine for your light has come

Leave Babylon where they worship Bel / the harp and lyre will accompany your song
Greatly rejoice all mourners in Zion / come take refuge in the shadow of the Most High
I shall built for you a magnificent palace / I shall set a throne for your king, David

Lift your eyes and see your children / they have come to you, to the light in your light
In place of darkness I will give you light / then from Zion Torah shall come forth
For it will be great and awful on the day / you shall place a crown upon your head

Till when beautiful and wonderful bride / will you espouse a stranger like a vagabond
Awake awake people of Israel / I will hasten and send Yinon and a redeemer
And I will raise for you the walls of Ariel / I will remember the devotion of your youth

Singers

Musicians

Production

  • Musical Direction and Arrangements: Yair Harel and Omer Avital
  • Production: Ari Priven, Yair Harel and Omer Avital
  • Mixing and editing: Daniel Freedman
  • Mastered by: Randy Merrill at Masterdisk
  • Recorded at B’nai Jeshurun, New York City, July 2010