Tzur Mishelo

About the Piyut

This is an ancient Piyut which is sung as an introduction to the grace after meals in most Jewish communities. It was probably written in Northern France no later than the second half of the 14th Century and spread very rapidly throughout the Jewish Diaspora. Despite its popularity and the fact that some authors tried to imitate it, the identity of the author remains unknown.

It is not inconceivable that the piyut was originally meant to serve as an introduction to the Grace after Meals in all joyous occasions and only later on was identified specifically with the Shabbat. Its relation to the Grace after Meals (Birkat HaMazzon), however, is irrefutable. The three first stanzas parallel the three first blessing of the Grace. The opening one praises God who sustains and provides food for all living beings with grace and loving kindness, the second gives thanks to God for the gift of the Torah, the Land of Israel and the covenant, and the third focuses on Jerusalem, the Temple and the Messiah. The last stanza, which ends with the words: “We shall bless the Holy, Merciful one, with an overflowing cup of wine”, symbolizing God’s abundance, alludes to the custom to recite the Grace while holding a cup of wine which is drank at the end of the Grace.

Music lovers will find special interest in the following anecdote. In the 1980’s, a 16th Century manuscript was discovered, containing a musical notation for this piyut. It is an original Jewish tune and not a local, folk song that was borrowed and adopted from the non Jewish tradition. The tune was written by a Christian scholar who has heard it from one or more Jews in what was then south Germany. To the best of our knowledge, this is the oldest sheet music for a Sabbath song and one of the oldest in the general Piyut tradition.

Tzur Mishelo can be found on the recordings of Piyutim North America. The author is unknown.

Lyrics

Transliteration:

Tzur mishelo akhalnu / barechu emunai
Savanu vehotarnu / kidvar Adonay

Hazan et olamo / ro’enu avinu
Achalnu milachmo / u’miyeno shatinu
Al ken nodeh lishmo / u’nehallelo befinu
Amarnu ve’aninu / en kadosh ka’Adonay

Beshir vekol toda / nevarech le’Eloheinu
Al eretz chemda tova / shehinchil la’avotenu
Umazon vetzeda / hisbi’a lenafshenu
Chasdo gavar alenu / ve’emet Adonay

Rachem bechasdecha / al amcha tzurenu
Al tzion mishkan kvodecha / zevul bet tifartenu
Uven David avdecha / yavo veyigalenu
Ruach apenu / meshiach Adonay

Yibaneh hamikdash / ir tzion temalleh
Vesham nashir shir chadash / u’virnana sham na’alleh
Harachaman hanikdash / yitbarach veyitalleh
Al kos yayin malleh / kevirkat Adonay

Translation:

The Lord, Our Rock, whose food we have eaten, let us bless Him
We are satiated and there is still food left over, as God has instructed

He nourishes His world, our Shepherd, our Father
We have eaten of His bread and drunk from His wine
Therefore we will thank Him and speak His praise
We said and respond: there is no one holy like our Lord

With song and gratitude we will give praise to our
God For the desirable good land He bequeathed to our fathers
With nourishment and sustenance He has satisfied us
His grace has overwhelmed us as has His truth

Have mercy in Your graciousness on Your nation, Lord, Our Rock
And upon Zion the dwelling place of Your honor, the Temple of our splendor
And the son of David, Your servant, will come and redeem us
The breath of our life, The Messiah of God

The Temple will be rebuilt; the City of Zion will be restored
And there we will sing a new song and journey up
The Merciful and the Sanctified One will be blessed and exalted
Over a full glass of wine, according to God’s blessing

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