Yah Ribon Alam

Iraq

About the Piyut

This is one of the most famous of R. Yisrael Najara, the greatest poet of the post expulsion period. He was a descendant of the Spanish exiles and served as Rabbi of the community of Gaza in the 16th Century. Although Shabbat is not mentioned at all in the poem and despite the fact it is written in Aramaic, it became part of the Shabbat repertoire throughout Jewish Diaspora.

The poet has interwoven into the poem many references from the book of Daniel which is written mainly in Aramaic. The poet sometimes quotes verbatim verses which originally refer to God but does not hesitate to convert verses that referred to Nebuchadnezzar and use them to praise God. This practice attests to the free spirit of this poet in particular and poetry in general but can also be seen as a process of redemption in which the poet elevates the words, originally appropriated by a pagan king, to a status of holy praise to God.

The last stanza, in which the poet expresses a request for not only redemption from exile but also for the return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple, does not refer to the book of Daniel. This could be due to the lack of a text that discusses these issues in Daniel or maybe as a symbol of breaking away from the spirit of exile of Daniel and creating a new language, a language of freedom.

The poem is permeated with love and passion to God, it stresses as many of R. Najara’s poems do, the insignificance of man in comparison to God but simultaneously the empowerment of being allowed to praise, talk to, and ask God to deliver us.

Yah Ribon Alam can be found on the recordings of Piyutim North America. The author is Rabbi Yisrael Najara, Tzfat, 16th Century.

Lyrics

Transliteration:

Yah ribon alam ve’almaya / ant hu malka melech malchaya
Ovadei gevurtach vetimhaya / shefar kodamai lehachavaya

Shevachin assader tzafra veramsha / lach Elaha kadisha di bera kol nafsha
Irin kadishin uvnei enasha / chevat bara ve’of shemaya

Ravrevin ovadach vetakifin / makich ramaya zakif kefifin
Lu yechi gevar shenin alfeen / la ye’ul gevurtach bechushbenaya

Elaha di leh yekar urvuta / perok yat anach mipum aryavata
Ve’apek yat amach migo galuta / amach di bechart mikol u’maya

Lemikdashach tuv u’lekodesh kudshin / atar di beh yechedun ruchin venafshin
Vizamerun lach shirin verach’shin / birushlem karta deshufraya

Translation:

Yah, Sovereign of all the Worlds / You are the King of kings
Of Your mighty deeds and wonders / It pleases me to proclaim

I offer praises morning and evening / to You, holy God, creator of all souls
Heavenly angels and mortals / beasts of the field and birds of the sky

Great and mighty are your deeds / shaming the proud and elevating up the humble
Even if one lived a thousand years / these would not suffice to tell of your mighty actions

O God, to whom glory and greatness belong / save Your flock from the mouths of lions
Lead Your people out of exile / your people whom You chose above all nations

Return to Your Temple and to the Holy of Holies / the place where all spirits and souls will rejoice
There they will sing to You songs and praises / in Jerusalem, the city of beauty

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