Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Chazzan's new song

Health care seems to be all anyone can talk about these days. Between the coming winter colds, the H1N1 and the unbearably frustrating United States Senate - we could all use a little r'fuah sh'leimah.

So - healing was on my mind.

In the Jewish world (especially in the Reform Movement) there are lots and lots of community prayers for healing. Take your pick of popular synagogue composers, they have all written songs for us to express our hopes and prayers for others.

Interestingly - in the world of Sephardic piyyut (liturgical poetry), it seems like the trend is more often on prayers in the first person.

Two that come to mind right away are R'fa Tziri and Elohei Oz. Both of them have beautiful texts and deeply moving melodies.

There is one more text for which I have been hoping to find a melody - Eili R'fa'eini V'eirafei

This text is by none other than Rabbi Yehudah Halevy (c. 1075-1141), my favorite of the great Sephardic poets.
For more info on Yehudah Halevy - check his wikipedia article.

Eili R'fa'eini V'eirafei

בשתותו סם רפואה
"He said this when he drank his medicine"

אֵלִי רְפָאֵנִי וְאֵרָפֵא אַל יֶחֱרֶה אַפָּךְ וְאֶסָּפֶה
סַמִּי וּמֶרְקָחִי לְךָ בֵּין טוֹב בֵּין רָע וּבֵין חָזָק וּבֵין רָפֶה
אַתָּה אֲשֶׁר תִּבְחַר וְלֹא אֲנִי עַל דַּעְתְּךָ הָרָע וְהַיָּפֶה
לֹא עַל רְפוּאָתִי אֲנִי נִסְמָךְ רַק אֶל רְפוּאָתְךָ אֲנִי צוֹפֶה

My God, heal me and I will be healed.
Don't let the fire of Your anger consume me.
My drugs and medications are Yours - whether good
or bad. Whether strong or weak.
You are the one who chooses, not I.
You know what is good, and what is beautiful.
I do not rely on my own medicine;
I hope only for Your healing power.

Franz Rosenzweig commented that, as a physician, Halevy knew intimately the powers of human medicine. He knew that sometimes when a person is sick a simple remedy can bring a complete healing - and he had no superstition about "those doctors and their crazy ideas. He chose to believe, as a doctor, that the true source of healing is God.

Somehow today this melody came to me for this poem.

Download David Berger - Eili R'fa'eini V'eirafei

Happy Chanukah!
The Chazzan

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