Jewish songs and meaning

Jewish Songs, Lyrics and Their Meaning

Jewish music is mostly based on words taken from the Jewish scriptures. Usually, it will be one verse. There is a meditative element in Jewish songs because of the repetition of the same sentence over and over again, similar to the mantras of Hindu and Buddhist music

Song Lyrics in English and Hebrew

Nafshi Cholat A’Havatech’a, 

Ana El Na Refa Na La, 

Be’Har’Ot  La No’am Zivech’a

נפשי חולת אהבתך 

אנא אל נא רפא נא לה

בהראות לה נועם זיוך 

my soul pines [lit: is sick for] for your love.

Please, O God, heal her now

By showing her the pleasantness of Your radiance

Lyrics source

The lyrics are taken from the song Yedid Nefesh (Friend of the Soul), probably written in the middle of the fifteenth century. The song appears in the prayer book and is sung in the synagogue every Friday evening, before the Shabbat prayer.

The meaning of the lyrics

The words that appear in this song (which are a small part of the full song: Yedid Nefesh) express a love for God and great spiritual closeness. The worshiper seeks complete healing for someone and these specific words are taken from Moses’ prayer for his sister Miriam after she was punished by God and fell ill. The Medicine is spiritual healing, as he is asking God to heal her through his lightץ 

Motty Steinmetz - Haben Yakir Li

Song Lyrics in English and Hebrew

Haben yakir li Efrayim, 

Im yeled sha’ashu’im— Ki-midei dabri bo,

zachor ezkerenu od

Al-ken, hamu mei’ai lo Rachem arachamenu ne’um Hashem

הֲבֵן יַקִּיר לִי הֲבֵן יַקִּיר לִי אֶפְרַיִם,

אִם יֶלֶד שַׁעֲשֻׁעִים— כִּי-מִדֵּי דַבְּרִי בּו,ֹ

זָכֹר אֶזְכְּרֶנּוּ עוֹד;

עַל-כֵּן, הָמוּ מֵעַי לוֹ— רַחֵם אֲרַחֲמֶנּוּ, נְאֻם-ה‘.

Is Ephraim a darling son unto Me

Is he a child that is dandled For as often as I speak of him,

I do earnestly remember him still

Therefore My heart yearneth for him I will surely have compassion upon him saith the LORD

Lyrics source

The source of the lyrics is Jeremiah 31:20

The meaning of the lyrics

Ephraim was the son of Joseph and Jacob’s grandson, one of the three fathers of the Jewish people.
In this verse, the name Ephraim refers to the whole people of Israel. God treats the people of Israel as a father treats his son, even when he is angry with him for behaving inappropriately. God expresses love, longing, and mercy towards Israel’s people and promises always to remember them.

Shira Choir - Im Hashem Lo Yivneh Bayis

Song Lyrics in English and Hebrew

E’m Ha’shem Lo Yivne Ba’yit

Shav A’mlu Bonav 

E’m Hashem Lo Yi’shmor Yi’r

Shav Shoked Shomer

אִם־יְהוָה׀ לֹא־יִבְנֶה בַיִת 

שָׁוְא עָמְלוּ בוֹנָיו בּוֹ

אִם־יְהוָה לֹא־יִשְׁמָר־עִיר 

שָׁוְא׀ שָׁקַד שׁוֹמֵר:

Except the LORD build the house,

they labour in vain that build it:

except the LORD keep the city,

the watchman waketh but in vain.

Lyrics source

The source of the lyrics is Psalms 127:1

The meaning of the lyrics

According to the Jewish faith, everything can happen only according to the will of God. Humans are commanded to do things, but if God does not want things to happen, they will not happen.

The profound meaning of the verse is the modesty and recognition of the limits of human power, against the perception of the power of human beings who think they can do anything and nothing will stop them. The verse says, even if a person thinks he can build a big house or build a strong army if God does not want it to happen, your work is in vain.

Beri Weber - Rabi Shimon

Song Lyrics in English and Hebrew

Rabi Shimon Ben Yochai Omer
Rabi Shimon Ben Yochai Omer
Chas Chas Chas Veshalom Shetishtakech Torah
Torah Torah M’yisroel

Ki Loi Sishuchach Mipi Zaroi
Ki Lo Sishachach Mipi Zaro
Ki Loi Loi Loi,  Loi Sishachach
Torah Torah M’yisroel

Bizchus Hataneh Elokei Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai
Rabi Shimon Rabi Shimob
Bizchus Hataneh Elokei Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai
Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai

רבי שמעון בן יוחאי אומר
רבי שמעון בן יוחאי אומר
חס חס חס ושלום שתשתכח תורה
תורה תורה מישראל

כי לא תשכח מפי זרעו
כי לא תשכח מפי זרעו
כי לא לא לא,  לא תשכח
תורה תורה מישראל

בזכות התנא אלוקי רבי שמעון בר יוחאי
רבי שמעון רבי שמעון
בזכות התנא אלוקי רבי שמעון בר יוחאי
רבי שמעון בר יוחאי

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai says
Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai says
God bless you and peace be upon you that you forget Torah
Torah Torah from Israel

For thou shalt not forget the mouth of his seed
For thou shalt not forget the mouth of his seed
Because no no no, do not forget
Torah Torah from Israel

Thanks to the Tanna Gd Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai
Rabbi Shimon Rabbi Shimon
Thanks to the Tanna Gd Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

Lyrics source

The source of the lyrics is Deuteronomy 31:21.

The meaning of the lyrics

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai operated in the second century AD and became one of the most important rabbis in Jewish history. His name appears many times in the Mishnah and the Talmud. He is considered the father of Kabbalah (although some disagree).

His figure occupies a central place in the Jewish holiday events Lag B’Omer, celebrated with hundreds of thousands of people at his tomb in Meron in the Upper Galilee (northern Israel). The song expresses the concern that the Torah will be forgotten, and the answer to this concern is the prophecy in Deuteronomy: “For thou shalt not forget the mouth of his seed.”

Ari Reich and Neranena Choir - Nichsefu

Song Lyrics in English and Hebrew

Nichsefa Ve’gam Calta, Nafshi Le’Hatzrot Ha’shem

Libi Hu’vesari Yeranenu El El-Chai

:נִכְסְפָה וְגַם-כָּלְתָה, נַפְשִׁי לְחַצְרוֹת יְהוָה

לִבִּי וּבְשָׂרִי יְרַנְּנוּ, אֶל אֵל-חָי.


My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.

Lyrics source

The source of the lyrics is Psalms 84:2

The meaning of the lyrics

The verse is taken from Psalms and expresses intense soul longing and King David’s deep longing for spiritual connection with God. His whole body is happy towards God. The connection with God encompasses his whole being and existence, both mind and body, he feels it fills the whole of himself. 

Motty Steinmetz and Shira Choir - Ke'Ayal Ta'arog

Song Lyrics in English and Hebrew

Ke’Ayal Ta’arog Al Afikei Myim – Ken Nafshi Ta’arog Elei’cha Elohim (God). 

Tsam’Aa Nafshi, Le’Elohim – Le’El Chai

Matiy Avo, Ve’Ere’e Pnei Elohim

ב  כְּאַיָּל, תַּעֲרֹג עַל-אֲפִיקֵי-מָיִם – כֵּן נַפְשִׁי תַעֲרֹג אֵלֶיךָ אֱלֹהִים.
ג  צָמְאָה נַפְשִׁי, לֵאלֹהִים – לְאֵל חָי:
מָתַי אָבוֹא; וְאֵרָאֶה, פְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים.

2. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.

3. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: 
‘When shall I come and appear before God?’

Lyrics source

The source of the lyrics is Psalms 42:2-3

The meaning of the lyrics

As in other verses, King David expresses a longing for God. Like a thirsty deer who longs to reach a source of water that quenches his thirst, so the soul longs for you God. My soul is thirsty for God, when can I come and see Him?

Ari Reich - Nichsefu

Song Lyrics in English and Hebrew

Yi’yu Le’Ratzon Imrei Pi Ve’Hegyon Libi Lefaneicha 

Ha’shem Tzuri Ve’Goali

A’se Lema’an Shmeicha

A’se Lema’an Yemineicha 

A’se Lema’an Totateicha 

A’se Lema’an Kedushateicha 

יִהְיוּ לְרָצוֹן אִמְרֵי פִי וְהֶגְיוֹן לִבִּי לְפָנֶיךָ

יְהוָה צוּרִי וְגֹאֲלִי

,עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן שְׁמֶךָ

,עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן יְמִינֶךָ

,עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן תּוֹרָתֶךָ,

.עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן קְדֻשָּׁתֶךָ

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight,

O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Do for your name’s,

Do for your right hand,

Do for your Torah,

Do for your holiness. 

Lyrics source

The source of the lyrics is morning prayer and a verse in Psalms 19:14

The meaning of the lyrics

Humans have, naturally, thoughts and desires that are not good. Sometimes people think badly of other people; sometimes, they want to do bad deeds. King David asks God for his (David’s) thoughts and desires to be moral; that is, it is much more than asking for his deeds to be good and moral. It is a request for thoughts and desires that are much harder for us as human beings to control.

Idan Yaniv - Shalom Aleichem

Song Lyrics in English and Hebrew

Shalom A’leichem Mal’Achei Ha’Sharet Mal’Achei Elyon

Mi’Melech Malchei Ha’Melachim Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu

שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת מַלְאֲכֵי עֶלְיוֹן

מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

Peace be unto you, ye ministeri​​​​ng Angels, Angels of the
most High, ye that come from the Supreme King of Kings,
the Holy One, blessed be He.


Lyrics source

Not clear.

The meaning of the lyrics

Shalom Aleichem is an ancient and anonymous piyyut that originated in the 17th century and sung since then on every Shabbat evening, in all the Jewish communities worldwide, on Shabbat night.

According to Jewish tradition, after the Shabbat evening prayer, two guardian angels accompany the person as he leaves the synagogue to his house. The worshipers who leave the synagogue return to their home and there the family members greet the angels in peace, and ask them to greet their home in peace.

Shira Choir - El Hanaar Hazeh

Song Lyrics in English and Hebrew

El Ha’Na’ar Ha’ze Hit’Palalti Va’Yiten Hashem Et She’elati Asher Sha’alti Me’Yimo. 

Ve’Emshoch Le’Hitpalel L’eolmei Ad Ani Ha’Yima Yitchem Le’Olmei Ad 

אֶל הַנַעַר הַזֶה הִתְפַּלָלְתִּי וַיִתֵּן הַשֵׁם לִי אֶת שְׁאֵלָתִי אֲשֶׁר שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵעִמוֹ. וְאֶמְשׁוֹךְ לְהִתְפַּלֵל לְעוֹלְמֵי עַד אֲנִי הַאִמַא אִתְּכֶם לְעוֹלְמֵי עַד.

For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him

Lyrics source

The source of the lyrics is morning prayer and a verse in 1 Samuel 1:27

The meaning of the lyrics

The verse is part of Hannah’s story, barren and went to pray to God in Shiloh (an ancient Jewish settlement in Samaria) where the Mishkan stood even before the first Temple was built. Ali HaCohen saw her praying and crying, and after telling him about her distress, he asked her to return home and assured her that she would get what she asked for.

Indeed, Hannah accepted her request, and a son was born to her, whom she devoted to God. Her son grew up to be the prophet Samuel, one of the most famous leaders in the Bible and the one who elected Saul and David to the throne.

In the context of the song, the words refer to God’s good appreciation for the child he gave us; this is the child they asked God for.

Hillel Band - Ana Be'koach

Song Lyrics in English and Hebrew

Ana e’Koach G’dulta Ye’mincha Tatir Tzerura

Kabel Rinat A’mcha Sag’venu Ta’harenu Nora

Na Gibor Dorshei Yi’Chudcha Ke’Bavat Shamrem 

Barchem Taharem Rahamei Tzidkatcha Tamid Gamelm 

Chasin Kadosh Berov Tuvcha Nahel A’datecha 

Yahid Ge;ee Le’Amecha P’ne Zochrei Kedushatecha

Shava’tenu Kabel Hu’Shma Tza’akateinu Yode’a Ta’Alumot 

אָנָּא בְּכֹחַ גְּדֻלַּת יְמִינְךָ תַּתִּיר צְרוּרָה.

קַבֵּל רִנַּת עַמְּךָ שַׂגְּבֵנוּ טַהֲרֵנוּ נוֹרָא.

נָא גִבּוֹר דּוֹרְשֵׁי יִחוּדְךָ כְּבָבַת שָׁמְרֵם.

בָּרְכֵם טַהֲרֵם רַחֲמֵם צִדְקָתְךָ תָּמִיד גָּמְלֵם.

חֲסִין קָדוֹשׁ בְּרוֹב טוּבְךָ נַהֵל עֲדָתֶךָ.

יָחִיד גֵּאֶה לְעַמְּךָ פְּנֵה זוֹכְרֵי קְדֻשָּׁתֶךָ.

שַׁוְעָתֵנוּ קַבֵּל וּשְׁמַע צַעֲקָתֵנוּ יוֹדֵעַ תַּעֲלוּמוֹת.

By the great power of Your right hand

O set the captive free Revered God,

accept Your people’s prayer Strengthen us,

cleanse us Almighty God,

guard as the apple of the eye those who seek you Bless them,

cleanse them, take pity upon them;

ever grant them Your truth Mighty,

holy God, in Your abundant grace, guide Your people Exalted God,

turn to Your people who proclaim

Your holiness Accept our prayer,

hear our cry, You who knows secret thoughts

Blessed be the name of His glorious majesty forever and ever

Lyrics source

The composition of the prayer “Ana Be’Koach” is attributed to the Tanna of Rabbi Nachonia Ben Hakneh, to whom the Sefer HaKanah is also attributed, one of the earliest Kabbalah books (1st century CE).

The meaning of the lyrics

The lyrics were written about two thousand years ago and are a prayer to God to bring the people of Israel back from exile, receive their prayers, and keep the people of Israel and lead them.

But apart from interpreting the lyrics of the song according to their direct meaning, the song has mystical Kabbalistic meanings. The lyrics allow for a connection to the higher worlds, a connection to dimensions with no limit to abundance, wisdom, and life force. It is a connection that allows for change, growth, and correction of the soul.

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