Thursday, September 01, 2005
Don't know how well these are going to show up here... but this is series of photos I took several mornings ago at about 6:30 - 7 am. There are wild vines growing on the rusted and falling down fence on the east side of our property and the sun had risen just enough to shine brilliantly through all the trees, just enough to illuminate the hundreds of tiny ants scurrying back and forth along the top wire, already going about their morning work.
Looking at these ants, hearing the birds sing in the trees and flutter about, and everything around them continuing their daily instinct-driven routines, while so much in our human consciousness is ever-changing, made me mindful of one of my favorite prayers/hymns, which I will now share in a very uncharacteristic move (I don't usually do this sort of thing).
It is from Exodus 15:11... In transliterated Hebrew, the text says: "Mi chamocha, ba'elim, HaShem? Mi chamocha, nedar bakodesh, nora tehilot, osei feleh?" Which literally translates, almost word for word, as, "Who is like You, among the gods, HaShem? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?"
(::putting on religious scholar's cap:: Now, to note, it does not actually say "HaShem." "HaShem" means "The Name"... meaning the technical name of G-d, which He tells Moses in the cave of the burning bush. In ancient times, this name would actually have been spoken, especially in the southern kingdom of Judah after the break-up of the Davidic kingdom (as opposed to the northern kingdom of Israel, where the word "Elohim" was much more likely to be used), but since at least the early Medieval period, there has been a taboo against uttering His name because it is considered too holy. Since at least that time, whenever it is spelled out in Hebrew texts, the word "Adonai" (Lord) is spoken or sung in place of the name, and more and more often when it is written, such as here, "HaShem" is used to indicate to the reader what the text *really* says without literally spelling it out. In most Bible translations, in fact, I daresay *all* English translations, anytime you see "Lord" in the text, the actual Hebrew word that was there was G-d's actual name. And anytime "G-d" is in the translation, the word was "Elohim." This is one way to be able to tell which source the passage comes from, or which sources it was compiled from if it was two accounts of the same event that were later combined. Those using "HaShem" were of the southern kingdom, and supported the Davidic monarchy. All passages that make David and his descendants look good and Saul look *really* bad were probably written in Judah. Conversely, all passages using "Elohim" were written in the northern kingdom, where the political climate was radically against the Davidic monarchy... The passages from these sources that mention them, tend to paint David and the monarchy in general as having been a bad experiment gone horribly awry and Saul or the time of the Judges was much preferred. There are other more complicated tells in the text that indicate who one is dealing with, but that's already getting to be a topic unto itself, so I'll save the Sunday school lesson for another time. I also tend to upset people with this kind of talk because I take all the religious mystery out of it... Sorry...)
It's a very pretty hymn when sung, but I can't find the melody we use in our synagogue anywhere on the 'net. In all the ones that I have found, the tempo is too slow and some of the words are much more drawn out. It is entirely possible that our cantor wrote the melody we use herself. She has done that for several other well-known hymns to the best of my knowledge.