When we studied Tractate Sotah we saw that there is a mishnah which gives a list of all the ritual recitations which need not necessarily be recited in Hebrew, but which may be recited in any language. Among them was Birkhat ha-Mazon
. You can find the original explanation in Sotah 071
, explanation # 11.
The Gemara [Sotah 33a
] attributes the fact that Birkhat ha-Mazon
may be recited in any language to the fact that when the Torah introduces this mitzvah
it does so in what appeared to the sages to be general terms:
But surely, this is just a peg upon which to hang the much more subtil idea that gratitude to God for having provided for our sustenance should come from the heart, and this can only be guaranteed if we can express our gratitude in the language most convenient to us.
But even if Birkhat ha-Mazon was originally intended to be a kind of spontaneous expression of gratitude, it gradually became ritualized. By the time we reach the 17th century we find a very famous posek making only a grudging admission that Birkhat ha-Mazon may actually be recited in any language, and emphasizing that Hebrew is much to be preferred. Rabbi Yo'el ben Shemu'el Yaffé Sirkes [1561-1640], in his commentary on the Tur, Bayit Ĥadash, writes
In our last shiur I posted a message from Yehuda Wiesen concerning recordings of zemirot
that are available online. After noting a couple of items that I had found I added: "If anyone can suggest more sites that fit the parameters set by Yehuda please let me know." Many more people responded to this request than I ever expected!
In response to Yehuda's query about audio recordings of zemirot, two sites come to mind:
has recordings of 5 zemirot, plus benching and kiddush. Multiple versions available for most of the songs. Piyut.org.il
has a phenomenal array of recordings, from various Jewish communal traditions. There are more than 20 recordings of Yah Ribon alone, and the site provides full texts in Hebrew, as well as commentary. For Shabbat songs, go directly to this page
and Lawrence Charap
recommend Virtual Cantor too. And Elro'i Sadeh
enthusiastically supports the recommendation of Piyut.org.il.
Recordings from USYers and Cantor Jeffrey Shiovitz
and Friday night melodies
. He also provides a link to Camp Sdei Chemed international, which has put out two albums of Shabbat zemirot. He explains that each album has 2-5 versions of each zemer. They're available through www.mostlymusic.com
and are very inexpensive. I would also mention a terrific CD by Rahel Jaskow called "Day of Rest"
which has many lovely a capella renditions of traditional zemirot tunes - available for purchase at http://cdbaby.com/cd/rahel
or from iTunes. There are a number of other sources scattered here and there on the Internet, but these are the best that I've found.
is kind enough to make Yehuda a direct offer:
If Yehuda would like, I can make recordings of the zemirot you discussed (the ones that are not included on "Siddur Audio" - Ki Eshm'ra Shabbat, Baruch Kel Elyon, etc). I can put these in MP3 format and either send them to Yehuda or host them briefly on my own site.
We have two disks that have great recordings of the traditional Shabbat z'mirot: "Zemirot From My Father's House" by Cantor Gadi Elon and "The Zimirot-Sing-Along" (with accompanying book of words and musical notations) put out by Tara Music. These disks include Yedid Nefesh, Tzur Mishelo, Dror Yikra, Ki Eshmerah Shabbat, Baruch El Elyon, Yom Zeh L'Yisrael, Yom Shabbaton, Yah Ribbon, Yom Zeh Mechubad and many others.
Please note that I have not tested any of the above links.
Chanukah Samé'aĥ to everybody!