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23 December, 2007

Evening’s roses: erev shel shoshanim

Filed under: Hebrew,Music,Poetry by Joel @ 5:41 pm, 23 December 2007.

Another upcoming wedding, another song. Erev shel shoshanim is a classic. Unfortunately, the first few results for translations of its lyrics are far too literal and hardly able to be sung to its beautiful tune.

The original song also approximately rhymes the 2nd and 4th line of each of its three stanzas, which none of those translations do. So here is my go at a singable translation of Erev Shel Shoshanim:

Evening of roses
Let’s go out among the trees
Spices, perfumes, sweetest myrrh
Furnish beneath your knees

Slowly the nighttime falls
A rose-scented wind above
I whisper to you, my love, a song
Softly a song of love

At dawn, a cooing dove
Your hair’s filled with moisture’s beads
Your lips to the morning are a rose
The rose that I pick for me

Erev shel shoshanim
Netze na el habustan
Mor besamim ulevona
Leraglech miftan

Layla yored le’at
Veruach shoshan noshva
Hava elchash lakh shir balat
Zemer shel ahava

Shachar homa yona
Roshech malei telalim
Pikh el haboker shoshana
Ektefeinu li

ערב של שושנים
נצא נא אל הבוסתן
מור בשמים ולבונה
לרגלך מפתן

לילה יורד לאט
ורוח שושן נושבה
הבה אלחש לך שיר בלאט
זמר של אהבה

שחר הומה יונה
ראשך מלא טללים
פיך אל הבוקר שושנה
אקטפנו לי

20 December, 2007

India and Ibn Ezra

Filed under: Society and culture,Tanakh by Joel @ 12:16 am, 20 December 2007.

It would seem from a few of his comments that Ibn Ezra had a fascination for the Hindus and their culture.

For instance, the hand-under-thigh oath that we see between Eliezer (?) and Abraham, and between Joseph and Jacob. Rashi takes this practice as akin to swearing on a bible: Eliezer and Joseph swore on the place of circumcision. Ibn Ezra’s comment is not clear on whether “thigh” is mere euphemism as Rashi takes it, but claims that:

It was the law (custom?) in those days for a man to put his hand under the thigh of authority … as if to say: behold, my hand is under your authority to do your will. And this is still the law in India.

(more…)

11 December, 2007

Enough weddings?!

Filed under: General by Joel @ 9:38 pm, 11 December 2007.

I just came back from hosting a post-wedding “sheva berachot” meal for Kim and David who got married on Sunday. This is two weeks after the wedding of other good friends, Mike and Lior. This coming weekend, I have Josef and Abigail, and Ryan and Alla will finish off the month. Being Jewish weddings, they take up a whole lot more time than just the weddings themselves: there’s a day or two before, and a week after, that have related celebrations. So it’s really been taking up a lot of my time lately. My weeks have been almost saturated in work and weddings.

Not to mention my brother busy with his own wedding to Shimrit, which is happening in February in Israel. He seems to be on top of things, though.

And just when I thought I’d had enough weddings for one season, I found a voicemail on my phone. My hosts from the High Holidays in Surfers Paradise (Shai and Sandra) will be having a wedding too, at almost-last-minute notice. At the time I stayed with them, Sandra was completing her conversion to Judaism. So now with that all done, there is a Jewish wedding to be had (apart from the civil one they were already bound by!), and it happens to fall on the one weekend in December that wasn’t already taken by someone else’s nuptials.

It’s tiring. But I love it. What can I say? Mazal Tov to you all!

6 December, 2007

My dreidel out of clay

Filed under: Judaism by Joel @ 10:37 pm, 6 December 2007.

It is well known that the letters on the dreidel stand for נס גדול היה שם (“a great miracle happened there”, nes gadol hayah sham). One might suppose from what they tell you in school that this phrase is why those particular letters adorn the spinning top.

It’s less well known that the letters originally stood for Yiddish words related to the game that you play with the dreidel:

  • נ for nisht – take nothing
  • ג for gantze – take it all
  • ה for halb – take half
  • ש for shtel – put one in

Indeed, knowing Yiddish would make learning the rules of the game a whole lot easier.

Just like Purim, the main symbol of Chanukah has no apparent connection to the festival itself (except for involving lots of fun). Both have Yiddish origins that were tinkered with to create a connection to the festival they became associated with.

Or do you have other suggestions? What does gambling have to do with the Maccabees and oily miracles?

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