Yedid Nefesh

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Yedid Nefesh (Hebrew: יְדִיד נֶפֶש y’did nefesh) is the title of a piyyut. It is usually sung on the Jewish Sabbath.

Traditions and origin[edit]

Some sing it between Minchah (afternoon prayer) of Friday and the beginning of Kabbalat Shabbat (literally: receiving or greeting the Sabbath—a collection of psalms usually sung to welcome in the Shabbat queen, as it were, the restful contentment that descends from above during nightfall on Friday).

It is sung by many Jews during Seudah Shlishit (the third meal on Shabbat; the first is on Friday night, the second on Saturday lunch, and the third on Saturday before nightfall).

Many Chassidim say or sing it every morning before beginning to the Pesukei dezimra section of Shacharis in order to arouse their love of Hashem in preparation for the praises of Pesukei d'Zimra.

This beautiful poem is commonly attributed to the sixteenth century kabbalist, Rabbi Elazar ben Moshe Azikri (1533-1600), who first published it in Sefer Charedim (published in Venice 1601), but Azikri did not claim authorship of it and there have been other suggested authors (e.g. Judah Halevi, or Israel Nagara). The Hebrew Manuscripts at Cambridge University Libraries by Stefan C. Reif (1997, page 93) refers to an appearance of Yedid Nefesh in the Commentary On the Book of Numbers by Samuel ben David ben Solomon, a manuscript dated to about 1438—long before Azikri's birth. Azikri's philosophy centred around the intense love one must feel for God, a theme that is evident in this piyyut (see references). The first letters of each of the four verses make up the four letter name of God, known in English as the tetragrammaton.

Text[edit]

The words are as follows:[citation needed]

Transliteration English translation Original Hebrew

Verse 1

Yedid Nefesh av harachaman, Beloved of the soul, Compassionate Father, ידיד נפש אב הרחמן
meshoch avdechah el retzonechah, draw Your servant to Your Will; משוך עבדך אל רצונך
ya'arutz avdechah kmo ayal, then Your servant will hurry like a hart ירוץ עבדך כמו איל
yishtachave el mul hadarecha, to bow before Your majesty; ישתחוה אל מול הדרך
ye-erav lo yedidotecha, to him Your friendship will be sweeter יערב לו ידידותיך
minofet tzuf v'chol ta-am. than the dripping of the honeycomb and any taste. מנפת צוף וכל טעם

Verse 2

Hadur na-e ziv ha-ōlom, Majestic, Beautiful, Radiance of the universe, הדור נאה זיו העולם
nafshi cholat ahavatecha, my soul pines [lit: is sick for] for your love. נפשי חולת אהבתך
ana el na r'fa na lah, Please, O God, heal her now אנא אל נא רפא נא לה
b'harot lah noam zivecha, by showing her the pleasantness of Your radiance; בהראות לה נעם זיוך
az teet-chazeik v'titrapei, then she will be strengthened and healed, אז תתחזק ותתרפא
v'hayta lah simchat olam and eternal gladness will be hers. והיתה לה שמחת עולם

Verse 3

Vatik yehemu na rachamecha, Enduring One, may Your mercy be aroused ותיק יהמו נא רחמיך
v'chuso na al bein ahuvecha, and please take pity on the son of Your beloved, וחוסה נא על בן אהובך
ki ze kama nichsof nichsafti, because it is so very long that I have yearned intensely כי זה כמה נכסף נכספתי
lir'ot m'heiro b'tiferet uzecha, to see speedily the splendour of Your strength; לראת מהרה בתפארת עזך
eile chamdah libi, only these my heart desired, אלה חמדה לבי
v'chuso na v'al tit-alom. so please take pity and do not conceal Yourself וחוסה נא ואל תתעלם

Verse 4

Higalei na ufros chavivi alai, Please, my Beloved, reveal Yourself and spread upon me הגלה נא ופרש חביבי עלי
et sukat shlomecha, the shelter of Your peace; את סכת שלומך
ta-ir eretz mich'vodecha, illuminate the Earth with Your glory, תאיר ארץ מכבודך
nagila v'nism'cha bach. that we may rejoice and be glad with You; נגילה ונשמחה בך
Maheir ehov ki va mo-ed, hasten, show love, for the time has come, מהר אהוב כי בא מועד
v'chaneinu kimei olom. and show us grace as in days of old. וחננו כימי עולם

Notes on the text[edit]

The text above is the "conventional" text appearing in most Ashkenaz liturgies (including the ArtScroll siddur) down to our day. There have been, over the centuries, many variants in different published prayerbooks. The conventional text differs from the text first printed in 1601, and both the conventional and the 1601 texts differed from Azikri's manuscript (both the manuscript and the 1601 printing were in unpointed Hebrew).

Verse 3, line 2: בּן אוֹהבך   bein ahuvecha, translated here as "the son of Your beloved" is, in other translations of the same text, rendered as "your beloved son" (or child) or "your loving son". Some Sefardic/Mizrahi prayerbooks rewrite this phrase as עם אהוּבך   am ahuvach, "your beloved people" (e.g. The Orot Sephardic Shabbat Siddur, ed by Rabbi Eliezer Toledano (1995) p. 571). But the first printing and Azikri's manuscript both have bein ahuvecha.

Rabbi Azikri's manuscript of this song (reproduced in Chwat) varies in several spots from the conventional text. The Hebrew and English text used in the Koren Sacks Siddur (2009) followed this manuscript -- although the Authorised Daily Prayer Book (4th ed. 2006, pages 576-577) translated and annotated by the same Rabbi Jonathan Sacks used the conventional printed text. The significant changes include: Verse 2, line 6, שׁפחת shifchas (your maidservant) replacing simchas (gladness, joy), so the line would read "She will be your maidservant for eternity." (This was also the reading in the 1601 first publication.)

Verse 3, line 4, both the manuscript and first printing omit m'heirah (speedily), but in line 6 חוּשׁה chushah (hasten) in the manuscript and 1601 publication was replaced in the later printings by v'chusah (take pity).

Verse 3, line 5, both the manuscript and the 1601 printing had אנא אלי Ana Eli instead of Eileh, so the line changes from "These are my heart's desire" to "Please, My God, [You are] my heart's desire". So the manuscript says, for verse 3 lines 4 & 5, "O, my Lord, [You who are] my heart's desire, hurry please." But the conventional printings (such as ArtScroll) have it, "My heart desired only these, so please have pity."

The 1601 printing indicated that the last line of each verse (in the printing above, the fifth and sixth lines of each verse) was to be repeated. Jacobson mentions an earlier (apparently circa 1870) prayerbook that similarly attempted to restore the text according to the 1601 printing, which met with such condemnation (mostly over the substitution of "maidservant" for "gladness", though both the 1601 printing and Azikri's manuscript support this) from influential Hasidic rabbis that the editor was forced to print replacement pages with the conventional (if erroneous) text.[1]

Azikri's handwritten manuscript of this poem was discovered (by the great scholar Meir Benayahu) in the library of Jewish Theological Seminary of America in the mid-20th century. As a result the Siddur Rinat Yisrael (Ashkenaz ed. by Rabbi Shlomo Tal, 1977) p. 189 had the same Hebrew text as Koren-Sacks, namely the text of the handwritten original. In a subsequent commentary to his prayerbook, Rabbi Tal published a photocopy of that handwritten original (Tal, Ha-Siddur Be-histalsheluto, 1984, page 68). Tal also noted that a few earlier prayerbooks (Livorno 1910 and Jerusalem 1953) also printed versions that restored "maidservant" from the 1601 edition.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Silverman, Morris, Further Comments on the Text of the Siddur, Journal of Jewish Music & Liturgy, vol. 13 (1991-1992) page 39, which favors "maidservant", and "Those are my heart's desires".

External links[edit]

Recordings[edit]