El Nora Alila
El Nora Alila (Hebrew: אֵל נוֹרָא עֲלִילָה), also transliterated as Ayl Nora Alilah, is a piyyut (liturgical poem) that begins the Ne'ilah service at the conclusion of Yom Kippur. The piyyut is recited as part of the Sephardic and Mizrahi liturgy, and has been adopted by some Ashkenazic communities.
The English translation offered below is a lyric rendering, reproducing a rhyme similar to the Hebrew. A more literal translation makes the title and recurring line, "God of awesome deeds". It consists of eight stanzas, each stanza consisting of four lines of five syllables to the line. Each line (in Hebrew) has three words and the fourth line is always two words, "as Thy gates are closed at night" – the gates being shut are presumably those of Heaven's gates for receiving prayers of repentance (modelled after the gates of the Temple, Ezekiel 46:2), and the hymn is one last impassioned plea for Divine pardon in the last minutes of the Day of Atonement. The initial letters of the first six stanzas of the piyyut spell out משה חזק, "Moses, may he be strong", in reference to the piyyut's author Moses ibn Ezra (12th century Spain).
|Hebrew text||Transliteration||Interpretive Rhyming English|
אֵל נוֹרָא עֲלִילָה, אֵל נוֹרָא עֲלִילָה,
מְתֵי מִסְפָּר קְרוּאִים, לְךָ עַיִן נוֹשְׂאִים,
שׁוֹפְכִים לְךָ נַפְשָׁם, מְחֵה פִּשְׁעָם וְכַחְשַׁם,
הֱיֵה לָהֶם לְסִתְרָה, וְהַצִילֵם מִמְּאֵרָה,
חוֹן אוֹתָם וְרַחֵם, וְכָל לוֹחֵץ וְלוֹחֵם,
זְכֹר צִדְקַת אֲבִיהֶם, וְחַדֵּשׁ אֶת יְמֵיהֶם,
קְרָא נָּא שְׁנַת רָצוֹן, וְהָשֵׁב שְׁאָר הַצֹּאן,
תִּזְכּוּ לְשָׁנִים רַבּוֹת, הַבָּנִים וְהָאָבוֹת,
מִיכָאֵל שַׂר יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֵלִיָּהוּ וְגַבְרִיאֵל,
El nora alila, El nora alila,
M'tei mis'par k'ru'im, l'cha ayin nos'im,
Shof'chim l'cha naf'sham, m'cheh pish'am ve-chach'sham,
Heyeh lahem l'sit'ra, ve-hatzilem mi-m'era,
Chon otam ve-rachem, ve-chol lochetz ve-lochem,
Z'chor tzid'kat avihem, ve-chadesh et y'meihem,
K'ra na sh'nat ratzon, ve-hashev sh'ar ha-tzon,
Tiz'ku l'shanim rabot, ha-banim ve-ha-avot,
Micha'el sar yis'rael, eliyahu ve-gav'ri'el,
We who few have been from yore, Raise our eyes to heaven's height,
Pouring out our soul we pray That the sentence Thou will write
God, our refuge strong and sure, Rescue us from dreadful plight;
Grant us favor, show us grace; But of all who wrest the right
Generations of our sires Strong in faith walked in Thy light.
Gather Judah's scattered flock Unto Zion's rebuilt site.
May we all, both old and young, Look for gladness and delight
El Nora Alila - Iraq, Baghdad version, Performers: Yaakov Huri and a group, recorded by: Edith Gerson-Kiwi in Jerusalem 1958
El Nora Alila - Greek Version, Greece, Larissa Performer: Itzhak Meizan Recorded by: Amnon Shiloah In Larissa, 1970.
The melody for El Nora Alila is generally sprightly, as is much of the Ne'ilah service, deliberately, coming at the end of a 25-hour fast, when the congregants are probably feeling fatigue and weakness.
- Nulman, Macy; Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer (1993, NJ, Jason Aronson), s.v. Ayl Nora Alilah, page 67.
- E.g., The Orot Sephardic Yom Kippur Mahazor (1997, NJ) page 986; Nulman, Macy, Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer (1993, NJ, Jason Aronson), s.v. Ayl Nora Alilah, page 67.
- E.g., Birnbaum, Philip, High Holyday Prayer Book (1951, NY, Hebrew Publ'g Co.) page 975; Silverman, Morris, High Holiday Prayerbook (2nd ed. 1951, Hartford, Prayer Book Press) page 458; also adopted into American Reform liturgy as early as David Einhorn's Olath Tamid in 1858, the American Reform mahzor, Gates of Repentance: The New Union Prayer Book for the Days of Awe (1978, NY, Central Conference of American Rabbis) page 508 – however, unlike the Sephardic ritual, not in the opening prayers of the Ne'ilah service; but not included in the Orthodox mahzorim by Adler, by ArtScroll, or by Rinat Yisroel.
- Birnbaum, Philip, High Holyday Prayer Book (1951, NY, Hebrew Publ'g Co.) page 975.
- Nulman, Macy, Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer (1993, NJ, Jason Aronson), s.v. Ayl Nora Alilah, page 67. This is Nulman's English rendering, but see the comments attached to the verses, below.
- de Sola Pool, Rabbi David (1931). Yom Kippur Liturgy. Retrieved 3 Feb 2013., a different lyric translation appears in The High Holyday Prayer Book, transl. and ed. by Ben Zion Bokser (1959, NY, Hebrew Pub'g Co.) page 504.
- Literally, "God of awesome deeds" as in Psalm 66:5, "Go and see the works of God, He is awesome in deeds [נורא עלילה] toward mankind."
- This last phrase literally means "at the very moment [e.g., Daniel 4:30 & 5:5] of locking shut [e.g., Judges 24:3, Second Samuel 13:17 & 18 (of either gates or doors)]". This emphasizes the theme of the Ne'ilah service, of the last possible moments for expressing repentance. The reference may be to the image, found in the Talmud and elsewhere in the Neilah service, of a heavenly "gate of prayer" by which (when it is open) the pleas of mortals may reach God, or the image, for example in Unetanneh Tokef , that the books of God's decrees are written on Rosh Hashana and then locked away in Heaven and no longer capable of being revised when Yom Kippur concludes. The mention of nighttime is assumed, not explicitly stated; the gates of the Temple in Jerusalem having been customarily been locked at night.
- Deuteronomy 26:5.
- Lamentations 5:21.
- The literal meaning of the Hebrew text is (from the Orot Sephardic Yom Kippur Mahazor ): "Proclaim, please, a year of favor / and restore the remnant of the sheep / to Aholivah and Aholah / at the time of the closing." The "remnant of the sheep" alludes to Jeremiah 23:3; Aholivah and Ahola are names used in Ezekiel 23:4-5 for Jerusalem and Samaria, respectively. At this point the Orot Mahazor says "In some congregations, the following stanza is added" and then provides a stanza which does not seem to appear in most machzorim (but has been found in a French edition) - it disrupts the acrostic of the initial letters, significant evidence against its authenticity. The stanza in Hebrew: /מחה כעב פשׁעים/ ועשׂת נא חסד עם/מקראים סגלה/בשׁעת נעילה/ִִִ and Orot's literal translation is: "Erase sins like a thick cloud/ and please do kindness with/ those called 'a treasure' [Exodus 19:5]/ at the time of the closing ...." It may be significant that, unlike all the other stanzas, this one's second line has four words.
- Daniel 12:1; Michael is the guardian angel of Israel.
- Daniel 8:16 et seq.; Gabriel is another angel, also powerful.
- Malachai 4:5 (in Hebrew 3:23); Elijah the Prophet is expected to return to announce the arrival of Judgment Day.
- Idelsohn, Abraham Zvi, Hebraisch-Orientalishcher Melodienschatz (Thesaurus of Hebrew-Oriental Melodies)(1923, Berlin) volume 4 ("Sefardim") page 224. has three examples of melodies for El Nora Alila (nr. 308-310), two of which are allegro and one of which is identified as "Salonic style" in the uncommon 6/8 time.
- Nulman, Macy, Concise Encyclopedia of Jewish Music (1975, NY: McGraw-Hill) s.v. Ne'ilah, page 184.
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