A Lesson From Our Liturgy: Shir HaMa’alot

We usually sing שיר המעלות, Shir HaMa’alot, just before we bench, recite ברכת המזון, Birkat HaMazon (The Blessing After the Meal) on Shabbat, Chaggim and other special days. It’s easy to lose the meaning in the melody as the energy of the meal has wound down.

We sing ….הָיִינוּ כְּחֹלְמִים: אָז יִמָּלֵא שְׂחוֹק פִּינוּ…. (…Hayinu k’Cholmim. Az Yimaleh Schok Pinu…), “We were like dreamers. Then our mouths will be filled with laughter.” and we often miss the point entirely.

Now, we are like dreamers, only semi-conscious, half-alive. Only אז (Az) “Then”, …בְּשׁוּב יְיָ אֶת שִׁיבַת צִיּוֹן… (B’Shuv HaShem Et Shivat Tziyon), “When God returns us to Zion,” will our mouths be filled with joyous laughter.

As we’ll end Yom Kippur we’ll proclaim, לשנה הבאה לירושלים, Next Year in Jerusalem

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4 Responses to A Lesson From Our Liturgy: Shir HaMa’alot

  1. Jacques Ruda says:

    Shir HaM’alot was considered as the national anthem of Israel.It was rejected because it was thought to be too religious in favor of Hatikvah. Nonetheless,or perhaps because it is so spiritual,it captures our feelings and should not be glossed over. Shabbat Shalom

    • I never knew that. It could have been a decisive moment had we chosen that instead of Hatikva.
      An amusing thought is that perhaps it was a matter of Shalom Bayit. Can you imagine the fights over which of many available melodies to have chosen as the “official” one?
      Shabbat Shalom and G’mar Chatima Tova.

      • Jacques Ruda says:

        There is an excellent book called ” We Were Like Dreamers” about the IDF unit that liberated the Kotel in 1967. They were also the first unit across the canal in 1973. It follows individuals in the unit through time and in doing so explains explains some of the divisions in Israel today. G’mar Chatima Tova to you and your family as well.

      • Thanks for the book recommendation!

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