The average Israeli does not concern himself much with the Biblical text. Most of us study the OT in school as a historical or literary text, but not as a holy, sacred one that we should meditate on. The OT is written in Ancient Hebrew. The language we speak today is a modern one. Though the two have many similarities, they are in fact quite different, which makes it difficult to understand the Biblical one.
An Interesting Phenomenon
About 15 years ago, a fascinating phenomenon emerged. Secular singers, many are local famous stars, became bored with mundane love songs, and started looking for more profound texts to compose and sing. They found their inspiration in the OT and in ancient prayer books, that are used regularly at the synagogues. Wonderful music is composed to accompany the old, forgotten words, that by now are heard again everywhere. In the marketplace, in homes, in town squares, in stadiums and theatres. Who could have imagined just a few years ago that thousands of tickets to these concerts, where performers are singing about God, will sell out in a matter of hours.
And so, through the back door, so to speak, Israelis recite the ancient words, and begin to take interest in their meaning. Hopefully, even internalize it. What a brilliant way to awaken in our souls a deep longing for His Word, for the text we have become numb and indifferent to. But God had promised to restore us back to the Land, and then to Himself, and He is using unique means to go about it.
To You Is My Desire
One of the first songs in this new wave is based on a prayer for Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – that was written in the 12th century. The words are proclaimed each year in the synagogues, proclaimed back and forth between the cantor and the crowd. It deals with almost every member of the physical body and dedicates them to God, and the lines are arranged in the order of the Hebrew alphabet.
About a decade ago, a famous Israeli singer – Meir Banai – composed music to some of the verses of this ode, and the song became an instant hit, despite its hard to understand Hebrew.
Meir Banai, Le’cha Eli
To you, my God, is my desire, in You is my pleasure and my love. To You my heart and my kidneys belong, to You my spirit and my soul. To You my hands and feet belong, and from You is my whole nature, (all of) myself, my blood is for You, as are my skin and my bones. To You my eyes, and my ideas, to You my form and my design. To You my spirit, and my strength, my fortress and my hope. To you I cry out, and do not keep silent, until my inner darkness You turn into light. To You I’ll cry, to you I’ll cling, until the day to the earth I return. To you is the Kingdom, to You honor and glory, to You my praise will surely rise. From You all help in time of need, be my help in my times of need. And what am I, and what’s my life? What is my strength and my power? As chaff wafting in the wind, how will you recall my being? And in your hidden, secret Light [a Rabbinic symbol of the Messiah] my refuge and safety lies, and under your wings may my place forever be.
Come! We Have Been Awaiting You for So Many years
In 2008, another Israeli superstar- Amir BenAyoun – published an album called Standing in the Gate, focusing on the coming of the Messiah. One of the songs, which also became a hit, says:
I hear You are returning all the way back. I saw the angels setting a banquet table for the Son of the King. I also saw a ladder, with longing climbing up and down it. I heard winds caressing the leaves. I heard the ocean has declared a time of celebration. I saw the stars and moon dance up above. They too know how to roll back. I heard that the sun is nothing but a shadow. I saw a tower shake and fall to the ground. Come! We have been awaiting you for so many years. We have gone crazy, we have no face anymore [a Rabbinic phrase which means we have no more strength] We just perish more and more with the passing of time, so come! Yes, come! We have no more dishes we can break. We don’t know who’s sane here, who’s a drunkard that keeps falling to the pit, obviously, So come, yes come! I heard You are standing at the gate, and that every blameless lamb would be able to live in the woods, and I heard too that this heart will no longer die. But that imagination will sign a peace contract with reality, and all the sounds will become one simple song. So come!
Amir BenAyoun, Omed Ba’Sha’ar – Standing at the gate
A Surprising Moment
A huge surprise struck the Messianic Hebrew speakers in the Land when a secular, mainstream singer – Avraham Tal – fell in love with the words of 1 Corinthians 13 and composed music to it. The chatter in YouTube surrounding this song makes it obvious that the audience had no idea where the text originated from. Once that was discovered, people were filled with fear and concern they may have been guilty of idol worshiping by singing words taken from the NT.
Avraham Tal, Im BiLeshonot – If I speak in tongues (1 Cor. 13)
I can easily fill this post with pages upon pages of endless links to beautiful, touching songs, as this phenomenon has now become a norm. Secular Israelis still love Rock and Pop music, but they are also more than willing to shell out several hundred shekels on a ticket to a concert that solely covers ancient texts that focus on God.
I will end with one more song that touches me personally. It has garnered more than 9 million views on YouTube, even though it was published only three years ago. The writer is a religious singer- Ishay Ribo – and it is based on another confession declared at synagogues worldwide during Yom Kippur.
The song describes the work of the high priest in the Holy of Holies during the most revered day on the Jewish calendar. Up to that point, the secular Jew (and perhaps the religious one too), did not really know much about the order of service of the high priest in the Temple.
As you listen to it, you can pray that starting tomorrow (during Tuesday and Wednesday this week), as people gather in synagogues and confess their sins in hope that some covering will be provided for them, more eyes will open wide, more scales will fall, and more people will seek the Face of the one true High Priest. May this nation see Him for who He truly is, and bless the name of His kingdom forever and ever, as the song says.
Ishay Ribo, Seder Ha’Avoda – The order of service in the Temple
(be sure to click the CC button for the English translation of the song)
The Messiah is coming out of the synagogues, out of ancient texts that have not been accessible to the nation for centuries, and in some ways is returning from the alienation and foreignness that was added to His image during centuries of diaspora.
And just like He did when He walked this earth, when against all the expectations of the religious system He mingled with harlots and tax collectors, Samaritan women and even Zealots, He now reveals parts of His Face through pop culture. The multitudes are opening their hearts in a most unexpected location – the amphitheaters, and they are crying:
Come! We have been awaiting You for so many years, and we have no face anymore.
Come, Lord Yeshua!