Continuing the Conversation: Sivan Rahav Meir and Ishay Ribo

The Spirituality of Song

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Rabbi Sacks invited Ishay Ribo and Sivan Rahav Meir to lift people’s spirits with an online encounter of words and music, entitled “The Spirituality of Song.”

In 2023, as part of the inaugural Sacks Scholars retreat in Jerusalem, Ishay and Sivan continued that conversation, in memory of Rabbi Sacks.

Songs and Commentaries

He is Filled with Love

חוֹשֵׂךְ שִׁבְטוֹHe withholds His staff
מִבְּלִי לַחֲשֹׂךְ אֶת אַהֲבָתוֹWithout withholding His love
מוֹשִׁיט אֶת שַׁרְבִיטוֹHe holds out His sceptre
לְכָל הַפּוֹשֵׁט יָדוֹTo whoever reaches out their hand
עַיִן לֹא מַעְלִים מֵעַל צֹאן מַרְעִיתוֹHe never looks away from His flock
גַּם כְּשֶׁאָנוּ שִׁבְרֵי כֵלִיםEven when we’re a wreck
עוֹדֵנוּ כְּלִי חֶמְדָּתוֹWe’re still His most precious commodity
תּוֹכוֹ רָצוּף אַהֲבָה רָצוּף אַהֲבָהFor He is filled with love, filled with love
בֵּיתוֹ צָפוּף לִרְוָחָהHis Home is spaciously crowded,
צָפוּף לִרְוָחָהSpaciously crowded
מַמְצִיא לָנוּ מְחִילָהGranting us pardon
לֹא רַק בִּשְׁעַת הַנְּעִילָהNot just at Ne’ilah time
לְךָ דוּמִיָּה תְהִלָּהPraise befits You
יָדָיו רָב לוֹHis hands contain power
וְאֵין רֵאשִׁית לְרֵאשִׁיתוֹAnd there was no beginning to His beginning
גַּם הַשִּיׁרָה כְּחוֹל הַיָּםEven a song as vast as the sand
הִיא רַק מִקְצָת שִׁבְחוֹIs only a fraction of His praise
לִפְנִים מִשּׁוּרַת הַדִּיןBeyond the letter of the law
מַנְהִיג אֶת עוֹלָמוֹHe leads His world
וּמִלִּפְנֵי הַמַּלְאָכִיםAnd before the angels
דּוֹרֵשׁ בִּשְׁלוֹם עַמּוֹHe provides for the safety of His people
עָתִיד הוּא לָתֵת פְּאֵר תַּחַת אֵפֶרHe shall “Give them glory instead of ashes
שֶׁמֶן שָׂשׂוֹן תַּחַת אֵבֶלThe festive ointment instead of mourning,
מַעֲטֵה תְהִלָּה תַּחַת רוּחַ כֵּהָהA garment of splendour instead of a drooping spirit."

Rabbi Sacks’ Commentary

Judaism took love and made it the centre of the universe. Three loves. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). And “You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers in a strange land” (Lev. 19:33–34). And these loves are a reflex of God’s love for us. We exist because God loves. And when we love, God’s light enters our soul. Loving others, we learn to love God and feel the fullness of His love for us. Opening ourselves to something other than ourselves, we become more than we currently are.

The Voice of My Beloved

קוֹל דּוֹדִי הִנֵּה זֶה בָּא כָּכָה מְסַפְּרִיםThe voice of my beloved, behold it is coming, that's what they say
לְהָסִיר אֶת כָּל הָרַע וְאֶת קַרְנֵנוּ לְהָרִיםTo remove all evil, and to lift up our horn,
מִתּוֹךְ תְּהוֹמוֹת עָפָרFrom the depths of the dust.
וּלְהָקִיץ נִרְדָּמִים עִם תְּרוּעַת שׁוֹפָרAnd to awaken those who sleep, at the sound of the shofar.
קוֹל דּוֹדִי הִנֵּה זֶה בָּאThe voice of my beloved, behold it is coming
כָּךְ פָּשְׁטָה לָהּ הַשְּׁמוּעָהThat's the rumour that is spreading
וְכָל תִּינוֹק שֶׁנִּשְׁבָּה קִבֵּל אֶת הַנְּבוּאָהAnd every captive baby received the prophecy
אָז בּוֹא נֵצֵא לִקְרָאתוֹ בְּתֻפִּים וְעוּגָבSo come and let's go out to meet Him, with drums and flute
שִׁירוּ לוֹ זַמְּרוּ לוֹSing to Him, Sing praises.
אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֶׁה' אֱלֹקָיוHow blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.
וְאָז יָפוּחַ הַיּוֹם וְהַשֶּׁקֶר יִתְאַדֶּהAnd then the day will break and the lie will evaporate
אָז יָצְאוּ בְּמָחוֹל כָּל אַיָּלוֹת הַשָּׂדֶהThen all the does of the field will go forth in dance
וִידַלְּגוּ עַל הֶהָרִים וְלֹא מֵחֲמַת אֵימַת הַשּׁוּעָלִיםAnd skip upon the mountains and not from the fear of foxes
וּמֵחַגְוֵי הַסֶּלַע יִזְרְמוּ מַיִם חַיִּיםAnd out of the clefts of the rock, fresh water shall flow forth
בֵּין סִתְרֵי הַמַּדְרֵגָה לְהַשְׁקוֹת שׁוֹשַׁנַּת הָעֲמָקִיםFrom the hidden places of the terrace, to irrigate the lily of the valley
וּלְהָקִים מִשְׁכָּן שֶׁיָּסִיר אֶת סִבְלוּתֵנוּ מִכָּאןAnd to establish the tabernacle, that will remove our suffering here
קוֹל דּוֹדִי דּוֹפֵק פִּתְחוּ לִי בָּנַיThe voice of my beloved is knocking, open to me my son
הִגִּיעַ זְמַן גְּאֻלַּתְכֶםThe time of your redemption has arrived
וּלְצָרוּתְכֶם אָמַרְתִּי דַּיAnd I have said ‘enough’ to your troubles
וּבָאתִי לְבַשֵּׂרAnd I have come to bring good tidings
שֶׁלֹּא תִּבְכִּי יוֹתֵר רָחֵלThat you will no longer weep Rachel
מְרִיחִים אֶת הַמָּשִׁיחַ יוֹתֵר מִכָּל אַבְקַת רוֹכֵלWe sense the Messiah more than fragrant powder
שָׁלוֹם לְךָ דּוֹדִי הַצַּח וְהָאַדְמוֹןShalom to you my beloved, pure and ruddy
שְׁפֹךְ חֲמָתְךָ עַל אֲבָנִים וְהָשֵׁב לְבִצָּרוֹןPour out your wrath on rocks, and return to the fortress
בְּרַחֲמִים כִּי לְרַחֲמֶיךָIn mercy, for in mercy
אֵין זִכָּרוֹן שֶׁיָּכִיל אֶת כָּל הַנְּתוּנִיםThere is no memory that can contain all the data

Rabbi Sacks’ Commentary

Judaism is the only civilisation whose golden age is in the future. When Moses asked at the Burning Bush how to describe God, God replied: Ehyeh asher ehyeh (Ex. 3:14): “I will be what I will be”. God was saying: “You must trust Me. The destination to which I am calling you is just beyond the visible horizon.” So it was. So it is. We are the people who honour the past but keep walking to the future, to meet God who, we know, is coming to meet us. The Jewish vision of the future – of peace, love, respect for humanity and nature – has never been surpassed.

Judaism is a sacred journey to the future God asks us to build.

Days are Coming

פָּזִיז מַעֲשִׂים בָּהוּל תְּנוּעוֹתHasty acts, rushed movements
אֵין עוֹד פְּנַאי לְהַמְתִּין וְלֹא זְמַן לְחַכּוֹתThere's no more leisure to await and no time to wait
יְרִידַת הַדּוֹרוֹתThe decline of the generations
כַּנִּרְאֶה הַסִּבָּה לַעֲלִיַּת הַתּוֹרוֹתProbably the reason for the increase of lines
בַּקֻּפָּה הָרָאשִׁיתTo the main cash register
שָׁמַעְנוּ לַפִּידִים וְרָאִינוּ אֶת הַקּוֹלוֹתWe heard torches and we saw the voices
אֶת הָהָר עָשָׁן לְמַעַן ה'The mountain smoking, for God's sake,
אֵיךְ עוֹד הַלֵּב הַזֶּה יָשֵׁןHow could this heart still be sleeping
בְּתוֹר לַקֻּפָּה הָרָאשִׁיתIn the line for the main cash register
עַרְפִלֵּי טֹהַרPurifying mists
לֹא בְחַיִל וְלֹא בְכֹחַNot by means of army nor force
רַק בְּשֵׁם וּמַלְכוּתOnly by God’s Name
כְּשֶׁזֶּה יָבוֹא זֶה יָבוֹא זֶה יָבוֹאWhen it will come, it will come, it will come
בְּלִי מָקוֹם לִטְעוֹתWith no room for mistakes
הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים נְאֻם ה' אֱלוֹקִיםDays are coming, declares the Lord
לֹא רָעָב לְלֶחֶםNo hunger for bread
לֹא צָמֵא לַמַּיִםNo thirst for water
עֲרַל שְׂפָתַיִם נָבוּב לוּחוֹתTongue-tied and hollow
אִם לְלַמֵּד עָלֵינוּ זְכוּתIf teaching us is a merit
זֶה עַל הָרָצוֹן לְשַׁנּוֹתThis is the will to change
לְהָסִיר מַסֵּכוֹתTo remove the masks
זְמַן לְגִלּוּי הַפָּנִיםTime to reveal the face
לֹא רָעָב לְלֶחֶם לֹא צָמֵא לַמַּיִםNo hunger for bread, no thirst for water
רַק דִּבּוּרִים שֶׁל אֱמֶת הַמַּשְׂבִּיעִים אֶת הַלֵּבOnly words of truth that satisfy the heart
יְרִידַת הַדּוֹרוֹתThe decline of the generations
כַּנִּרְאֶה הַסִּבָּה לַעֲלִיַּת הַתּוֹרוֹתPerhaps the reason for the ascent of the Torah
בַּסִּפְרִיָּה הָרָאשִׁיתIn the main library

Rabbi Sacks’ Commentary

Hinei Yamim Ba’im” were words spoken by Jeremiah, often regarded as the most tormented of all the prophets. Yet he was also supremely a prophet of hope. It was Jeremiah who said the Jewish people will be as eternal as the sun, moon and stars. It was Jeremiah who, while the Babylonians were laying siege to Jerusalem, bought a field to demonstrate his belief that Jews would return. From Jeremiah we learned that only by being faithful to God do people stay faithful to one another. Only by understanding the deep forces that shape history can a people survive it. It took a long time for biblical Israel to learn these truths. We must never forget them.

Come Home

הִגִּיעַ הַזְּמַן לְהִתְעוֹרֵרThe time has come to wake up
לַעֲזֹב הַכֹּל לְהִתְגַּבֵּרTo leave everything and to overcome
לָשׁוּב הַבַּיְתָה לֹא לְחַפֵּשׂ מָקוֹם אַחֵרTo come home, not to look for anywhere else
הִגִּיעַ הַזְּמַן לְהִשְׁתַּנּוֹתThe time has come to change
גַּם אִם פִסְפַסְנוּ תַּחֲנוֹתEven if we missed a few stops
אֶפְשָׁר לָרֶדֶת יֵשׁ רַכֶּבֶת חֲזָרָה לַשְּׁכוּנוֹתWe can get off, there is a train back to the neighborhood
הַכֹּל אֶפְשָׁר רַק אִם נִרְצֶהEverything is possible if we wish for it
הַמְּחַפֵּשׂ תָּמִיד מוֹצֵאThe seeker will always find
גַּם אִם הוּא נִמְצָא אֵי שָׁם הַרְחֵק בַּקָּצֶהEven if he is somewhere out there on the edge
דַּלְתוֹת שָׁמַיִם לֹא נִנְעֲלוּThe doors of heaven are never locked
כְּשֶׁהַבֵּן קוֹרֵא הַצִּילוּWhen the child cries for help
אַבָּא שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם מַגִּיעַ אֲפִלּוּFather in Heaven even comes
אֲפִלּוּ שֶׁעָשִׂינוּ מַשֶּׁהוּ רַעEven when we’ve done something bad
הוּא מוֹחֵל וְסוֹלֵחַ מוֹחֵל וְסוֹלֵחַHe pardons and forgives, pardons and forgives
מוֹשִׁיט יָדוֹ לְעֶזְרָהHolds out his hand in help
וְנוֹתֵן בְּרַחֲמָיו אֶת הַכֹּחַ לְתַקֵּןAnd in his compassion gives the strength to repair
וְלָשׁוּב אֵלָיוAnd to return to him
הִגִּיעַ הַזְּמַן לְהִתְחָרֵטThe time has come to regret
אִם כְּבָר לִבְרֹחַ אָז מֵהַחֵטְאIf you’re fleeing, then from sin
אִם כְּבָר לָקַחַת אָז לָקַחַת בִּשְׁבִיל לָתֵתIf you’re taking, then take in order to give
זֶה הַזְּמַן לְהִתְקָרֵבAnd this is the time to come closer
לֹא לְפַחֵד מֵהַכְּאֵבNot to fear the pain
וְאִם לָתֵת אָז כְּבָר לָתֵת מִכָּל הַלֵּבAnd if you’re giving, then with all your heart

Rabbi Sacks’ Commentary

Teshuvah, which has a physical and spiritual dimension, means “returning, coming home.” To come home we have to ask who we are and where we truly belong. There has been a physical homecoming to the land of Israel, but not yet a complete spiritual homecoming to the faith. That challenge rests with us, our contemporaries and our children. How it will happen, we do not know, but that it will happen, we do know, for we have God’s promise: that the faith of Israel will be reborn just as its land and state have been. May we live to see it, and work to be part of it.

My Heart

הַלֵּב שֶׁלִּי נִקְרַע לִשְׁנַיִםMy heart was torn into two
מָה שֶׁלֹּא רָאֲתָה שִׁפְחָה עַל הַמַּיִםWhat the maid did not see on the sea
כְּמוֹ סוּפָה מִן הַיָּם הוֹלֵםLike a pounding storm in the ocean
כְּמוֹ תֻּפָּהּ שֶׁל מִרְיָם פּוֹעֵםLike the beating of Miriam’s drum
וְאֵין תְּרוּפָה בָּעוֹלָםAnd there is no cure in the world
הַלֵּב שֶׁלִּי מֵרִים יָדַיִםMy heart raises its hands
כְּבָר מוֹעֵד לֹא עוֹמֵד עַל הָרַגְלַיִםFor some time it’s not standing on its feet
שֶׁבֶר כְּלִי שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ כְּבָר מָהAn empty broken vessel
וְהַשָּׁמַיִם הֵם לִי חוֹמָהThe Heavens are a barrier for me
אֵיךְ אֶעֱבֹר בְּתוֹךְ הַיָּם בְּיַבָּשָׁהHow can I cross the sea on dry land?
וְרַק אַתָּה יָכוֹלAnd only You
לַהֲפֹךְ מִסְפֶּדִי לְמָחוֹלCould convert my mourning to dancing
לְזַכֵּךְ אֶת הַחוֹלTo purify the mundane
לְרַכֵּךְ בִּי הַכָּלTo soften everything in me
וְרַק אַתָּה מֵבִין אֵיךְ לָגֶשֶׁת לַלֵּב שֶׁלִּיAnd only You understand how to approach my heart
מֵּשַׁכֵּךְ כָּל כְּאֵב שֶׁבִּיRelieve all the pain in me
מְרַפֵּא אֶת הַלֵּבHeal the heart
הַלֵּב שֶׁלִּי נִקְרַע לִשְׁנַיִםMy heart was torn into two
חֶצְיוֹ אָשֵׁם וְחֶצְיוֹ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִםHalf guilty, half for the sake of Heaven
כְּמוֹ סוּפָה מִן הַיָּם הוֹלֵםLike a pounding storm in the ocean
כְּמוֹ תֻּפָּהּ שֶׁל מִרְיָם פּוֹעֵםLike the beating of Miriam’s drums
וְאֵין תְּרוּפָה בָּעוֹלָם לַלֵּבAnd there is no cure in the world for the heart
וְיֵשׁ עוֹד צַר שֶׁמֵּצִיק לְצֹאןAnd there is another trouble that distresses the flock
וְאֵין צִיר שֶׁיִּצְעַק לְצוּרAnd there is no envoy to call out to the Rock
רַק אֲנִי מוּל יָם שָׁלֵם וְלֵב שָׁבוּרOnly me in front of the entire ocean and a broken heart

Rabbi Sacks’ Commentary

One of the most important distinctions I have learned from Jewish history is the difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but a great deal to have hope. Knowing what we do of our past, no Jew can be an optimist. But Jews have never given up hope. God’s ultimate word – the Torah – is an extended message of hope in the future. Without this, Jews and Judaism would not have survived. Jews kept hope alive, and hope kept the Jewish people alive.

Order of the Service

נִכְנַס לַמָּקוֹם שֶׁנִּכְנַס וְעָמַד בַּמָּקוֹם שֶׁעָמַדHe entered the place he entered and stood in the place he stood
רָחַץ יָדָיו רַגְלָיו טָבַל עָלָה וְנִסְתַּפַּגWashed his hands and feet, immersed, came up and dried himself
בָּא מִמָּקוֹם שֶהוּא בָּא וְהָלַךְ לְמָקוֹם שֶהָלַךְHe came from the place he came and went to the place he went
פָּשַט בִּגְדֵי הַחֹל לָבַשׁ בִּגְדֵי לָבָןStripped off his weekday clothes and donned white garments
וְכָךְ הָיָה אוֹמֵר אָנָּא הַ'And thus he would say: “O Lord!
כַּפֵּר לַחֲטָאִים לַעֲווֹנוֹת וְלַפְּשָעִיםGrant atonement for the sins, transgressions and iniquities
שֶחָטָאתִי לְפָנֶיךָ אֲנִי וּבֵיתִיWhich I sinned before you – I and my household”
וְאִם אָדָם הָיָה יָכוֹל לִזְכֹּרAnd if one could recall
אֶת הַפְּגָמִים אֶת הַחֶסְרוֹנוֹתThe flaws, the deficiencies
אֶת כָּל הַפְּשָעִים אֶת כָּל הָעֲווֹנוֹתAll the sins and transgressions
בֶּטַח כָּךְ הָיָה מוֹנֶהSurely he would count thus:
אַחַת אַחַת וְאַחַת אַחַת וּשְתַּיִם אַחַת וְשָלוֹשׁOne, one and one, one and two, one and three
אַחַת וְאַרְבַּע אַחַת וְחָמֵשׁOne and four, one and five…
יָשָר הָיָה מִתְיָאֵשׁ כִּי לֹא יָכוֹל הָיָה לָשֵׂאתStraight away he would despair, unable to bear
אֶת הַמְּרִירות ,הַחֵטְאThe bitter taste of sin
אֶת הַבּוּשָה, אֶת הַפִסְפוּס, אֶת הַהֶפְסֵדThe shame, the missed opportunity, the loss
וְהַכֹּהֲנִים וְהָעָם הָעוֹמְדִים בָּעֲזָרָהAnd the priests and the people standing in the courtyard
כְּשֶהָיוּ שׁוֹמְעִים אֶת שֵם ה' הַמְפֹרָשׁWhen they heard the explicit Name of God
יוֹצֵא מִפִּי כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹלCome out from the mouth of the High Priest
הָיוּ כּוֹרְעִים מִשְתַּחֲוִים וְנוֹפְלִים עַל פְּנֵיהֶםWould bow and prostrate themselves, falling on their face
בָּרוּךְ שֵם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד“Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever”
פָּסַע לְמָקוֹם שֶפָּסַעHe stepped to the place where he had stepped
פָּנָיו לַקֹּדֶשׁ אֲחוֹרָיו לַהֵיכַלHe faced the Inner Sanctuary with his back to the hall –
בְּלֹא רְבָב הָיוּ שָוִים פִּיו וּמַעֲשָׂיוWithout stain, his mouth and actions at one
בָּא מִמָּקוֹם שֶהוּא בָּאHe came from the place he came
וְהָלַךְ לְמָקוֹם שֶהָלַךְAnd went to the place where he went
פָּשַט בִּגְדֵי לָבָן לָבַשׁ בִּגְדֵי זָהָבStripping off his white garments and donning clothes of gold
וְכָךְ הָיָה אוֹמֵרAnd thus he would say:
אָנָּא ה ,'כַּפֵּר לַחֲטָאִים לַעֲווֹנוֹת וְלַפְּשָעִים“O Lord! Grant atonement for the sins, the transgressions and iniquities
שֶחָטָאתִי לְפָנֶיךָ אֲנִי וּבֵיתִיWhich I have sinned before You – I and my household”
וְאִם אָדָם הָיָה יָכוֹל לִזְכֹּרAnd if one could recall
אֶת הַחֲסָדִים אֶת הַטּוֹבוֹתAll the loving kindness, the goodness,
אֶת כָּל הָרַחֲמִים אֶת כָּל הַיְשׁוּעוֹתAll the compassion and salvation
בֶּטַח כָּךְ הָיָה מוֹנֶהSurely He would count thus:
אַחַת אַחַת וְאַחַת אַחַת וּשְתַּיִם“One, one and one, one and two
אַחַת מֵאֶלֶף אַלְפֵי אֲלָפִים וְרֹב רִבֵּי רְבָבוֹתOne of a thousand, thousands of thousands and myriad myriads
נִסִּים נִפְלָאוֹת שֶעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּנוּ יָמִים וְלֵילוֹתOf wonderous miracles You have done for us day and night”
יָצָא מִמָּקוֹם שֶיָּצָא וְרָעַד בְּמָקוֹם שֶעָמַדHe left the place he had left and trembled in the place where he stood
פָּשַט בִּגְדֵי זָהָב לָבַשׁ בִּגְדֵי עַצְמוֹStripped off his golden garments and donned his own clothes
וְכָל הָעָם וְהַכֹּהֲנִים הָיוּ מְלַוִּים אוֹתוֹ לְבֵיתוֹAnd all of the People and the priests escorted him home
וְיוֹם טוֹב לְאוֹהֲבָיוIt was a holiday for all who loved him,
כִּי נִסְלַח לְכָל עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵלBecause he had attained forgiveness for all the assembly of Israel.
אַשְרֵי הָעָם שֶכָּכָה לּוֹHappy are the people for whom this is so
אַשְרֵי הָעָם שֶה'  אֱלֹקָיוHappy are the people whose God is the Lord
כְּאֹהֶל הַנִּמְתָּח בְּדָרֵי מַעְלָהLike the heavenly canopy, stretched out over those who dwell above,
מַרְאֵה כֹהֵןWas the appearance of the High Priest
כִּבְרָקִים הַיּוֹצְאִים מִזִּיו הַחַיּוֹתLike lightning bolts emanating from the radiance of the angels,
מַרְאֵה כֹהֵןWas the appearance of the High Priest
כִּדְמוּת הַקֶּשֶת בְּתוֹך הֶעָנָןLike the image of the rainbow amid the cloud,
מַרְאֵה כֹהֵןWas the appearance of the High Priest
כְּחֶסֶד הַנִּתָּן עַל פְּנֵי חָתָןLike the lovingkindness granted to the face of a groom,
מַרְאֵה כֹהֵןWas the appearance of the High Priest.

Rabbi Sacks’ Commentary

In the aftermath of the destruction of the Temples and the absence of the High Priest, there was a theological question about how the people could find forgiveness. It was then that one of the great theological discoveries in Judaism took place. The Sages concluded that each Jew could turn directly to God, and through a combination of repentance, prayer and charity achieve atonement.

To this day, that is what we do: we confess our sins, directly to God, individually and collectively, in the synagogue. Yom Kippur tells us: we each have responsibility. We can each mend some of the broken fragments of the world. And the more we mend, the more we grow.

A Royal Crown

בֵּין תְּרוּמָה לְתְּצַוֶּהBetween Terumah and Tetzaveh
יוֹם הֻלֶּדֶת קְצָת מְשֻׁנֶּהA somewhat strange birthday
הַכֹּל רָגִיל כָּאן לִכְאוֹרָהEverything seems normal here
בָּמָה קָהָל וְאַהֲבָהStage, crowd, and love
בֵּין תְּצַוֶּה לְכִּי תִשָּׂאBetween Tetzaveh and Ki Tissa
אֶסְתֵּר פּוּרִים מִשְׁתֶּה שִׂמְחָהEsther, Purim, feasting, joy
מִי יַחֲנֶה וּמִי יִסַּעWho shall stay home, and who shall travel
וּמִי יִשָּׂא בַּתּוֹצָאָהAnd who will bear the consequence
בֵּין כִּי תִשָּׂא לְוַיַּקְהֵלBetween Ki Tissa and Vayakhel
עוֹלָם מַפְסִיק לְהִתְקַהֵלThe world stops congregating
לְהִשְׁתַּתֵּק לְהִסְתַּגֵּרGoes quiet, locks itself in
יִשְׁמָעֵאל אֱדוֹם וְיִשְׂרָאֵלIshmael, Edom and Israel
בֵּין וַיַּקְהֵל לִפְּקוּדֵיBetween Vayakhel and Pekudei
אֵין אִישׁ בָּעִיר וּבַשָּׂדֶהNot a person in the city or the country
כְּבָר אֵין מוּל מִי לְהִתְנַהֵלNot a soul left to talk to
מִגְדַּל בָּבֶל שׁוּב מִתְבַּלְבֵּלThe Tower of Babel is confused again
וּמָה אַתָּה רוֹצֶה שֶׁנָּבִין מִזֶּהAnd what do You want us to understand from this?
אֵיךְ מִתְרַחֲקִים וּמִתְקָרְבִים בִּכְאֵב הַזֶּהHow do we distance and yet come close during this pain?
רוֹצֶה לִחְיוֹת אוֹתְךָ וְלֹא לִהְיוֹת לְבַדI want to live with You, and not be alone
וּמָה אַתָּה רוֹצֶה שֶׁנִּלְמַד מִזֶּהAnd what do You want us to learn from this?
וְאֵיךְ נֵדַע לְהִתְאַחֵד בַּפֵּרוּד הַזֶּהAnd can we unite from this separation?
עַד שֶׁנִּתֵּן לְךָ כֶּתֶר מְלוּכָהUntil we give You a crown of sovereignty
בֵּין פְּקוּדֵי לְוַיִּקְרָאBetween Pekudei and Vayikra
כֻּלָּנוּ בְּאוֹתָהּ סִירָהWe all are in the same boat
אָבִיב הִגִּיעַ פֶּסַח בָּא“Spring has arrived, Pesach is coming,”
וְאִתּוֹ תִּקְוָה רַבָּהAnd with it, much hope
שֶׁתִּקְרַע אֶת רֹעַ הַגְּזֵרָהThat You will tear up the evil decree
לְכָה דּוֹדִי לִקְרַאת כַּלָּהCome, my beloved, to greet the bride
כְּבָר אֵין לָנוּ כּוֹחוֹת יוֹתֵר לְהִתְמוֹדֵד לְהִלָּחֵםWe have no more strength to cope, to fight
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל ה' אֶחָד וּשְׁמוֹ אֶחָדListen Israel, God is One and God’s name is One

Rabbi Sacks’ Commentary

This beautiful, powerful song, written and released at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, is framed by two questions of faith: “Umah Ata rotzeh shenavin mizeh?”, What do You want us to understand from this? And “Umah Ata rotzeh shenilmad mizeh?” What do You want us to learn from what is happening to humanity?

Early on, an answer came from Pesach and the story of the Exodus. What begins in suffering can end in liberation and joy. That is how Judaism tells the human story. Out of the bad, comes good. Out of the curse comes blessing. Out of the coronavirus pandemic can come a new sense of collective responsibility, and we will all eventually feel renewed.