Saturday, December 08, 2012

Kindle the Light of Hanukkah

~ מעוז צור ma'oz tzur*

A beautiful antique silver menorah from Palestine.
In many households tonight as the first candle on the menorah is lit Ma'oz Tzur will be sung.  A hymn recounting the fights against ancient enemies it is said to have been composed in the 13th century.  The history of this song is fascinating and filled with meanings both hidden and historical

This is a lovely version of the piyyut that many of my friends will be singing tonight as the Feast of Lights begins.  Its sung by Blackmore's Night and the English words Candice Night sings in the second verse are only one set of many translations that have come down through the centuries.

This English version of the old canticle is based on a German version by Rabbi Leopold Stein (1810–1882) translated by two renowned rabbis who immigrated to the United States, Marcus Jastrow and Gustav Gottheil.
Rock of Ages, let our song, praise Thy saving power;
Thou, amidst the raging foes, wast our sheltering tower.
Furious they assailed us, but Thine arm availed us,
And Thy Word broke their sword, when our own strength failed us.
And Thy Word broke their sword, when our own strength failed us.
An 18th century oil menorah from Poland.

Kindling new the holy lamps, priests, approved in suffering,
Purified the nation's shrine, brought to God their offering.
And His courts surrounding, hear, in joy abounding,
Happy throngs, singing songs with a mighty sounding.
Happy throngs, singing songs with a mighty sounding.

Small bronze hanging oil Menorah, c. 1900 based on 14th Century French Menorah

Children of the martyr race, whether free or fettered,
Wake the echoes of the songs where ye may be scattered.
Yours the message cheering that the time is nearing
Which will see, all men free, tyrants disappearing.
Which will see, all men free, tyrants disappearing.
Though a minor feast in the Jewish calendar Hanukkah has gained in significance as a feast to celebrate and share with family and friends - and in many home an extra place is set should a stranger come to the door in need of food and companionship.  

To my friends, who with their families, friends and perhaps that hungry wayfarer, begin this celebration of light as the darkest nights of the year approach: hahg same'akh (חג שמח)

My blog buddy Debra has one of the loveliest Hanukkah images on her blog - do take a look!

And two previous posts I've done on Hanukkah:
And Call It Lights

Happy Hanukkah - חג שמח

*Stronghold of Rock

08 December - 1660: A woman (either Margaret Hughes or Anne Marshall) appears on an English public stage for the first time, in the role of Desdemona in Shakespeare's Othello.
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1 comment:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Reminds me of that old saying that all Jewish festivals can be summed up as follows: "They tried to kill us. They failed. Now let's eat!"

Those are lovely menorahs, and a beautiful song.