Posts Tagged 'Yishai Ribo'

My Heart: A Different Love Song

This year I have been completely absorbed by Yishai Ribo‘s music. Ribo is an Orthodox Israeli singer-songwriter who’s music reaches across the religious divide in Israel and beyond. For me it started with Seder HaAvodah in which he retells the story of the High Priest’s service in the Temple on Yom Kippur in a way that is completely touching and accessible. He has a way of taking tradition and making it relevant today. Ribo does not sacrifice depth to get his message to the masses. I guess it is not shocking that I love his music.

Most recently I have been listening to Lev Sheli- My Heart.Here is a live version he performed with Omer Adam. Enjoy:

There is so much I have to say about the lyrics to this song. I am actually in a process of making another contemporary page of Talmud. I am not done yet, but I just could not resist sharing a thought on this song seeing that we read BeShalach this week. The song starts off:

My heart is split in two

What the maidservant did not perceive by the water

Like a storm from the sea, it throbs

Like Miriam’s timbrel, it beats

And there is no cure in the world

My heart hold hands up

I stumble, can no longer stand on my feet

Just a wreck with no purpose

And the skies are like a wall to me

How shall I pass through the sea on dry ground

Ribo masterfully weaves together language from BeShalach to write a love song. In BeShalach  we learn of the splitting of the Sea of Reeds by Moshe. The Israelites escape from Egyptians by walking through the sea on dry ground with the water on each side of them like walls.  After the miracle we hear the Song of the Sea and then Miriam leads them in her song with timbrels. Reading the lyrics in the context of BeShalach  I have a few questions. Is Lev Sheli a normal love song? Is it a song about someone expressing his/her love for a partner or an aspiration of divine love?

To explore these questions I wanted to share a midrash. There we learn:

A Roman Matron asked Rabbi Yosi ben Halafta, “In how many days did God create the world?” He said, “In six, as it is said, ‘Since six days God made…’ (Exodus 20:11) “And since then,” she asked, “what has God been doing?” “God sits [on the Heavenly Throne] and makes matches: the daughter of this one to that one, the wife [i.e. widow] of this one to that one, the money of this one to that one,” responded R. Yosi. “And for merely this you believe in God!” she said. “Even I can do that. I have many slaves, both male and female. In no time at all, I can match them for marriage.” R. Yosi, “Though this may be an easy thing for you to do, for God it is as difficult as splitting the Sea of Reeds.” Whereupon, Rabbi Yosi took his leave. What did she do? The Matron lined up a thousand male and a thousand female slaves and paired them off before nightfall. The morning after, her estate resembled a battlefield. One slave had his head bashed in, another had lost an eye, while a third hobbled because of a broken leg. She said to them: “What do we have here?” and they each said to her: “I don’t want this one” [with whom you matched me.” Immediately, she summoned R. Yosi and she brought him to her and said: “Your God is not like our god, and your Torah is true, pleasing and praiseworthy. You spoke wisely.” (Genesis Rabbah 68:4)

What has God been doing since the creation of the world? God has been making matches. But how difficult is that? It is as difficult as splitting the Sea of Reeds. Like the Matron we could easily assume that making matches is easy, but we would be wrong.

Ribo is writing about that moment when he realized that he has found his match. That moment is overwhelming. That moment was as rare as splitting the Sea of Reeds. This song is about his divine love for his partner. Lev Sheli, like Song of Songs, celebrates human love giving a holy voice to the lovers yearning. It is no mystery that Ribo is able to have a cross over hit between the religious and secular in that he has a cross over hit from the divine to the human. Now that is a popular love song.  


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