Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Do you know what you are singing?

One of our favourite ShabbatZemirot is Dror Yikra. But do you know what it is really about?

There is a fascinating connection between this week's Haftara and one particular verse in Dror Yikra. The verse reads.

דרוך פורה בתוך בצרה
וגם בבל אשר גברה
נתוץ צרי באף ועברה
שמע קולי ביום אקרא

"Tread the wine-press in Bozrah,
And in Babylon who prevailed with brute force.
Crush my enemies in anger and fury.
On the day when I cry, hear my voice."

Now what does this verse refer to? See these pesukim in the book of Yishayahu:

מִי-זֶה בָּא מֵאֱדוֹם, חֲמוּץ בְּגָדִים מִבָּצְרָה, זֶה הָדוּר בִּלְבוּשׁוֹ, צֹעֶה בְּרֹב כֹּחוֹ; אֲנִי מְדַבֵּר בִּצְדָקָה, רַב לְהוֹשִׁיעַ. ב מַדּוּעַ אָדֹם, לִלְבוּשֶׁךָ; וּבְגָדֶיךָ, כְּדֹרֵךְ בְּגַת. ג פּוּרָה דָּרַכְתִּי לְבַדִּי, וּמֵעַמִּים אֵין-אִישׁ אִתִּי, וְאֶדְרְכֵם בְּאַפִּי, וְאֶרְמְסֵם בַּחֲמָתִי; וְיֵז נִצְחָם עַל-בְּגָדַי, וְכָל-מַלְבּוּשַׁי אֶגְאָלְתִּי

Which means:

"1 'Who is this that comes from Edom, with crimsoned garments from Bozrah? He that is glorious in his apparel, stately in the greatness of his strength?'--'I that speak in victory, mighty to save.'-- 2 'Why is Your clothing red, and Thy garments like he who treads in the winevat?'-- 3 'I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the peoples there was no man with Me; I trod them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; and their lifeblood is dashed against My garments, and I have stained/redeemed all my clothing." (Yishayahu 63:1-3)

In this scene, a figure is depicted as striding from Edom. His clothes are splattered and covered with some red liquid. It appears that he has been treading grapes. In fact this particular individual is God. He hasn't been treading grapes at all, and it isn't wine on his clothing – it is blood. He has been taking vengeance against the enemies of Israel in fury and anger. He "stains" and "redeems" all at once.

Note the connecting words between the verses - בצרה / דרוך פורה / אף – and the common theme.

Well that is quite a nice verse to sing to a happy tune!

Now how does this fit into Dror Yikra? Written in the 10th Century, Dror Yikra is all about redemption. "Dror" means "Freedom" and the zemer calls for a time of redemption in which Am Yisrael may rest from toil and torment, and rebuild our Beit Mikdash. Part of this is that era of redemption means that instead of the Jews living in exile in a constant state of fear, shame and persecution, vengeance will be visited upon our enemies!
Of course, in a modern era of tolerance and western multiculturalism in which many Jews find themeselves with full opportunities and rights, these lines may grate upon our moral heartstrings. Let us not forget that for much of the past 2000 years Jews did suffer from humiliation, pogrom and inquisition, daily restrictions on education, landownership and trade, religious expression and political participation. Maybe in a fyture post I will deal with the topic of vengeance in Judaism. But the bottom line is that the sense of Justice that we expect God to represent in History, means that many many prphetic books, inluding Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Yoel, Ovadia, Nahum etc. all mention God settling accounts in some future era of Truth when the wrongs of History are to be put right.

Interestingly, the Nevua speaks about God visiting EDOM and our Zemer talks about BAVEL. However in the original, it does say: וגם אדום אשר גברה. This fits far better with the Yishayahu source, It also fits with the fact that Chazal identified Rome with Edom and hence, it was Edom that destroyed the Beit Mikdash.

How did Edom get switched to BAVEL? Well, Edom was identified with teh Romans. But Rome adopted Christianity as its official religion, and very soon, Rabbinic circles identified Edom with the Church (and Yishmael with Islam.) So the Biblical Kingdom of Edom in the Arava valley is identified as Rome, which later becomes the Christian Church! One can only imagine that in Christian Europe, one could not sing, or publish songs, suggesting that God spill the blood of the Christians! And hence, the word "Edom" was replaced by "Bavel" in order to remain "Politically correct."

So now you know the meaning of the song!
You can read more about this Zemer on a special Piyut website!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

SO interesting! - Funny how we sing songs and don't know what they mean...So which tune is more appropriate- the beach boys of the sefardi one? slow- because we are still talking about death and revenge, or fast becuase it ultimately is good for the Jews?