Writings on the Songs

Since Ishay Ribo released his debut album in 2014,Tocho Ratzuf Ahavah (He Is Filled With Continuous Love), Jewish music has never been the same. Before he transformed the genre, religious Jewish music generally followed the simple formula of putting Biblical verses and sayings from Rabbinic literature to song. Ribo, however, writes powerful and poetic lyrics infused with Biblical and Midrashic references that are nevertheless astonishingly original. He has recreated the traditional piyut, giving ancient texts and teachings a fresh form that speaks powerfully to 21st century Israelis and Jews of every religious background.

In August 2021, Ishay Ribo performed for an audience of 3,500 people in the Kings Theater, in Brooklyn, New York. For the 32-year-old singer, this concert marked a new milestone in his career. After an extraordinary rise to stardom in Israel, he is now sought after by Jews and many gentiles throughout the world. 

But Ishay’s popularity is not a goal in and of itself; it serves a higher purpose. Explains Ribo: “We have a purpose and a mission beyond self-fulfillment to connect Jews all over the Diaspora to Eretz Yisrael. To come to the Diaspora and give light and hope to Jews, and to show them the light of Eretz Yisrael.”

At the height of the COVID pandemic lockdowns throughout the world in 2020, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l and Sivan Rahav Meir met together with Ishay Ribo on Zoom for an inspirational encounter of music and words of Torah. These “writings on the songs,” commentaries on Ishay’s beautiful lyrics, are some of the powerful insights that emerged from that special day.

 

We Will Yet Hear / עוד ישמע

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זֶהוּ יוֹם שֶׁבּוֹ שָׁמַיִם נִפְתָּחִים
זֶה חֲלוֹם הַמִּתְגַּשֵּםׁ בּוֹ זְמַנִּית
זֶהוּ זְמַן שֶׁמְּסֻגָּל כֵּן מְסֻגָּל
וּמִכָּאן הָרְאָיָה הִיא שֶׁבִּכְלָל
מַיִם רַבִּים לֹא מְכַבִּים אֶת הָאַהֲבָה
עוֹד יִשָּׁמַע בְּבַיִת זֶה
קוֹל שָׂשׂוֹן וְקוֹל שִׂמְחָה
עוֹד יִשָּׁמַע בְּבַיִת זֶה
קוֹל חָתָן וְקוֹל כַּלָּה
זֶהוּ צְלִיל שֶׁמְּחַבֵּר פֹּה נְשָׁמוֹת
זֶה הַצְּלִיל, לֹא, אֵין צֹרֶךְ לְשַׁנּוֹת
יֵשׁ כָּאן אוֹר גָּנוּז גָּלוּי לְעֵינֵי כֹל
קֶצֶב שֶׁגּוֹרֵם לָזוּז
כָּל אֶחָד יָכוֹל לָבוֹא וְלִטֹּל
מַיִם רַבִּים לֹא מְכַבִּים אֶת הָאַהֲבָה
מְהֵרָה ה’ עוֹד יִשָּׁמַע
בְּהָרֵי יְהוּדָה, בְּחוּצוֹת הַבִּירָה
קוֹל שָׂשׂוֹן וְקוֹל שִׂמְחָה
קוֹל חָתָן וְקוֹל כַּלָּה
בִּנְיַן עֲדֵי עַד אָמֵן כֵּן יְהִי רָצוֹן

This is the day when the Heavens are open
This is a dream that materializes occasionally
This is an opportune time, opportune indeed
And from here is the proof that
Lots of water cannot extinguish this love
It will be heard in this house:
The sounds of joy and gladness
It will be heard in this house:
The sounds of the bridegroom and bride
This is a sound that connects souls here
This is a sound, no, there is no need to change
There is a hidden light here that is revealed to all eyes
A rhythm that makes everyone move,
Everyone can come and take
Lots of water cannot extinguish this love
Soon, G-d, may there be heard
In the mountains of Judah, in the outskirts of the capital,
The sounds of joy and gladness
The sounds of the bridegroom and bride
An everlasting building, Amen, may it be His will

 

SIVAN RAHAV MEIR

Have you ever noticed that under the bridal canopy, during the holiest moment, we are not focused at all on the present but pray for the future? “In this house the sound of happiness and the sound of joy will yet be heard.” True, the wedding is the climax. This is “the day the Heavens open up.” This is “a propitious time,” “there is hidden light that is revealed to everyone’s eyes.” But what do we ask for at this moment? The future. The wedding is only one evening. After it’s over, the young couple will experience together thousands of evenings that are ordinary, routine, and gray. And those evenings are really what it’s all about. Those are the evenings for which we pray. That is when “in this house the sound of happiness and the sound of joy will yet be heard.” We pray that the couple will be privileged to find this happiness and joy always, between washing the dishes, putting the children to sleep and taking out the trash.

The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of “The Little Prince,” once gave this profound definition of love that a true marriage entails: “Love does not consist of two people gazing at each other with goo-goo eyes, but of two people looking together in the same direction towards the future, with a common goal.”

My Heart / הלב שלי

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הַלֵּב שֶׁלִּי נִקְרַע לִשְׁנַיִם
מַה שֶּׁלֹּא רָאֲתָה שִׁפְחָה עַל הַמַּיִם
כְּמוֹ סוּפָה מִן הַיָּם הוֹלֵם
כְּמוֹ תֻּפָּהּ שֶׁל מִרְיָם פּוֹעֵם
וְאֵין תְּרוּפָה בָּעוֹלָם
הַלֵּב שֶׁלִּי מֵרִים יָדַיִם
כְּבָר מוֹעֵד לֹא עוֹמֵד עַל הָרַגְלַיִם
שֶׁבֶר כְּלִי שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ כְּבָר מָה
וְהַשָּׁמַיִם הֵם לִי חוֹמָה
אֵיךְ אֶעֱבֹר בְּתוֹךְ הַיָּם בַּיַבָּשָׁה
וְרַק אַתָּה יָכוֹל
לַהֲפֹךְ מִסְפֵּדִי לִמְחֹל
לְזַכֵּךְ אֶת הַחוֹל
לְרַכֵּךְ בִּי הַכֹּל
וְרַק אַתָּה מֵבִין
אֵיךְ לָגֶשֶׁת לַלֵּב שֶׁלִּי
מְּשַׁכֵּךְ כָּל כְּאֵב שֶׁבִי
מְרַפֵּא אֶת הַלֵּב
הַלֵּב שֶׁלִּי נִקְרַע לִשְׁנַיִם
חֶצְיוֹ אָשֵׁם וְחֶצְיוֹ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם
כְּמוֹ סוּפָה מִן הַיָּם הוֹלֵם
כְּמוֹ תֻּפָּהּ שֶׁל מִרְיָם פּוֹעֵם
וְאֵין תְּרוּפָה בָּעוֹלָם לַלֵּב
וְיֵשׁ עוֹד צָר
שֶׁמֵּצִיק לְצֹאן
וְאֵין צִיר שֶׁיִּצְעַק לְצוּר
רַק אֲנִי מוּל יָם שָׁלֵם
וְלֵב שָׁבוּר

My heart was torn into two
What the maid did not see on the sea
Like a pounding storm in the ocean
Like the beating of Miriam’s drum
And there is no cure in the world
My heart raises its hands
For some time it’s not standing on its feet
An empty broken vessel
The Heavens are a barrier for me
How can I cross the sea on dry land?
And only You
Could convert my mourning to dancing
To purify the mundane
To soften everything in me
And only You understand
How to approach my heart
Relieve all the pain in me
Heal the heart
My heart was torn into two
Half guilty, half for the sake of Heaven
Like a pounding storm in the ocean
Like the beating of Miriam’s drums
And there is no cure in the world for the heart
And there is another trouble
That distresses the flock
And there is no envoy to call out to the Rock
Only me in front of the entire ocean
And a broken heart

 

RABBI JONATHAN SACKS

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. G-d’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.

He is Filled with Love / תוכו רצוף אהבה

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חוֹשֵׂךְ שִׁבְטוֹ
מִבְּלִי לַחֲשֹׂךְ אֶת אַהֲבָתוֹ
מוֹשִׁיט אֶת שַׁרְבִיטוֹ
לְכָל הַפּוֹשֵׁט יָדוֹ
עַיִן לֹא מַעְלִים מֵעַל צֹאן מַרְעִיתוֹ
גַּם כְּשֶׁאָנוּ שִׁבְרֵי כֵלִים
עוֹדֵנוּ כְּלִי חֶמְדָּתוֹ
תּוֹכוֹ רָצוּף אַהֲבָה רָצוּף אַהֲבָה
בֵּיתוֹ צָפוּף לִרְוָחָה צָפוּף לִרְוָחָה
מַמְצִיא לָנוּ מְחִילָה
לֹא רַק בִּשְׁעַת הַנְּעִילָה
לְךָ דוּמִיָּה תְהִלָּה
יָדָיו רָב לוֹ
וְאֵין רֵאשִׁית לְרֵאשִׁיתוֹ
גַּם הַשִּיׁרָה כְּחוֹל הַיָּם
הִיא רַק מִקְצָת שִׁבְחוֹ
לִפְנִים מִשּׁוּרַת הַדִּין
מַנְהִיג אֶת עוֹלָמוֹ
וּמִלִּפְנֵי הַמַּלְאָכִים
דּוֹרֵשׁ בִּשְׁלוֹם עַמּוֹ
עָתִיד הוּא לָתֵת פְּאֵר תַּחַת אֵפֶר
שֶׁמֶן שָׂשׂוֹן תַּחַת אֵבֶל
מַעֲטֵה תְהִלָּה תַּחַת רוּחַ כֵּהָה

He withholds His staff
Without withholding His love
He holds out His scepter
To whoever reaches out their hand
He never looks away from His flock
Even when we’re a wreck
We’re still His most precious commodity
For He is filled with love, filled with love
His Home is spaciously crowded, spaciously
crowded
Granting us pardon
Not just at Ne’ilah time
Praise befits You
His hands contain power
And there was no beginning to His beginning
Even a song as vast as the sand
Is only a fraction of His praise
Beyond the letter of the law
He leads His world
And before the angels
He provides for the safety of His people
He shall “Give them glory instead of ashes
The festive ointment instead of mourning,
A garment of splendor instead of a drooping spirit”

RABBI JONATHAN SACKS

Judaism took love and made it the centre of the universe. Three loves. “You shall love the L-rd your G-d 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 G-d’s love for us. We exist because G-d loves. And when we love, G-d’s light enters our soul. Loving others, we learn to love G-d and feel the fullness of His love for us. Opening ourselves to something other than ourselves, we become more than we currently are.

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