My Heart Is In The East

 

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west

 How can I find savour in food? How shall it be sweet to me?

 How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet

 Zion lies beneath the fetter of Edom, and I in Arab chains?

 A light thing would it seem to me to leave all the good things of Spain

 Seeing how precious in mine eyes to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary."                    By: Rabbi Yehuda Halevi

 

 

My inspiration stems from this poem about the longings for the holy land. Both Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish) and Yiddish (Ashkenazi-Jewish), are languages that were born during Jewish exile. Using a virtual/cyber candle taken from an i phone app, a candle that never goes out, I wonder upon memory and temporariness. These two languages have been replaced by the Hebrew language that was revived with the foundation of Israel.

 

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About the languages:    Yiddish (Ashkenazi Jewish) & Ladino (Judaeo Spanish)

 

Yiddish was at one time the international language of Ashkenazic Jews(the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe and their descendants). A hybrid of Hebrew and medieval German, Yiddish takes about three-quarters of its vocabulary from German, but borrows words liberally from Hebrew and many other languages from the many lands where Ashkenazic Jews have lived. It has a grammatical structure all its own, and is written in an alphabet based on Hebrew charachters. Scholars and universities classify Yiddish as a Germanic language, though some have questioned that classification.

At its height less than a century ago, Yiddish was understood by an estimated 11 million of the world's 18 million Jews, and many of them spoke Yiddish as their primary language. Yiddish has fallen on hard times, a victim of both assimilation and murder. Today, less than a quarter of a million people in the United States speak Yiddish, about half of them in New York. Most Jews know only a smattering of Yiddish words, and most of those words are unsuitable for polite company. But in recent years, Yiddish has experienced a resurgence and is now being taught at many universities.

 

Yiddish was never a part of Sephardic Jewish culture (the culture of the Jews of Spain, Portugal, the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East). They had their own international language known as Ladino or Judesmo, which is a hybrid of medieval Spanish and Hebrew in much the same way that Yiddish combines German and Hebrew.

Ladino, otherwise known as Judeo-Spanish, is the spoken and written Hispanic language of Jews of Spanish origin. Ladino did not become a specifically Jewish language until after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 - it was merely the language of their province. It is also known as Judezmo, Dzhudezmo, or Spaniolit.

When the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal they were cut off from the further development of the language, but they continued to speak it in the communities and countries to which they emigrated. Ladino therefore reflects the grammar and vocabulary of 14th and 15th century Spanish. The further away from Spain the emigrants went, the more cut off they were from developments in the language, and the more. Ladino began to diverge from mainstream Castilian Spanish.

 

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About the sound:

 

The sound combines 3 different parts. The first is a hebrew poem by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, Libi Bamizrach”(My heart is in the east). The song was written during Jewish exile to express the longings for the holy land. The poem is followed by an ancient melody in Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish language, “Ir Me Quiero a Yerushalayim” (longings for Jerusalem). Later the music switches into a jewish prayer poem in Yiddish, the Ashkenazi-Jewish language, “Shalom Aleichem”(Peace Be Upon You).

 

“Libi Bamizrach” (My heart is in the east)/ Rabbi Yehuda Halevi

 

Hebrew:

ליבי במזרח ואנוכי בסוף מערב -

איך אטעמה את אשר אוכל ואיך יערב?

איכה אשלם נדרי ואסרי, בעוד

ציון בחבל אדום ואני בכבל ערב?

ייקל בעיני עזוב כל טוב ספרד,

כמו ייקר בעיני ראות עפרות דביר נחרב!

 

Translation:

My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west

How can I find savour in food? How shall it be sweet to me?

How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet

Zion lies beneath the fetter of Edom, and I in Arab chains?

A light thing would it seem to me to leave all the good things of Spain

Seeing how precious in mine eyes to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.

 

Yehudah Halevi, (Judah Ha-Levi) was a Jewish physician, poet and philosopher. He was born in Toledo in Spain, about 1085 and died about 1141. Much of his poetry reflected his love for Israel, and kept alive the love of Zion as a part of Jewish culture, rather than just a ritual to be expressed in prayer. At the end of his life he actually traveled to the Holy Land to settle there and fulfill his dream. However, according to tradition, he was murdered by an Arab as he knelt at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, soon after he arrived. Ha Levi's poetry used a relatively simple, direct style that is very close to the modern idiom.

 

“Ir Me Quiero a Yerushalayim” / Longings for Jerusalem

 

An ancient melody in Ladino, the Judeao-Spanish language, that I was unable to trace it's origin or source. It also speaks about the longings for Jerusalem.

 

“Shalom Aleichem” / Peace Be Upon You

 

Shalom Aleichem is a traditional song sung by religious Jews every Friday night upon returning home from synagogue prayer. It signals the arrival of the Jewish Sabbath, welcoming the angels who accompany a person home on the eve of the Sabbath.

 

Hebrew/Yiddish

שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם (השרת) מַלְאֲכֵי עֶלְיוֹן.

מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא.

בּוֹאֲכֶם לְשָׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי עֶלְיוֹו.מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא.

בָּרְכוּנִי לְשָׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי עֶלְיוֹן.מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא.

צֵאתְכֶם לְשָׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי עֶלְיוֹן.מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא.

 

Translation:

Say three times: Peace unto you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

Say three times: May your coming be in peace angels of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy one, blessed be He.

Say three times: Bless me with peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy one, blessed be He.

Say three times: May your departure be in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy one, blessed be He.

For He will instruct His angels in your behalf, to guard you in all your ways. The Lord will guard your going and your coming from now and for all time.