Lag BaOmer

Bar Yochai Song

February 26, 2014

For the Kabbalistically inclined, the following enchanting Shabbat “zemer,” festive song, is shown below. It was composed by Shimon ibn Lavi, who had fled as a child from the Spanish Inquisition, and arrived in Fez, Morocco, where he remained until 1549. He later set out for Eretz Yisrael, but on his way there, as fate would have it, he stopped in Tunis, where he remained as the community’s teacher till his death in 1588.

It is written in honor of the “G-dly Tanna,” Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar. It is sung mainly in Sefardic Jewish communities on Shabbat, but on Lag BaOmer, it is sung by most Jewish communities.

(The following translation is found in “Zemirot L’Shabbat,” “Sabbath Songs,” A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic Sources; from the ArtScroll Mesorah Series).

Bar Yochai! You were anointed
- you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from your fellows.

Bar Yochai! With oil of sacred anointment
were you anointed from the holy measure
You bore the headplate, a crown of holiness,
bound upon your head is your glory.

Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from your fellows.

Bar Yochai! In a goodly dwelling did you settle
on the day you ran, the day you fled,
In rocky caves where you stopped -
there you acquired your glory and your strength.

Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from your fellows.

Bar Yochai! Like standing shittim beams,
the teachings of God they study
An extraordinary light is the light of the fire
that they kindle – they, your teachers, will teach you.

Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from your fellows.

Bar Yochai! You came to a Field of Apples
and entered it to pick confections:
The mystery of Torah with blossoms and flowers -
‘Let us create man’ was said because of You.

Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from Your fellows.

Bar Yochai! You were girded with strength,
and in the war of the fiery Torah up to the gate
You pulled a sword from its scabbard,
you drew it against your enemies.

Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from your fellows.

Bar Yochai! To a place of marble stones,
you arrived, and before a huge lion.
Even a rounded crown upon a constellation’s star
you perceived – but none can perceive you.

Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from your fellows.

Bar Yochai! In the Holy of Holies,
a green line creates new manifestations
Seven weeks are the secret of the fifty,
you bound the bonds of Shin as your bonds.

Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from your fellows.

Bar Yochai! The Yud of earliest wisdom,
you gazed into its innermost honor,
The thirty-two paths of the very first tithe,
you are like a cherub anointed with the glow
of your illumination.

Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from your fellows.

Bar Yochai! At a wondrous light in lofty heights
you feared to stare for it is great.
Such hiddenness that one calls her, ‘Naught’.
You declared that no eye could glimpse You.

Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from your fellows.

Bar Yochai! Fortunate is she who bore you,
fortunate is the people that learns from you,
And fortunate are those who can plumb your mystery,
garbed in the priestly breastplate
and Your Ineffable Name,

Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate -
With oil of joy from your fellows.