Baal Shem Tov, or Besht — the founder of Chasidism —
El Mis'tater and Bar Yochai
Here are two songs related to the Sefirot, often sung on Shabbat, that are also appropriate for Lag B'Omer, which is connected with the Sefirot. The first song, El Mis'tater, "God of Secret Mystery", is an old world zemer that goes through the Sefirot of the Tree of Life starting with Keter. It is specifically a seudah shlishit (Shabbat afternoon) song. El Mistater also fits Shavuot, when we finish our journey through Sefirot. The second, Bar Yochai, is a fairly well-known song about Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai, traditionally thought of as author of the Zohar. It also has one verse for each Sefirah of the Tree of Life.
See the text below with vowels for El Mis'tater. You can also find the text of El Mis'tater on the Hebrew Wikisource website and on piyut.org.il. (Lyrics to other z'mirot can also be found on these sites.) I learned this nigun somewhere in my travels through Yeshiva, but I can't remember where. It is also an appropriate tune for Shavuot, the culmination of our Omer journey through the permutations of the Tree of Life. El Mis'tater goes through the Sefirot, one verse for each one, from Keter to Malkhut, in a fairly transparent manner.
Listen to El Mis'tater:
Listen to a Halebi (Syrian) version on piyut.org.il.
The text of Bar Yochai is here, along with a very rich recording of the tune, with strongly Sefardi instrumentation and intonation. A simpler version, as I learned it from Allen Selis, is offered below. Any really traditional bencher will include this song - that leaves out many of the ones you get at weddings, however. The verses go through the Sefirot from Malkhut to Keter, but the references are somewhat obscure. For an explanation (in Hebrew), see katif.net. Note that here the third verse covers both Netsach and Hod.
Listen to Bar Yochai:
In both El Mistater and Bar Yochai, the last verse is about all the Sefirot together. While we know the authors of these songs, the origin of the nigunim used here is unknown to me - if you know more please reveal it!
Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006