Mi Yimalel is such a popular Chanukah song that it's hard to write this, but there are few songs besides this one that hack away at the root of religion so effectively. Look at the lyrics and see how the message of Mi Yimalel is essentially the opposite of Judaism.|
Here are the lyrics:
||Traditional English Lyrics:
|Mi yimalel g'vurot Yisrael, otan mi yimneh?
||Who would tell the mighty deeds of Israel? Who would count them?
||Who can retell the things that befell us? Who can count them?
|Hen b'khol dor yakum hagibor
|Here, in each generation, a warrior stands up who redeems the people.
||In every age, a hero or sage came to our aid.
|Shma! Bayamim hahem bazman hazeh Macabi moshi'a ufodeh
||Listen! In these days, in this season, Maccabee saved and rescued,
||Hark! In days of yore in Israel's ancient land brave Maccabeus led the faithful band
|Uv'yameinu kol Am Yisrael yitakhed yakum v'yiga'el.
||And in our days all the people Israel will unite, arise, and redeem themselves
||But now all Israel as one must arise, redeem itself through deed and sacrifice.
Here's the line being quoted and betrayed: Mi yimalel g'vurot Adonai, yashmi'a kol t'hilato
– "Who would tell the mighty deeds of YHVH, who could cause all God's praise to be heard?"(Psalms 106:2)
In Judaism, rabbinic and Biblical, it is God who is moshi'a savior, fodeh rescuer, and go'el redeemer. As we read (on Chanukah davka!), Lo b'chayil v'lo b'khoach ki im b'ruchi amar Adonai Tsva'ot – "Not by might and not by power but by my Spirit says YHVH of hosts!" (Zech. 4:6)
The exhortation "Shma" is also indicative of the religious antipathy here: the unity that this Shma prepares us to declare is the unity of Am Yisrael, the people, which will "unite, arise and redeem itself" – rather than the unity of God. Mi Yimalel embodies the dangerous hubris that characterized the anti-religious branch of Zionism. The message of Mi Yimalel is that we find salvation only through our own strength and power. That is the downfall of the State and the tyrant equally.
You're right of course. But you know, the song was written in the middle of the 20th Century, by Menashe Rabina, a Communist, a Zionist and a music critic, who was fiercely anti-Nazi. Like others of his generation, he was fed up with what looked like Jewish Passivity in the face of Anti-semitism, and that's what fed the lyric of this song. Frustration is a legitimate emotion.
So, God's plan is for us to sit in Ghettos and be slaughtered? I don't think so. There are also numerous examples of God telling the Jewish people to fight for themselves. In order to 'find salvation' some of us would prefer to survive by defending ourselves, not dying passively at the hands of our enemies.
Ed. Response: So, the only options are to go like lambs to the slaughter or to boast that we are the source of redemption and not God? What about fighting (when necessary, and making peace when possible) and recognizing that triumph is ultimately in God's hands, not our own? I am always fascinated by reactions like this. If you come back to this page Michael, I hope you'll read this response. -- David
Posted by: Michael Freed
November 24, 2008 2:23 PM
The idea that Israel can be the source of Israel's redemption is not anti-Judaic. Ta'anim 64a says "If Israel would repent one day, immediately the Son of David would come. If Israel observed one Sabbath properly, immediately the Son of David would come." What is Messiah if not redemption?
~ Israel in this teaching refers to the people, not the state. ~ ed.
Posted by: Vincent
December 16, 2008 12:53 AM