Adon Olam, among the most popular hymns in Jewish liturgy, is supposed to have been composed by Solomon ibn Gabirol, one of the great figures of the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry.
Gabirol trained as a philosopher but wrote more than 400 poems before dying aged only 37 in 1058.
The Jewish Virtual Library explains that the lyrics speak about God’s greatness and all-empowering existence. Countless melodies have been written to accompany them.
The penultimate lines request that God watches over one’s soul as one sleeps and the poem ends by mentioning God’s presence and His ability to bring reassurance to His people. So it’s not surprising that it also forms part of bedtime prayers and is recited on one’s deathbed.
But this is Sabbath eve and Adon Olam is joyful, so I’m posting a version sung to a cover of American singer-songwriter, Pharrell Williams’s Happy by the Listen Up! A Cappella group featuring Shayna Elliott, Eli Nathan Taylor, Steve Singer and Freddie Feldman.
Ibn Gabirol’s words are below in transliterated Hebrew and then in English :
“Adon Olam – Master of the Universe
“ Adon olam, asher malach,
b'terem kol y'tzir nivra.
L'et na'asah v'cheftzo kol,
azai melech sh'mo nikra.
“V'acharey kichlot hakol,
l'vado yimloch nora.
V'hu haya, v'hu hoveh,
v'hu yih'yeh b'tifara.
“V'hu echad, v'eyn sheni
l'hamshil lo, l'hachbira.
B'li reishit, b'li tachlit,
v'lo ha'oz v'hamisrah.
“V'hu Eli, v'chai go'ali,
v'tzur chevli b'et tzarah.
V'hu nisi umanos li,
m'nat kosi b'yom ekra.
B'yado afkid ruchi
b'et ishan v'a'irah.
V'im ruchi g'viyati,
Adonai li v'lo ira”.
“The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.
“And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.
“And He is one, and there's no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs dominion and power.
“And He is my God, my living God.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.
“To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
God is with me, I shall not fear”.
© Natalie Wood (05 September 2014)