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The Inspiring Tale Behind a Passover's Beloved Melody 🎶

Pesach, Passover, is on April 22nd, less than a week away.

There are still more than 130 hostages in Gaza, abandoned by our vile government who could have done a deal a long time ago. There is a serious humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Palestinians are caught between their own ruthless rulers, i.e., Hamas, and the IDF, which sometimes has a hard time distinguishing innocent Palestinians from Hamas terrorists. On Saturday we all spent a sleepless night wondering if our defense systems would hold up as Iran launched drones and missiles towards us.

Amidst all this turmoil, we're still expected to celebrate Passover.

And we will. Because, what else can we do? It's tradition, and that's something Jews are sticklers about. So, in this blog post, I would like to tell you about special Passover traditions and the heartwarming story behind one Passover song.

a pile of seven unleavened flat bread (matzah)

I grew up in a kibbutz called Na'an, where there is a communal Seder: the entire kibbutz comes together for a collective celebration. My kibbutz holds the largest Seder in Israel. More than a thousand people gather in the sports arena, read and sing the Haggadah together.

A Haggadah is a text that guides the Passover Seder, recounting the story of the Exodus from Egypt. It serves as a script for the ceremony, providing instructions and readings for participants to follow. The same exact format had been used by Jews all over the world for thousands of years.

Yet right from their start, the kibbutz decided to renovate the ancient text and infuse it with new traditions. The new Haggadah relied on the traditional one, using the concept of Exodus as the move from the Diaspora to Eretz Israel. It put emphasis on Spring, agriculture, and the rebirth of a nation.

Songs were needed for this new recounting, and this is the story of a humble composer and the song he wrote that ended up being the best loved song of the new Seder.

The lyrics were chosen first, deriving from a poem about a newborn baby:

“Come, my human son, and I’ll kiss you, with green fields and sunlit skies…” Later, there is mention of growing wheat. It fit perfectly the overall themes of the newly written Haggadah.

Now for the melody. At the time, two composers resided in Na’an: David Zehavi and Yehuda Oren.

Zehavi was very well known. He had been composing songs since age 15, including classics like “A walk to Caesarea”, and “The flute”. His songs are still sung today (further links and info at the end of the post). He even has streets named after him.

Oren, on the other hand, always lived in Zehavi’s shadow. He composed a little but only for himself. He was a music teacher for many years - instructing tone-deaf kids including, in his last years, yours truly.

a pile of seven unleavened flat bread (matzah)

Back to our story.

In 1944, Zehavi was approached to compose a melody for the Seder song. He obliged but it failed to gain traction and for several years, the poem was merely recited during the Seder. Oren took it upon himself to write new music, arranging it as a duet for his wife (soprano) and her best friend (alto). In the Seder of 1948, mere weeks before the birth of the State of Israel, the song was sung for the first time. Dina, Yehuda's wife, and Hayale, her friend, performed it together, continuing to do so for years thereafter.

Initially, only the residents of Na'an knew and cherished the song. It was, and is to this day, the highlight and the best loved song in the Seder. Twenty years later, a famous choir picked it up, and almost overnight, it became a sensation. It received dozens of covers, by the most well known singers of the day. Oren, who lived until 1999, witnessed his song become a hit. He’d always maintained that the original duo, his wife and Hayale, performed it best. I agree - it’s the shortest rendition, and the most beautiful (there’s a link below).

Dafna Zehavi, who married David Zehavi’s firstborn son, now sings it at every Seder. Yehuda Oren's daughter, Lally, succeeded him as my music teacher. She has been the musical director of the Seder for the last forty years, proudly conducting the singing of her father's most well-known melody.

Further reading:


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