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Shavuot Song Compilation

​The Festival of Shavuot is one of the oldest Jewish holidays and one of the three most important, the Shalosh Regalim: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

 

Shavuot is celebrated seven weeks exactly from Pesach Sheni ("Second Passover").

 

Shavuot essentially "completes" Passover in that Passover marks the physical exodus of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, while their journey of spiritual exodus is completed only on Shavuot: on this day, at Mount Sinai, God delivers the Torah and with it the highest of moral and ethical codes. As such, Shavuot is also called Chag Matan Torah (the holiday of the giving of the Torah).


 

The Festival of Shavuot has many names: Pentecost (fiftieth day), Chag HaKatzir (Festival of Reaping), Chag Matan Torah, the Festival of Shavuot, Yom Habikkurim (Day of First Fruits), Chag Atzeret (literally "refraining"), Yom HaKahel (Day of Solemn Assembly).


 

The mention of the holiday in the Scriptures as well as the custom of bringing the first fruits is eternalized in two songs by the composer, musician, and Israel Prize recipient Yedidya Admon (1894-1982) – "VaChag Shavuot Ta'ase Lecha" and "Saleynu Al Ketefeynu" with lyrics by Levin Kipnis. 

 

"VaChag Shavuot Ta'ase Lecha":

"In marching tempo and with vigor" are the playing instructions that appear in the manuscript photocopy - Yedidya Admon, from the year 1926. Here are two musical interpretations of the song, do they meet expectations? You be the judge...

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  • Scans of the manuscript photocopy, with remarks by Yedidya Admon for the song "VaChag Shavuot Ta'ase Lecha". Admon composed the song in 1926. Lyrics are from scripture. From the archive of Yedidya Admon - MUS 176
    VaChag Shavuot Ta'ase Lecha - Yedidya Admon
Naomi Tzuri, mezzo-soprano singer, in a recording from 1950, from the  "Kol Israel" record collection (fast forward to minute 2:10 to hear the song):
 
Kibbutz Ruchama Children's Choir accompanied by the "Kol Israel" entertainment orchestra, conducted by Moshe Wilensky and arranged by Shimon Cohen, in a recording from 1962 from the "Kol Israel" video collection:
 
"Saleynu Al Ketefeynu": 
"Make way for us, we have the first fruits", chime the people making their way from Yehuda, from the Shomron, from the Valley and from the Galilee in Levin Kipnis' colorful description. And this time in real celebratory marching pace, the Kibbutz Ruchama Children's Choir accompanied by the "Kol Israel" entertainment orchestra, conducted by Moshe Wilensky and arranged by Shimon Cohen, in a recording from 1962:
 
 
Shavuot as a holiday with agricultural characteristics was celebrated in the working Yishuv and in the Kibbutz movement, with particular emphasis given to the ceremony of the first fruits and  to the holiday as the day of harvest. An example is this songbook "Bisdei Kotsrim" (In a Field of Reapers) - a songbook for the Bikurim - First Fruits Festival, with lyrics by the poet and educator Chanan Shadmi (1914-2010), from Kfar Blum, with music by Yekutiel Shur (1918-1990), from Kibbutz Kinneret.
 
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  • Cover page. Music: Yekutiel Shur Lyrics: Chanan Shadmi Call Number: (S) PNI 156
    Bisdei Kotsrim - A Songbook for Chag HaBikurim
  • Explanatory text at the beginning of the songbook. Lyrics: Chanan Shadmi Music: Yekutiel Shur Call Number: (S) PNI 156
    Bisdei Kotsrim - A Songbook for Chag HaBikurim
  • "Pticha Ktana" Lyrics: Chanan Shadmi Music: Yekutiel Shur Call Number: (S) PNI 156
    Bisdei Kotsrim - A Songbook for Chag HaBikurim
 
The songbook has three parts; a pastoral way of life by way of a field of reapers that comes to life in the work, the song, and the dance of the reapers and gatherers, the parade making its way to Jerusalem, and the bringing of the first fruits that culminates in an atmosphere of joy.
Written in the songbook's introduction:"...the intention of this work is that it be possible to perform by all agricultural (and urban) settlements and to express the agricultural nature of the holiday as the tradition of past merges with the reality of our new lives... the songbook represents a complete and unified work, though if the celebrating public in one settlement or another wishes to incorporate a verse from the Mikra - it may do so, taking into consideration, of course, how to go about this, moreover, different parts can be moved around, if the performers of the songbook find this necessary...".  
 
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  • Cover Page. From the Meir Noi Collection (Call Number: נרדי - שב').
    Nachum Nardi - Children Songs for Shavuot
  • Songs on this page: "VaChag Shavuot", lyrics: from scripture, "Yerek Chag", lyrics: Levin Kipnis, "Bechorim", lyrics: S. Bass. From the Meir Noi Collection (Call Number: נרדי - שב')
    Nachum Nardi - Children Songs for Shavuot
  • Songs on this page: "Chag Bikkurim BaEmek", lyrics: G. Parnas, "Zerim LeShavuot", lyrics: Levin Kipnis, "Uro Achim", lyrics: from scripture, "Shir Atur", lyrics: A. Shlonski, from the Meir Noi Collection (Call Number: נרדי שב').
    Nachum Nardi - Children Songs for Shavuot
  • Songs on this page: "Shir Bechorim", lyrics: Levi Ben-Amitai, "Bechorim", lyrics: A. Ashman, "Od Tit'i Kramim", lyrics: Irmiyahu L.A., "Bechorim", lyrics: Y. Karni, from the Meir Noi Collection (Call Number: נרדי- שב').
    Nachum Nardi - Children Songs for Shavuot
 
The Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot, whose story takes place during the time of the harvest.
According to tradition (the Jerusalem Talmud and Midrash Ruth Raba) King David, the grandson of Ruth Moabi, passed away on Shavuot. According to a later tradition (whose sources are unknown) King David was born on Shavuot.
 
 
The musical "Megillat Ruth" was first performed by the dance theater "Inbal".
Its texts are based on the Megilla, the music is by Ovadia Tuvia, and the choreography by Sarah Levi-Tanai.
Ovadia Tuvia (1921-2006), composer and arranger (composed for the theater musicals such as "Megillat Ruth", "HaRoim", "HaMidbar", and many more), founder of the band "Makhelat Eden", first musical director of the "Inbal Theater".
He studied at the College for Musical Educators in Tel-Aviv, where he also taught and later managed. Later on he studied composition with Mordechai Setter and Paul Ben-Haim. He also studied Indian and and African composition, song culture and music in London.
 
Tuvia gave his work "Megillat Ruth" the byline "a suite of pictures from the harvest".
In the original program for "Megillat Ruth" Sarah Levi-Tanai wrote:
"The Biblical subject and with it the themes from the Jewish-Mizrachi folklore and from the Israeli way of life are the foundations on which "Inbal" builds its structure...we have chosen to showcase the Biblical text as is... ours ears are tuned to the words and sounds, and our eyes are open to the visual scenes that arise from the ancient-new book... the music was written by Ovadia Tuvia... in whom the penalty of the Mizrachi finds a kindred redeemer, who reveals its hidden beauty".
 
Compilation editors: Tamar Zigman, Rivka Shamir
Written by: Rivka Shamir, Tamar Zigman