This post provides a brief introduction to the liturgical poem “Yedid Nefesh,” often sung by Ashkenazi congregations between the afternoon Minchah prayer on Friday and the beginning of the Kabbalat Shabbat service. Although the authorship is uncertain, it is commonly attributed to the sixteenth century Kabbalist, Rabbi Elazar ben Moshe Azikri, whose philosophy centred around the intense love one must feel for God. The article is from an Invitation to Piyut. The audio recording presents Emilia Cataldo singing an a capella version of one of the most popular melodies, shared on neohasid.org. The Hebrew, English and transliterated words from the Zemirot Database appear below.
This piyut, which holds a highly respected place among the traditions of Jewish liturgy, was written by R. Elazar Azkari, a philosopher and ethicist who was a major figure among the mystics 16th century Tzfat. The poet himself defined his piyut as “a supplication for union and the desire of love” and it is indeed sung by all communities at times of great emotional and spiritual awakenings, such as the dawn hour, the welcoming of the Shabbat or the third meal of Shabbat. The poem is imbued with love, longing and emotion and it reflects the sensitive and mystical tendencies of the author. Another noteworthy fact is that the acrostic is the tetragrammaton, God’s ineffable name, and not, as is customary, the author’s name. This again reflects the deep spiritual feelings of the author.
יְדִיד נֶפֶשׁ, אָב הָרַחְמָן
מְשךְ עַבְדָךְ אֶל רְצונָךְ
יָרוּץ עַבְדָךְ כְמו אַיָל
יִשְתַחֲוֶה מוּל הֲדָרָךְ
כִּי יֶעְרַב לוֹ יְדִידוּתָךְ
מִנּפֶת צוּף וְכָל טָעַםהָדוּר, נָאֶה, זִיו הָעולָם
נַפְשִי חולַת אַהֲבָתָךְ
אָנָא אֵל נָא, רְפָא נָא לָהּ
בְּהַרְאות לָהּ נעַם זִיוָךְ
אָז תִתְחֵזֵּק וְתִתְרַפֵּא
וְהָיְתָה לָךְ שִפְחַת עולָםוָתִיק, יֶהְמוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ
וְחוּס נָא עַל בֵּן אוֹהֲבָךְ
כִּי זֶה כַּמֶה נִכְסף נִכְסַף
לִרְאות בְּתִפְאֶרֶת עֻזָךְ
אָנָא אֵלִי, מַחְמָד לִבִי
חוּסה נָא, וְאַל תִּתְעַלָםהִגָלֵה נָא וּפְרשׂ חָבִיב
עָלַי, אֶת סֻכַת שְלומֶךְ
תָּאִיר אֶרֶץ מִכְּבוֹדָךְ
נָגִילָה וְנִשְׂמְחָה בָךְ
מַהֵר אָהוּב, כִּי בָא מועֵד
וְחָנֵנִי כִּימֵי עולָם
Yedid nefesh, Av harachaman,
meshoch Avdach el Retzonach.
Yarutz avdach kemo ayal,
yishtachave mul hadarach.
Ye’erav lo yedidutach, minofet tsuf vechol ta’am.Hadoor naeh ziv haolam, nafshi cholat ahavatach.
Anah El nah refah nah lah, b’harot lah noam zivach,
Az titchazek v’titrapeh, v’hay’tah lah shifchat olam.Vatik yehemoo rachamecha v’chus na al ben ohavach.
Ki zeh kamah nichsof nichsaf, lir’ot betiferet oozach.
Anah Eyli, machmad leebee, chooshah nah v’al titalam.
Higaleh nah uf’ros chaviv alai, et sukkat shelomach
Tair eretz mikevodach, nagilah v’nismechah bach.
Maher ahoov, ki va moed, v’choneni kimei olam.
Lover of My Soul
bring your servant close to Your will.
Your servant will run like a gazelle, to prostrate before Your glory.
For Your companionship is purer than any fine taste or flavor.Perfect, pleasing, radiance of the world, my soul desires Your love.
Please, God, heal her now, as You show her the pleasantness of Your light.
Now, strengthen and heal her, and she will be for You an eternal servant.Ancient one, many your mercies be made manifest,
And have compassion on the child of Your lover.
For it is so long that I have faithfully waited, to see the glory of Your strength.
Please, my God, the desire of my Heart, hurry and do not hide!Please, my beloved, reveal yourself and spread over me the shelter of Your peace.
Fill the world with the light of your glory, so that we may rejoice and be happy in You.
Be quick, my lover, for the time has come, and have mercy on me for all time.
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