Which artist sang the song Hanukah Song

In tsarist Russia a little girl comes to the rich Jew Schapirstein: "I have an excellent game for your daughter." "And who is that supposed to be?" "The tsar!" "Are you crazy?" Don't you know that the biblical Esther married a Persian king and later saved the Jews in Persia? So you don't want your daughter to help the Russian Jews? "" But the tsar is a Christian! "" And? Wouldn't your daughter convert because of such a good cause? ”Schapirstein finds it convincing and agrees. "Wonderful," the little girl rubs her hands together. “Half the work is done. All that remains is to persuade the tsar. "

The Jewish wish to gain family closeness to the powerful of this world is rarely fulfilled - unless you are a real estate magnate and your name is Jared Kushner. Such connections develop more easily in the musical field. One of the most important musical symbols of the Hanukkah festival, the song "Hava narima", is even directly linked to the history of the English royal family.

England In 1745 England was shaken by a Jacobite revolt. The rebels wanted to overthrow the ruling Protestant house of German origin in Hanover and install a Catholic king from the Scottish House of Stuart. After the initial successes of the rebels, the government troops under the command of Wilhelm August, the youngest son of King George II, were finally able to prevail in several battles.

The composer Georg Friedrich Händel, who had lived in London for a long time and was in the service of the king, paid tribute to the crown's victory with a whole series of works. These included some large oratorios with military themes, three of which used subjects from Jewish history. In 1746, just a few days after the decisive Battle of Culloden, Handel began work on the oratorio Judas Maccabaeus, which premiered the following year with overwhelming success. The heroism of the ancient Hebrews and the victory of Yehuda Makkabi over the Greek oppressors almost 2,000 years earlier were to serve as a projection screen for the glorious deeds of the royal family.

There was nothing unusual about it: since the Renaissance, composers and visual artists have liked to use motifs from the past - preferably Greek myths, incidents from the time of Ancient Rome or stories from the Bible - as metaphors for contemporary events. While nowadays classical operas are usually staged with modern costumes and the plot is almost compulsively brought into the present, for the classical creators, on the contrary, the ancient subjects were a popular means of artistically escaping their present. Due to the proximity to ancient models, the contemporary events should appear timeless, noble and transfigured.

antique The authenticity of the representation played no role at all, it was only about historical symbols. When Handel wrote his Judas Maccabaeus, he was therefore least interested in actual Jewish history. The Judas from his oratorio is nothing else than the "disguised" Wilhelm August, the victorious general and conqueror of the Jacobites. Handel would not have dreamed that his music could have any connection to Jewish culture or even to Jewish religious life. He would certainly have been very surprised if he had found out that a melody from his oratorio was about to become a popular Jewish song.

This melody - the choir "See the conqu’ring hero comes" - did not add Handel to his work until a few years later for a new version. He took it together with the accompanying text from his other oratorio Joshua, which was written shortly after Judas Maccabaeus and was also dedicated to the fight against the Jacobites. After all, whether the conqueror of the promised land Joshua or the liberation fighter Judas stood for the victorious English royal family did not matter. Since then, this piece has become one of the most popular patriotic chants in England.

The Jews discovered it for themselves much later - when the Hanukkah festival was reinterpreted and upgraded within the framework of the Zionist movement. In the Zionist perception, Jehuda Makkabi became the symbol of an ideal new Jew who did not limit himself to praying and waiting, but took his fate into his own hands and fought for his freedom and that of his people.

Alongside Bar Kochba and the defenders of Masada, Jehuda Makkabi was one of the most important figures in the ancient Zionist pantheon of heroes, to which modern heroes such as Joseph Trumpeldor were added. Although the Zionist references - the return to Eretz Israel and the restoration of the Jewish statehood there - traditionally play a particularly important role in the ritual of the Passover festival, for the Zionists not Passover but Hanukkah as the festival of self-liberation gained a key meaning.

It has been celebrated as a Zionist "Maccabees celebration" since the beginning of the 20th century. Yehuda Makkabi's name has been associated with a wide variety of Zionist activities, including the Jewish sports movement. The exploits of the Maccabees were glorified in poetry and innumerable songs.

Maccabees This also included Handel's choir, which was initially sung with the original text. It was not until 1936 that the Hebrew poet and children's book author Levin Kipnis (1894–1990), who lived in Palestine at the time, wrote a new Hebrew text for this melody, “Hava narima”, which now unequivocally thematized the Jewish festival: “Let's raise the banner and the torch. We'll sing a Hanukkah song together. We are Maccabees, our flag is proud and upright. We fought the Greeks and we won. "

Handel himself was "adopted" by the Zionist movement: in 1932 Judas Maccabaeus was performed in Tel Aviv in a Hebrew translation on the occasion of the first Maccabiad. Handel's “Jewish” works, including Judas Maccabaeus and Israel in Egypt, were part of the repertoire of the Jewish Cultural Association in Germany in the 1930s. Its director Kurt Singer emphasized at the time that Handel was "forever dear to us Jews as the herald of our biblical past and greatness."

At this point in time, Handel's melody had long been an "everyday hit". As early as 1820, the Protestant theologian Friedrich Heinrich Ranke had arranged an Old Testament text by the prophet Zechariah, "Daughter of Zion, rejoice". This is how a popular German Advent song was created. In Norway, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France and some English-speaking countries, the melody is sung in conjunction with other texts as an Easter song: It is about the resurrection of Jesus. So the son of a carpenter from Nazareth did it too ...

The author holds the chair for the history of Jewish music at the Liszt School of Music Weimar.