By Simon Rocker
December 8, 2009
Maor Tzur is a seemingly jolly tune that we’ll all be belting out on Friday. But the words are not quite so jolly, even in the most familiar first verse.
In a dvar Torah at the weekend, David Jacobs, director of synagogue partnerships at the Movement for Reform Judaism, drew attention to the Hebrew l’et tachin matbe’ach, mitzar hamnabe’ach, which the 1925 edition of the Singer’s Prayer Book translated as “when thou shalt have prepared a slaughter of the blaspheming foe”.
This was deemed too bloody post-War and the 1954 altered it to “when thou shalt cause all slaughter to cease and the blaspheming foe,” substituting the word tashbit for tachin in the Hebrew and changing mitzar to vetzar.
As David observed, this change has its origins in the Reform liturgy more than 50 years earlier: the West London Synagogue had l’et tashbit matbe’ach, vchamat hamnabe’ach and the more pacific sentiment, “When thou shalt have put an end to carnage and to the war-hound’s fury”.
But by 1990, the Singer’s had returned to the traditional Hebrew, rendered now as “When you will have utterly silenced the blaspheming foe”.
And even the new Reform movement siddur uses the traditional Hebrew (rather than the West London version), translated now as; “The time You end all slaughter, enemies shall falter”.