Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Tune For Al HaMichya



A while ago, some bloggers were talking about a new tune to Al HaMichya. (See it at www.alhamichya.com.) Here is a website devoted to it. They write there:
Despite the frequent need to say the bracha of “Al HaMichya” in general, as well as in schools, kindergardens, and camps (eg. meals, birthday parties, snacks), we are all too familiar with the problem of children (and adults!) who have difficulty learning this bracha by heart. The problem usually stems from the length of the text and/or the similarity of it’s words to those of the benching (usually slipping around "רחם נא ה' אלוקנו על ישראל עמך...").
A simple and pleasant solution is to download the following catchy tune composed by Rav Ari Chwat, Rosh HaMidrasha of the Tal Orot (Torah Lishma) program in Michlelet Orot, to enable the easy learning of the bracha. The professional arrangement of Leib Ya’akov Rigler is enhanced by Israel’s leading musicians, and children’s choir in the background which helps kids enjoy and identify with the singers, as well as the song.The song has already proven successful in aiding hundreds, if not thousands, of children to learn the “Al HaMichya”.
Please aid us in publicizing this tune by downloading it and sharing it with others, adults, children, grandchildren, or students in schools, camps, or kindergardens.

Indeed, there is a problem remembering the words of Al HaMichya. I would venture that there are a several factors which lead to this difficulty:

1) It is somewhat lengthy.
2) It has words similar to bentching, but it differs from bentching.
3) It lacks a song. Birkat HaMazon is much longer, but put to a tune, we remember it.
4) We do not say it as often as bentching.
5) We are used to saying bentching from a bentcher, such that we read it from a text over and over until it finally sticks in our heads. Al HaMichya is not always said at a formal sit-down meal, such that a bentcher is less likely to be available. And if available, less likely to be offered since, after all, it is shorter.
6) Unlike Borei Nefashot or Asher Yatzar, we insert special mention of the day on days such as Shabbat and Yom Tov. In bentching, this is its own paragraph, and so does not interrupt the flow. For a short prayer like Al HaMichya, if we suddenly insert a single extra phrase, we ruin the flow of the words off our tongues and get flustered. And we have to remember where to stop to insert that extra phrase.
7) We are further confounded by duplication of words, most specifically the leEchol miPiryah veLisboa' miTuvah at the start matching up to the venochal mipiryah venisba' miTuvah at the end.

As such, a tune would be exceptionally helpful. But perhaps we can do even better, addressing other complicating issues along the way, and thus aid in our kavana when saying it.

One important thing to realize is that Al HaMichya is a Bracha MeEin Shalosh, that is, it is intended to be a shorthand for the three, or rather four, blessings of Birkat HaMazon. Each span of text corresponds to a blessing in Birkat HaMazon What we should do, when teaching it, and committing it to memory, is to separate each component of Al HaMichya.

We should memorize each independently. (For young children, perhaps build up to the whole thing.) That way, what we need to remember is much shorter. And we are less likely to get flustered, since when we finish one unit, we move on to the next short unit. Furthermore, the tune we should use for each segment should be the very same tune which we use in Birkat haMazon. That way, we recognize the parallels between them and have an overhead map of where we are going.

The structure of Al HaMichya is as follows:

1) A blessing on food, parallel to Hazan Et Hakol
2) A blessing on the land and food, parallel to Nodeh Lecha.
3) A blessing on the Yisrael, Yerushalayim, the Bet Hamikdash, and food.
There are actually two components here -- one parallel to Rachem Na, and one parallel to UVenei Yerushalayim. This is the end of the third blessing, since the three Biblical blessings are the first three.
4) In bentching, we would put retzei or yaaleh veyavo before uvenei yerushalayim. Here, we finish the preceding topic, and then we say retzei or whatever mention of the day is appropriate.
5) HaTov veHameitiv, parallel to bentching's Rabbinic blessing of HaTov veHaMeitiv.
6) The closing. This is a rehashing of the concepts of the first two blessings on the land and on food, followed by an actual blessing with those concepts mentioned again.

ברוך אתה ה' אלקנו מלך העולם
על המחיה ועל הכלכלה ועל תנובת השדה
ועל ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה
שרצית והנחלת לאבותינו
לאכל מפריה ולשבוע מטובה.
רחם (נא) ה' אלקנו על ישראל עמך,
ועל ירושלים עירך, ועל ציון משכן כבודך,
ועל מזבחך ועל היכלך.
ובנה ירושלים עיר הקודש
במהרה בימינו והעלינו לתוכה,
ושמחנו בבניינה, ונאכל מפריה,
ונשבע מטובה, ונברכך עליה בקדושה ובטהרה,
כי אתה ה' טוב ומטיב לכל
ונודה לך על הארץ ועל המחיה
ברוך אתה ה' על הארץ ועל המחיה.
I'll now present each of these components, sung to the proper tune:

1) Sing this to the opening of bentching, since it is parallel to Hazan et HaKol.
ברוך אתה ה' אלקנו מלך העולם
על המחיה ועל הכלכלה ועל תנובת השדה

2) Stop here. Begin the next portion with another tune, that of Nodeh Lecha, since it is its parallel:
ועל ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה
שרצית והנחלת לאבותינו
לאכל מפריה ולשבוע מטובה.

3) Stop here. Begin the next portion, to the tune of Rachem, or of Rachem Na.
רחם (נא) ה' אלקנו על ישראל עמך,
ועל ירושלים עירך, ועל ציון משכן כבודך,
ועל מזבחך ועל היכלך.

4) Stop here. Begin the next portion, to the tune of Uvenei:
ובנה ירושלים עיר הקודש
במהרה בימינו והעלינו לתוכה,
ושמחנו בבניינה, ונאכל מפריה,
ונשבע מטובה, ונברכך עליה בקדושה ובטהרה

5) Stop here. You have now finished the parallel to the Biblical bentching. Say or sing retzei or whatever is appropriate.
ורצה והחליצינו ביום השבת הזה

6) Stop. Then say, or sing, just the portion which parallels HaTov veHaMeitiv:
כי אתה ה' טוב ומטיב לכל
We have now covered every portion of bentching.

7) We are now up the chatima, which will reiterate some of the earlier concepts, namely that of the land and of food, and then will attach that to a blessing. Thus, say:
ונודה לך על הארץ ועל המחיה
ברוך אתה ה' על הארץ ועל המחיה

Now, to demonstrate this without the explanatory notes in the middle:
ברוך אתה ה' אלקנו מלך העולם
על המחיה ועל הכלכלה ועל תנובת השדה
ועל ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה
שרצית והנחלת לאבותינו
לאכל מפריה ולשבוע מטובה.
רחם (נא) ה' אלקנו על ישראל עמך,
ועל ירושלים עירך, ועל ציון משכן כבודך,
ועל מזבחך ועל היכלך.
ובנה ירושלים עיר הקודש
במהרה בימינו והעלינו לתוכה,
ושמחנו בבניינה, ונאכל מפריה,
ונשבע מטובה, ונברכך עליה בקדושה ובטהרה,
כי אתה ה' טוב ומטיב לכל
ונודה לך על הארץ ועל המחיה
ברוך אתה ה' על הארץ ועל המחיה

Here is that video again:



A shorter version, without my explanatory comments, is here:

4 comments:

ovedet said...

This comment is a year later than your inspirational post, but I feel compelled to leave it anyways. First, thank you for dedicating a whole blog and video segment to it. I love your idea of relating al hamichya to the regular birkat hamazon, and in theory this may help us/children understand the connection to the lengthy bensching. Don't you think though, that this approach may be more confusing, as children may just continue with the phrases of birkat hamazon and get lost? I know that I myself need to focus extra hard on "Rachem na" to make sure that I don't lead myself into bensching afterwards. Thanks for the great link to luria- I will try that out with my students. Have you found your song to be successful with children/adults?
Thanks for this blog!

arishvat said...

Shalom Josh,
Thanx so much for your mentioning my alhamichya website (alhamichya.com). I imagine you meant to mention the address of the site but somehow it seems to have been forgotten. I'd appreciate very much if you could post it together with your utube and that way, people can see both and choose whicever they think is more suitable for their needs.
Tizkeh L'Mitzvot!
Ari Chwat

joshwaxman said...

sure, I'll add the link above in parentheses. You are the same as luria.net, which I linked to above?

kt,
josh

Dr. Erica said...

Hi there!

Can someone recommend a site where I can find a tune to help children (or kids at heart!) memorize the parshios?

Thank you!

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