Shmuel ben Hoshaˁna: "On Resurrection" (From Hebrew)

The payṭan Shmu'el ben Hoshaˁna (known also as Hashlishi "the Third", the ultimate rank he attained at the Yeshiva) was one of the central figures of the Eretz Israel Yeshiva in Jerusalem in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, and a prolific author of Hebrew liturgical poetry. The Yotzer is a sequence of poems which adorn the benedictions associated with the morning reading of the Shemaˁ.

This brief piyyūṭ is an ahava, the fourth in such a sequence, introducing the second benediction before the Shemaˁ, dealing with God's love for Israel. (Whence Israel as the "beloved" of the final verse). Like many ahavot, it includes an alphabetic acrostic. In this case, though, the letters occur in reverse order, evoking the Resurrection's reversal of death at the end of days. It draws on the Bible heavily for its language, and the effect of its language (e.g. for the ending see Hosea 14:5).

My translation is fairly free and interpretative. For example, the Messiah is not directly mentioned in this poem by that title. Rather his coming is mentioned in oblique form "with (the) Nūn of (the verb) Yinnōn" which means more or less something like "when the Messiah's reign begins" or perhaps "when the Messiah is born" depending on which way you swing the mysticism. Yinnōn is an obscure verb occurring only once in the Hebrew Bible (Ps. 72:17). Some (see e.g. B. Sanhedrin 98b) took it to be the Messiah's name, and Yinnōn is frequently used as a byword for the Messiah in piyyūṭīm. The letter nūn wound up especially associated with the Messiah in this connection, in part on account of the fact that n-w-n was taken to be the verb's root.

The audio recording is chanted in a reconstruction of Tiberian Hebrew. Shmuel, being a member of the Palestinian Yeshiva (which had recently been moved to Jerusalem from Tiberias) would have been well positioned to know this pronunciation of Hebrew. (Although readers who could teach this pronunciation were to quickly become impossible to find outside of Palestine.) It is not hard to picture Shmuel using it in reading his own Yotzerot.

An Ahava on the Resurrection
Shmuel Ben Hoshaˁna
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

You turn man back to dust,
but will turn back in kind
with kindness that we hymn.
You will bind back his bones,
extend again his tendons,
defend and fend for him.
You will fit him with flesh, 
you will screen him with skin
at the Messiah's dawn.
Then will your beloved
blossom like the lily,
cast root like Lebanon.

Audio recording of me chanting the original in Tiberian Hebrew:

The original:

דַּכָּא תָּשֵׁב אֱנוֹשׁ וְתָשׁוּב תָּחֹן וְתַחֲנֹן.
גְּרָמִים תְּדַבֵּק, גִּידִים תִּמְתַּח, וְגָנוֹן תִּגְנֹן,
בָּשָׂר תַּעֲלֶה, וְהָעוֹר תַּקְרִים בְּנוּן יִנּוֹן.
אֲהוּבְךָ יִפְרַח כַּשּׁוֹשַׁנָּה, יַךְ שָׁרָשָׁיו כַּלְּבָנוֹן.

Phonetic transcription in Tiberian Hebrew:

dakkʰɔː tʰɔːʃeːv ʔɛnoːʃ vaθɔːʃuːv tʰɔːħoːn vaθaːħanoːn
gaʀɔːmiːm tʰaðabbeːq giːðiːm tʰimtʰaːħ vaʁɔːnoːn tʰiʁnoːn
bɔːsɔːr tʰaːʕalɛː vɔhɔːʕoːʀ tʰaqʀiːm banuːn jinnoːn
ʔahuːvχɔː jifʀaːħ kʰaʃʃoːʃannɔː jaːχ ʃɔːʀɔːʃɔːv kʰallavɔːnoːn

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