Table Songs

Table singing on Shabbat and festivals is an important thread in the fabric of Jewish family life, and a great way of engendering community identity in one's children. So this is perhaps the most important part of the site! It contains both bona fide S&P table hymns, and general table hymns which I have adapted to S&P melodies for use at home.

For a more detailed treatment of table songs from a variety of different sources (not just S&P), visit my separate site Jewish Table Singing.
 
 Naar Hayiti
The S&P sing the end of Birkat Hamazon as a hymn, usually with this traditional melody. For a variety of additional tunes, and the text, see the Naar Hayiti page.
 
"Bendigamos" is a famous Sephardi table song, in Spanish. It is sung on any and all occasions, usually immediately before or after Birkat Hamazon. (Musicians, note the extra beat in the first line of each verse and chorus. Not everyone sings it that way - some just squash the words in without the extra beat - but I think the extra beat it makes it more Andelusian and interesting.) For more about this noteworthy table hymn, and the full text, see the Bendigamos page.

♫ Benissons [P. Nahon]
This is the French equivalent of Bendigamos - though it's a distinctly different hymn, not a translation, albeit sung to the same melody. More about it, and the full text, on the Benissons page. If you like to show off your French, you must certainly add this to your repertoire!
 
Shahar Avakeshcha
This hymn, by R. Shlomo ibn Gabirol, is found in the Sephardi prayer book preceeding the morning service. This particular melody was indeed sung at weekday morning services in Amsterdam before WW2. What a rousing way to start the day!
 
This sweet, pensive pizmon is known in many Sephardi communities. Read more about it here.
 
This popular S&P melody is used in the synagogue on special occasions for Kaddish.
 
Hishki Hizki [JC with harpsichord accompaniment]
♫ Hishki Hizki [A capella trio: JC with Eliot Alderman and Aaron Isaacs]   
This is a poem written in honour of the inauguration of the S&P "Snoge" (synagogue) in Amsterdam, by Rabbi Isaac Aboab de Fonseca, chief rabbi of the kahal, in 1675 (in the days when rabbis still wrote poetry). It was set to music by Abraham de Casseres in the early 18th century. (For the words, click here.)
 
Amen Amen Amen!
Although in London, the above tune is sung almost exclusively on Simhat Torah, in Amsterdam and Gibraltar it is part of the Shabbat table repertoire. And why not?!  

This beautiful, ponderous Ladino song was part of the Shabbat repertoire of our late lamented Haham Gaon, who taught it to the Revd. Abraham Lopes Cardozo of Amsterdam and NYC. The Ladino words are probably very old but (and I have this on the very best authority) the melody is a Serbo-Croatian folk song about a place -Bembasa -on the Miljacke River in Sarajevo, which Haham Gaon (himself from Sarajevo) used for singing this hymn. [Full text here]

♫ Tsama Nafshi (Libi Uvsari) (link to an external site)
This is as bona fide a Sephardi piyut as they come, having been written by R. Abraham Ibn Ezra of Toledo in the 12th Century, but I am not aware of an S&P melody. However it is a popular Ashkenazi Shabbat table song, and this is one of two well-loved tunes for it.
Hint: This is a long pizmon and a very slow melody! When used together I recommend singing only the first three verses and the last verse.
 
For additional melodies suitable for table singing, see the Yigdal page, the En Kelohenu page, and the Adon Olam page.


Pesah
From the morning of Pesah, when the Prayer for Dew is said in the synagogue, its four constituent poems can be used for table singing. In fact this is a good way of reminding everyone to start saying "Morid Hatal" in the Amidah! For more details and the full texts, see the Prayer for Dew page.
 Mivtach Kol Hayetzur (same melody as Shezufat Shemesh) 
In our home we use the Lech Leshalom Geshem tune for Naay Hayiti, and after "Oseh Shalom", add the line "Lekh leshalom geshem uva veshalom tal, ki rav lehoshiya umorid hatal," the chorus from the Prayer for Dew.

On the last day of Pesah, the anniversary of the crossing of the Red Sea, obviously the Song of Moses is eminently appropriate.
♫ Az Yashir Moshe [WS1]


Hannukah
Maoz Tzur is an Ashkenazi poem, but it has become inseparable from the modern observance of Hannukah, even amongst Sephardim, and it is included in the London S&P prayer book. Here are three different tunes, each with its own charm.
♫ Maoz Tzur (Slonim)
Read more about this hymn on the Maoz Tzur page.


Purim
On Shabbat Zachor (the Shabbat before Purim, when Parashat Zachor is read) the S&P insert a longish liturgical poem by R Yehudah Halevi into Nishmat Kol Hai. Nishmat contains the rhetorical phrase "God who is like you?" (mi chamocha). If it's not read at your local synagogue - or even if it is - why not sing it around the Shabbat table with your kids and guests? With the kids, let everyone take turns reading a verse (with the tune of course); with adults, compete to identify and complete the many biblical allusions in the text! For more about this poem, and the complete text, see the Purim page.