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Bendigamos

♫ Bendigamos (CF)

Bendigamos is a popular Sephardi table hymn. Below is the Spanish text as it appears before Grace after Meals in the Prayer Book of the Union of Sephardic Congregations (of America), edited by David de Sola Pool (black text). Dr. de Sola Pool did not provide a translation; the English is based on one by Professor Alan Corre, with some changes.

According to Revd. Cardozo, Hazan of Shearith Israel, NYC, Bendigamos was first discovered in Bordeaux, France, where there was a Marrano community since the 17th century whose main language was Spanish - unlike London and New York, where the main language was Portuguese. It was imported from France to the USA, via Curacao and Jamaica, and has now been something of an exclusive S&P "club song" at Shearith Israel in New York for many years.

I know the hymn from the S&P Community of London in the late seventies, where it had recently arrived from America (possibly via Haham Solomon Gaon); the older generation told me it was unknown to them in the fifties. In those days its use was limited to private homes, and it was not sung at communal events. It is now used in London on all public occasions, where it is evidently considered to strike the right ethnic note. In 2006 it was sung at a televised service at Bevis Marks in the presence of (then Prime Minister) Tony Blair on the 350th Anniversary of Anglo Jewry, and in early 2011 it was sung at the Mansion House, in honour of the Ashkenazi Jewish Lord Mayor Michael Bear, who selected Bevis Marks as his official "church", and Abraham Levy (Proxime Haham of the London S&P) as his chaplain.
 
The second verse ("First, for his Law") is a comparatively recent American addition. Originally what is now the third verse read: "First for the bread and also for these foods..." ("por el pan primeramente...") which made perfect sense, but the absence of any mention of the Torah was apparently considered as requiring correction. Hence "first for His Law" was added, and ""first for the bread" became "second, for the bread...". 

Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Al Señor que nos crió,
Démosle agradecimiento
Por los bienes que nos dió.

Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Señor que es bueno, | Odu Ladonai ki tov,
Que para siempre su merced. | Ki leolam jasdó.

Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Por su Ley primeramente,
Que liga a nuestra raza/casa
Con el cielo continuamente,

Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Señor que es bueno, | Odu Ladonai ki tov,
Que para siempre su merced. | Ki leolam jasdó.

Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Por el pan segundamente,
Y también por los manjares
Que comimos juntamente.

Pues comimos y bebimos alegremente
Su merced nunca nos faltó.
Load al Señor que es bueno, | Odu Ladonai ki tov,
Que para siempre su merced. | Ki leolam jasdó.

Bendita sea la casa esta,
El hogar de su presencia,
Donde guardamos su fiesta,
Con alegría y permanencia.

Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Señor que es bueno, | Odu Ladonai ki tov,
Que para siempre su merced. | Ki leolam jasdó.

Let us bless the Most High,
The Lord who created us,
Let us give him thanks
For the good things he has given us.

Praised be his Holy Name,
For he has always taken pity on us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.

Let us bless the Most High,
First, for his Law,
Which connects our race/home,
With heaven, continuously.

Praised be his Holy Name,
For he has always taken pity on us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.

Let us bless the Most High,
Second, for the bread
And also for these foods
Which we have eaten together.

For we have eaten and drunk happily,
His mercy has never failed us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.

Blessed be this house,
The home of His presence,
Where we keep his feast,
With happiness and steadfastness.

Praised be his Holy Name,
For he has always taken pity on us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.


Note the red alternative text I've added in the choruses. This is the Hebrew translation of the Spanish, and unlike the Spanish it rhymes with the first half of the chorus! To me it seems clear that while those two lines were written in Spanish (perhaps to avoid writing the name of God), they were intended to be sung in Hebrew - and that is how we sing them in our home.

I am informed by experts that the new verse gives itself away as a modern addition by the use of "nuestra raza" ("our race"), an expression that would not have been used in this context in Old or Judeo Spanish, since "raza" was a derogatory term. "Nuestra casa" (our home) has been suggested as a more in keeping with the older verses, I have added it in green.
 
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