Im Nin’alu – By Rabbi Shalom Shabazi
Original Musical Arrangement and Performance by Amitai Aricha
Excerpt from the poem (Hebrew and English Translation)
Even If the doors of man’s mercy are locked,
The doors of heaven will never be barred...
Even If the doors of man’s mercy are locked
The doors of heaven will never be barred.
The Almighty reigns high above the angels
All, in His Spirit, will rise.
For, by His nearness, His life-giving breath flows through them.
And they sanctify and praise His Name
And from the moment of genesis,
The circle of creation proliferates
And praises and sanctifies His Name
Clothed in the glory of His radiance,
The six-winged cherubs surround Him,
Whirling in His honor
And echoing sweet songs in unison
אִם נִנְעֲלוּ דַּלְתֵי נְדִיבִים דַּלְתֵּי מָרוֹם לֹא נִנְעֲלוּ
אֵל חַי מְרוֹמָם עַל כְּרוּבִים כֻּלָם בְּרוּחוֹ יַעֲלוּ
כִּי הֵם אֱלֵי כִּסְאוֹ קְרוֹבִים יוֹדוּ שְׁמוֹ וִיהַלְלוּ
חַיּוֹת שְׁהֶם רָצוֹא וְשָׁבִים מִיּוֹם בְּרִיאָה נִכְלְלוּ
גַּלְגַּל וְאוֹפָן רוֹעֲשִׁים
מוֹדִים שְׁמוֹ וּמְקַדְּשִׁים
מִזִּיו כְּבוֹדוֹ לוֹבְשִׁים
וּבְשֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם סְבִיבִים עָפִים בְּעֵת יִתְגַלְגְּלוּ
יַעְנוּ בְּקוֹל שִׁירִים עֲרֵבִים יַחַד בְּאוֹתוֹת נִדְגְּלוּ
About the poem
‘Im Nin’alu’ was written by Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, of Yemen, in the 17th century.
In the poem, Rabbi Shabazi pays tribute to the All Mighty. He sees God as the ultimate pillar of support that one can rely on during the worst of times. He begins the poem by reminding us that, even if there is no mercy left among mankind, God will always be merciful and “the doors of heaven will not be barred“. This poem was particularly significant to the Jews of Yemen who suffered as a result of their determination to maintain their faith, and it offered hope and comfort in a time of great difficulty.
The poet praises God for the life-giving power expressed within His creation of the universe and reminds us to sanctify God and to look to Him and be “Clothed in the glory of His radiance”
About the author
Rabbi Shalom Shabazi (1619 – approx. 1720) was a poet and scholar from the vicinity of Te’ez, Yemen. He is considered one of the greatest Jewish poets of all time and was revered, in his lifetime, by both Jews and Muslims.
Rabbi Shabazi is said to have written nearly 15,000 poems on all topics in Judaism, of which only about 850 have survived. He wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Judeo-Arabic. In addition to his poetry, Shabazi also wrote a treatise on astrology and a kabbalistic commentary on the Torah.
He witnessed the tragic expulsion of the Jews of Yemen to Mawza (Exile of Mawza, 1679) which resulted in death and the destruction of a significant percentage of the Jewish communities of Yemen. Following this, Rabbi Shabazi wrote a lamentation that likened the event to the destruction of the temple, but also wrote several poems that tried to give the remaining members of the community faith and hope. He died in Te’ez and his grave has become a pilgrimage site as a result of his reputation. For more information about the Mawza expulsion, see our page on ‘The Jews of Yemen – History – Relations with their local Neighbors’
About the performer
Amitai Aricha is a singer, musician who is dedicated to researching folklore and music of the Jews of Yemen. He writes and performs his own original arrangements of the music.
About the location
The Bell-cave, where the above video was recorded, is located in Beit Guvrin-Maresha in a region of low hills south of Jerusalem. The caves of Maresha and Beit Guvrin were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since, based on UNESCO requirements, they “exhibit an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, which is representative of a culture or human interaction with the environment.”
Maresha was an important biblical city that was established along the road from Lydda (Lod) and Ashkelon – along the Mediterranean – to Hebron and Jerusalem. During the Roman period Maresha was abandoned and the settlement moved to nearby Beit Govrin. The location includes many caves that were used for different purposes – such as quarries, cisterns, columbarium (dovecots), tombs, storage chambers for produce, and shelters for farm animals.
Quarried caves are common in these lowlands because the rocks in the region are soft chalk and easy to cut through. The Bell Cave is an unusually impressive example of a quarried cave. Archaeologists believe that it was hewed during the Byzantine and Early Muslim periods.
Within the region of Maresha one finds a Roman amphitheater, a Crusader fortress, remains of a Byzantine church, a Jewish cemetery, many underground oil press caves, Sidonian caves with wall paintings and gables, and more.