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Yigdal

YIGDAL

YIGDAL (Heb. יִגְדַּל; "May He be magnified"), opening word of a liturgical hymn based upon the Thirteen Articles of Faith enumerated by Maimonides. Its authorship is attributed to Daniel b. Judah, a dayyan in Rome in the first half of the 14th century. It is also ascribed to Immanuel (b. Solomon) of *Rome, the author of the Maḥbarot (see: Maḥbarot Immanu'el ha-Romi, ed. by D. Yarden, 1 (1957) 90–93; esp. 90 no. 422). Yigdal is metrically constructed and has a single rhyme throughout. Although other poetical renditions of these principles of faith were composed during this period, only Yigdal became incorporated into the daily liturgy. In the Ashkenazi ritual, it is usually printed at the start of the daily Shaḥarit service, but recited as in the Sephardi, Italian, and Yemenite rituals only at the conclusion of the Friday and festival evening services. Hasidim do not recite this hymn at all. The Ashkenazi hymn consists of 13 lines, one for each creed. The Sephardi version, on the other hand, contains 14 lines; the final line of this version is: "These are the 13 bases of the Jewish faith and the tenets of God's law."

English translations of Yigdal, retaining the rhyme, have been composed, such as that of Alice Lucas (1852–1935). Her rendition begins:

The living God we praise, exalt, adore!
He was, He is, He will be evermore!
No unity like unto His can be:
Eternal, inconceivable is He.

It concludes:

He at the last will His anointed send,
Those to redeem, who hope, and wait the end.
God will the dead to life again restore.
Praised be his glorious Name for evermore! (Hertz, Prayer, 7).

[Aaron Rothkoff]

Musical Rendition

The many melodies for Yigdal seem to have been composed, evolved, or adapted more or less independently in each local community. Where the Ashkenazi custom prevails, and also in Yemen, the melodies of Yigdal are generally based on the prayer mode and, in this sense, tend toward standardization and a lack of individuality. In the Sephardi Diaspora, however, Yigdal has a great number of distinct tunes; none of them seems to be particularly old and all of them draw strongly upon the reservoir of free paraliturgical and secular tunes available within the community and from the surrounding population (such as folk song and military marches). The only element common to most of these is the character of the melodies, which, together with the way in which they are sung by the congregation, combines the moods of pride and cheerfulness.

One Yigdal melody has achieved particular fame – the so-called "Leoni Yigdal". It is attributed to Meyer Leon, called Leoni, who was ḥazzan at the Duke's Place synagogue in London (Ashkenazi). Thomas Olivers, a Wesleyan minister, heard Leoni sing this Yigdal there; he decided to render the hymn into English and to introduce it into Christian worship together with its melody. (In another version of the story Olivers first translated the text and then went to Leoni to ask for "a synagogue melody to suit it.") Olivers' version, The God of Abraham Praise, first published in 1770, became popular immediately, and is sung to this day in the Anglican service as a processional or general-purpose hymn (Hymns Ancient and Modern Revised, no. 637, pp. 868–70). It has also been taken into the hymnals of several other English-speaking Protestant denominations. A.Z. *Idelsohn attempted to relate the Leoni Yigdal in a large comparative table to a number of Spanish, Basque and Polish folk songs, to a Sephardi melody for the piyyut Lekh le-Shalom Geshem u-Vo le-Shalom Tal, and also to the melodies of the Zionist hymns Dort wo die Zeder and Ha-Tikvah, together with the well-known motive from Smetana's Moldau. Not all of the comparisons in the scheme are musicologically valid. In any case, Idelsohn's main objective here, which was to prove the "Jewish roots" of Ha-Tikvah, has been invalidated by the discovery of its true antecedents (see *Ha-Tikvah).

[Bathja Bayer]

bibliography:

Idelsohn, Liturgy, 74: Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 87f.; Davidson, Ozar, 2 (1929), 266f. musical rendition: Idelsohn, Melodien, indices: A. Baer, Baal T'fillah (18833), no. 432 (4 versions); Levy, Antologia, 1 (1965), nos. 43–62: Idelsohn, Music, 220–5; J. Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History (Rev. ed. 1956), 139–40; J. Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1892), 1149–52; A. Haeussler, Story of Our Hymns (1952), index; M. Frost (ed.), Historical Companion to Hymns Ancient and Modern (1962), 475–6.

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