Kmo hanevi'im hakana'im laShem

Hu kinei lapo'al v'lato'ar


Uvachatzot, ha'ashashit bachanolo,

Haya roshem b'milono tilei-tilim,

Milim yafot, milim afot,

Mitgalg'lot min halashon.

Eliezer, matai tishkav lishon

Hen komatcha kim'at apayim shacha.

Veha'ivrit, asher chikta alpayim,

Hi tamtin l'cha ad bo hashachar.


  Eliezer Ben Yehuda

  Yehudi m'vadei'ach.

  Milim milim, milim milim

  Hu bada mimocho hakodei'ach.


Im nama ha'ivrit alpayim, nu, az ma?

Hava ne'irena v'namtzi et hayozma,

Et hamag-hetz, et haptzatza,

  et harihut.

Biktzei notza, bichtav rahut,

Katav k'ruvit, katav g'lida

Katav et kawl milon

  Ben Yehuda.

V'od hosif milim livro,

V'notzato hamehira lo nacha,

V'hasafa gadla v'lo hikira et mar'eh dmuta

Et mar'eh dmuta b'vo hashachar.


  Eliezer Ben Yehuda ...


Uven nolad lo, uchazot ha'ish amar:

Zeh hab'chor, ekra lo Ben Yehuda, Itamar'

Shemiyankut v'ad k'mila,

Miyom bo'o bivrit mila

  v'ad moto -

K'ruta lo brit im ha'ivrit,

Umilchama lo et hala'az l'hachrit.

Itamar - achen haya l'gever

Komat-tamar vifi tzura v'sever,

V'halashon b'fiv hayta sfat-ever.

Itamar Ben-Avi

She'aviv haya navi,

Gever kilvavi.


  Eliezer Ben Yehuda ...

Like the prophets, zealous about Hashem* 

He was zealous about the verb, the adjective, 

  and the noun.

And at midnight, oil-lamp in his window,

He would write in his dictionary stacks

  and stacks of pretty words, words

  which fly, which roll from the tongue.

Eliezer, when will you lie down to sleep

You're practically bent over.**

And Hebrew, which has waited 2,000 years

Will still be waiting for you at dawn.


Eliezer Ben Yehuda,

An amusing Jew.

Words, words, words

He invented with his feverish brain.


If Hebrew has slept for 2,000 years, nu, so what?

Come, let's wake it up, and invent "initiative" (yozma), clothes-iron (mag-hetz), bomb (p'tzatza),
furniture (rihut).

With feather tip, in fluid writing,

He wrote k'ruvit (cauliflower), he wrote g'lida (ice cream);
he wrote all of the Ben Yehuda


And he went on creating words,

And his fast quill didn't rest,

And the language grew

And didn't recognize itself in the morning.


  Eliezer Ben Yehuda ...


And when a son was born to him, he said:

This firstborn I will call Ben Yehuda, Itamar

Who from infancy to withering

From the day of his entering the covenant

  (brit-milah) until his death

Will have a covenant, with Hebrew***

And will fight to wipe out foreign language.

Itamar - truly became a man,

Tall, handsome and well-spoken,

And the language he spoke was Hebrew.

Itamar Ben-Avi****

Whose father was a prophet,

A man after my own heart.


  Eliezer Ben Yehuda ...



Translator's notes:
 * Hashem (literally, the Name) is a way of saying the name of God, without actually saying it
(in order not to take God's name in vain).
Shem (name) also means noun, and ha-shem means "the noun".

** He had TB and worked standing up, to stay alert and not give in to tiredness.

*** Brit-milah (bris/circumcision) = covenant (between the Jewish boy and God); the next line is, a covenant with Hebrew (brit im ha'ivrit). 


Itamar Ben Yehuda was raised from infancy to hear and speak only Hebrew.  Ben Yehuda worked on reviving and expanding the language as he grew up.

Mi-yom bo'o b'brit-milah v'ad moto
K'ruta lo brit im ha'ivrit
Umilchama lo et hala'az lehachrit.

There's a nice wordplay here. Milah has two meanings: 1) word and 2) circumcision. 
Brit-milah means covenant of circumcision, but maybe here it can also be taken as a covenant of words.  Also, ka-rat (k'ruta is the adjective) means to make a covenant, but hichrit (from the same root) means to wipe out. 

**** Avi = alef-vet-yad, an acronym for Eliezer Ben Yehuda.  When he grew up the son called himself Itamar Ben Avi.

Words in Hebrew  (plus audio, nikudot, vocabulary notes and pics)

Read about Eliezer Ben Yehuda


Yaron London

MUSIC Matti Caspi
SINGER Matti Caspi as well as Chava Alberstein
CD Chava Alberstein
Songs Of My Beloved Country   Track 3
CD Matti Caspi
Matti Caspi: Side A, Side B   Track 8
Matti Caspi performing "Eliezer Ben Yehuda"
From the Mooma website
Transliteration, translation, links and notes by Malka Tischler of New York, USA
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