An excellent way to improve one’s ancient Hebrew is to immerse oneself in examples of modern Hebrew in continuity with the language of earlier tradition. Below the fold, I introduce a poem by חנה סנש, Hannah Senesh, and link to several musical renditions.
The first step is to hear the poem sung clearly, molto adagio con espressione. A place to start is this recording by Ofra Haza. Once the sound and rhythms have entered one’s soul, it is appropriate to match them with the written signs, unvocalized, that correspond to them.
שלא יגמר לעולם
רישרוש של המים
I like this recording by Regina Spektor. It is a plainer rendition; as such it captures the simplicity of the original with greater fidelity. Note, however, that Spektor elides the פ in תפילת. She sings ת[פ]ילת של אדם. Never heard Spektor’s ultra-clear voice before? You might want to drop everything and listen to her sing “The Call,” a song on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian soundtrack, here.
In another beautiful recording, by Susan Salidor, the פ is pronounced distinctly, more so than is now normal in modern Hebrew, but in this respect not differently from the way Hannah Senesh would have pronounced it.
As a means to check one’s understanding of detail, the poem in vocalized form may be read.
שֶׁלֹּא יִגָּמֵר לְעוֹלָם
רִישְׁרוּשׁ שֶׁל הַמַּיִם
My God, my God,
that these may never end:
the sand and the sea,
the rush of water,
the lightning of heaven,
the prayer of man.
The title of the poem: הליכה לקיסריה “A Walk to Caesarea.” Anyone who has walked the beach of Caesarea, experienced a storm on the Mediterranean, or prays if only because prayer comes naturally, will understand the poem intuitively.
The life of Hannah Szenes has come out in film: Blessed is the Match, trailer here. Her story has yet to be told in a first class biography. The following volume concentrates on the place Szenes came to have in Jewish cultural memory: Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz. Perfect Heroes: The World War II Parachutists and the Making of Israeli Collective Memory (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010), online here.
חנה סנש, אלי אלי, שלא יגמר לעולם: שירים ופרקי יומן (עורך: עוזי שביט), בני ברק: הקיבוץ המאוחד, 2005