Image: Meir Ariel’s portrait on the jacket of his “Best Of” collection
I have discovered an Israeli song that really speaks to me – my modern Hebrew is rough, so I hope that the translation below isn’t too far off. Avarnu et Paro – Na’avor Gam et Zeh is a song about things that wear at our humanity, and the impulse in Jewish tradition to persevere anyway.
There is an expression in Hebrew: gam zeh ya’avor — “this too will pass.” In this song, the singer, Meir Ariel (1942 – 1999) sings about all the things that annoy and discourage him, and finishes each verse with “We passed over Pharaoh, and we shall pass this too.”
Passover this week calls up our communal memory of slavery in Egypt, and of our deliverance from that terrible situation. We are now in the midst of what I can only describe as a plague, a miasma of disease and in some places, mismanagement as well. It is one of those terrible times in history in which many individuals do not survive, and it is a struggle to retain our humanity. Still we can survive it as a people, if we persist.
This is my mantra for Passover of 2020 / 5780: “We passed over Pharaoh, this will pass over too.”
Income tax, they made me pay extra Value Added Tax, they got me with that too, The electric company has cut me off, The Water Administration shut me off - I saw that I was deteriorating into a crisis, I started hallucinating ... But we passed over Pharaoh, we'll pass over this too. A computer error cost me a million, ATM swallowed my account balance, An electronic secretary denied me an interview, The DMV denied me a license To a mechanical lawyer, I dropped a token in the mouth slot ... But we passed over Pharaoh, we'll pass over this too. I learned a useful and necessary profession So I don't get pushed and pressed, I persevered, I was diligent although the system was failing, I found myself with the work getting sparse ... But we passed over Pharaoh, we'll pass over this too. Sometimes I am trapped on a crowded bus Or coming out of an exit, I am tense and urgent, Sometimes in the street jostling and rubbing, In demand for some relief, In the back, in the ribs, sometimes in the face, that elbow ... But we passed over Pharaoh, we'll pass over this too. I turned aimlessly for a while, Without definition and without compromise, I lost height and consciousness, I thought maybe that defined it, To give an sharp and clear answer - I was torn about it. But we passed over Pharaoh, we'll pass over this too. And now I'm stuck in the cutting edge, And to be honest I'm pretty indifferent. The situation is bad but I don't feel, I have no heart for all the stuff the screen presents. And the people's government goes down the road again - to my disgust ... But we passed over Pharaoh, we'll pass over this too.