Jewish Journal

The Bitter and the Sweet – Naomi Shemer

Naomi Shemer’s beautiful song Al Kol Eleh (“For all these things”) was written after the Yom Kippur War. It remains one of my favorite Hebrew poems and Israeli songs.

23,646 Israelis have died defending the State of Israel, and many more injured. Trumpeldor put it poignantly before he was killed in the early 20th century – “Tov lamut b’ad Arzenu – It is good to die for our Land.” His courage, the courage of these Israeli martyrs, and the ultimate sacrifice that they gave to builld and secure the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland will be forever impressed upon the memory of our people. Zichronam livracha – May they all be remembered for a blessing!

Yom Haatzmaut-Israel Independence Day is a time for massive Jewish celebration even with all the challenges internal and external that Israel and the Jewish people continue to face. Shemer’s words ring true and whenever I hear this song, my heart at once breaks and is fortified.

“Every bee that brings the honey / Needs a sting to be complete / And we all must learn to taste the bitter with the sweet.

Keep, oh Lord, the fire burning / Through the night and through the day / For the man who is returning / from so far away.

Don’t uproot what has been planted / So our bounty may increase / Let our dearest wish be granted: / Bring us peace, oh bring us peace.

For the sake of all these things, Lord, / Let your mercy be complete
Bless the sting and bless the honey / Bless the bitter and the sweet.

Save the houses that we live in / The small fences and the wall / From the sudden war-like thunder / May you save them all.

Guard what little I’ve been given / Guard the hill my child might climb / Let the fruit that’s yet to ripen / Not be plucked before its time.

As the wind makes rustling night sounds / And a star falls in its arc / All my dreams and my desires  / Form crystal shapes out of the dark.

Guard for me, oh Lord, these treasures / All my friends keep safe and strong, Guard the stillness, guard the weeping, / And above all, guard this song.”