Solomon Ibn Gabirol: Shaar Asher Nisgar

Solomon Ibn Gabirol was born (c. 1022) in Galaga and died in Valencia (c.1055, possibly as late as 1070), living most of his life in Saragossa. Both poet and philosoper, he began publishing while still in his teens. He is considered the first Hebrew poet to introduce Spanish-Arabic styles of the Golden Age into synagogue poetry.

Bilingual Hebrew/English versions of his poetry are available with prose translations by T. Carmi and verse by Raymond P. Scheindlin:

The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse. T. Carmi, editor and translator. NY/London: Penguin, 1981.

The Gazelle: Medieval Hebrew Poems on God, Israel, and the Soul. Raymond P. Scheindlin. NY/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Several of his pieces are sung as piyutim in a number of different Jewish traditions. One of those is “Shaar Asher Nisgar” or “The Gate Long Shut.”

שַׁעַר אֲשֶׁר נִסְגַּר/”The Gate Long Shut”
שַׁעַר אֲשֶׁר נִסְגַּר – קוּמָה פְּתָחֵהוּ,
וּצְבִי אֲשֶׁר בָּרַח – אֵלַי שְׁלָחֵהוּ!
לְיוֹם בּוֹאֲךָ עָדַי לָלוּן בְּבֵין שָׁדַי,
שָׁם רֵיחֲךָ הַטּוֹב עָלַי תְּנִיחֵהוּ.
מַה זֶה דְמוּת דּוֹדֵךְ, כַּלָּה יְפֵה פִיָה,
כִּי תֹאמְרִי אֵלַי: שִׁלְחָה וְקָחֵהוּ?
הַהוּא יְפֵה עַיִן אָדֹם וְטוֹב רֹאִי –
דוֹדִי וְרֵעִי זֶה, קוּמָה מְשָׁחֵהוּ!

“The gate long shut —
Get up and throw it wide;
The stag [gazelle] long fled—
Send him to my side.

When one day you come
To lie between my breasts,
That day your scent
Will cling to me like wine.”

“How shall I know his face, O lovely bride,
The lover you are asking me to send?
[Lovely bride, what shape has
your beloved that you say to me]
A ruddy face, and lovely eyes?
A handsome man to see?”

“Aye, that’s my love! Aye that’s my friend!
Anoint that one for me!”
[That is my darling, That is my
beloved. Arise and anoint him!]

–translation: Scheindlin, p.91
[Carmi, p.314, in brackets, where substantially different]

See also Piyut North America, for more on piyutim and their roles in- and out-side the synagogue; see Medieval Hebrew Poetry for a little background on medieval poets specifically.

Music Videos:
Drisha Session (pre-Passover 2015): “Songs of My Beloved: A Musical Celebration of Shir HaShirim” offers learning about Song of Songs and related piyyutim, including “Shaar Asher Nisgar.”

Rabbi Rolando (Roly) Matalon teaches Moroccan melody at about 17:00

followed by a second tune

then detailed discussion of lyrics

A third tune, Yarden Cohen

Same tune, instrumental

variant, Elia Weiss — with lyrics in Hebrew and English

More versions:
The Israeli Andalusian Orchestra and Ofir Ben-Shitrit

Kehilot Sharot — click on “וידאו”

Jah Levi (not to be confused with Levi Jah) includes brief interpretive notes with newer version on SoundCloud

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