The Origins of Hava Nagila

(nablopomo day 17. and 18.)

Bet you'll never guess from where that popular song called "Hava Nagila," known to Jews and non-Jews alike, originated.  It is an ethnic staple, played at weddings, bar and bat-mitzvahs and parties across the world, sung and danced to by everyone, regardless of race or religion.

It featured in the early days of Jewish Palestine, before the declaration of the State of Israel, and evokes the early halutzim, or pioneers--who drained the swamps, tilled the land and built a country.

But not many people know that Hava Nagila, meaning "let us rejoice," is Hassidic in origin (hat tip, my D.H.).  It was, in the eighteenth century, a niggun (a wordless melody) of the Sadigorer Hassidim from the town of Sadigora in what is now the Ukraine, the home of the Rizhiner Rebbe,
Reb Yisroel Friedman (1798-1850).

The song was transcribed by musicologist Avraham Tzvi Idelsohn, who arranged it into four parts and added lyrics:

Hava nagila, hava nagila                             Let us rejoice, let us rejoice
Hava nagila ve-nismeha                             Let us rejoice and be glad 

Hava neranena, hava neranena*                  Let us sing, let us sing  
Hava neranena ve-nismeha*                        Let us sing and be glad

Hava neranena, hava neranena                  Let us sing, let us sing
Hava neranena ve-nismeha                        Let us sing and be glad

Uru, uru ahim                                            Awake, awake brothers
Uru ahim be-lev sameah                            Awake brothers with a joyful heart

(*these two lines are repeated)

It became an instant hit, and slowly began spreading, first in Jerusalem, then in Jewish communities throughout the country, then in Jewish communities outside of Israel, and finally, through performers in the United States, around the non-Jewish world as well.

And now, they are going to make a movie about it.  And they're looking for funding. What else? So be generous, open your pocketbooks, and let us rejoice!
(and they're not even paying me for this.)

Hava Nagila, What Is It? - Original Clip from Katahdin Productions on Vimeo.


Batya said…
Growing up, it was the only Jewish song and dance at all the family weddings...
Yes, I'm from one of those families.
Lady-Light said…
OMG. Look how far you've come: from Hava Nagila to--what's your favorite Israeli song these days?
(for some reason, I keep thinking about the anti-expulsion Gush Katif rap song, Zeh Haya Beiti...
Hi -

Thanks so much for posting the clip to my film in production Hava Nagila: What is it?!! I really appreciate it. Everyone who donates $18 or more will receive credit on the film. Be part of the longest credit roll in history!

Thanks again.

Roberta Grossman, Director, Hava Nagila: What Is It?
Lady-Light said…
Roberta: Glad to be of help--my pleasure. Hatzlachah with your movie project!

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