The Origins of Hava Nagila
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.