The Difference


AS POSTED OVER ON My Hebrew language blog, I’ve been wondering about these two songs. My limited skill in that language did not prevent me from hearing the same words rolled around in two very different songs. Give a listen. Turning on the captions for the first one to see an English translation. I’m sorry there’s no subtitles available for the second, so you’ll need to take my word. The main thing is the first song is secular, the second not at all.

שהחסר תמיד היה, ותמיד ישאר חסר
What is always missing will always be missing
אתה לא תמצא את מה שאין
You will not find what is not there
והלב הזה שלך
And your heart
הוא אף פעם לא יהיה שלם
Will never be complete
אז תאהב את הבת שלי וסתום
So love my daughter and shut up

Amir Ve Ben

עדיף כבר להפסיד הכל כדי לזכות בך
It’s better to lose everyhing to win you
ולשלם את המחיר הכל בסוף שלך
And to pay every price in the end for you
ללכת עד הסוף כי רק בסוף אפגוש בך
To go to the end because only in the end will I meet you
ואז כל מה שחסר יושלם בך
And everything that is missing will be completed in you.

Shilo Ben Hod

Both songs use the same words in several places to discuss things that are missing. But the first says they will never be complete, these things will always be missing. The second song says that the singer will give up not only what is missing – but everything else as well – because “you” (that is, Jesus) is worth any cost. In the end, everything that is important will be found in Jesus. The singer, Shilo Ben Hod, continues this theme in many of his songs.

דווקא ההבדל

This morning these meditations took an interesting turn as my Hebrew tutor, Gil, asked my opinion: What is the difference between the secular life and the religious life? I can’t handle small talk at all – I don’t do it very well in English and, since it is the common parlance of language classes, I can stumble there as well. But ask me something like what’s the difference between these two lives… and I have opinions, goodness. Do I have opinions!

When I learned that the word “secular” in Hebrew comes from the word for “sand” I learned the real meaning of the Biblical Image of a house built on sand. I even used it in a sentence assigned for homework. Suddenly I was making puns in Hebrew. So.

I was encouraged by the fact that the teacher was ranting right along with me! We both agreed that having a place “where the buck stops” (I don’t know how to use that idiom in Hebrew) is precisely the difference. Why do you do that? Why do you do that? I ranted. “Because of Harry Potter! Because of this new song!” Gil ranted back. Having something to point at and say “That. That is my final answer.” That’s the point, the whole point. The difference.

This theme runs through the Bible from the very beginning: our First Parents taking the fruit was a desire to have “what I want when I want it, and as I want it” rather than waiting for God to give it. This is a common theme in many worship songs: the poverty of the individual and the full reliance on God in Christ. I think of My Tribute and Which Way the Wind Blows, but it is also a common theme in the writings of the saints as well. I’m reminded of a prayer by St Thomas Aquinas:

Although I am nothing of myself
Nevertheless all that I hope to be
And all that I am
Is in you

Aquinas at Prayer, Paul Murray, OP (Author’s translation)

While Gil and I are exploring what it means to answer that in two different religious contexts, we are certainly on common ground. I do not presume to have many resources for religious Jewish thought on this topic – even though we’re often going over the same material. (Today I learned what the Fast before Purim was about… and it’s not anything any Christian would imagine, at least directly.)

But there, that’s the difference. These songs are exactly about the difference. What’s missing is not always missing.

Unless you want it to be.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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