Beginning of a Translation of Anim Zmirot (Shir Hakavod)
Note (11-22-09): I finished the translation. Or... I completed a first attempt. See the full translation of Anim Zemirot/Shir Hakavod.
Browsing my Twitter feed tonight I saw Rabbi Oren Hayon's plea, "Searching fruitlessly for a good online translation of "An'im Z'mirot". Anyone have one you can point me toward?"
I couldn't find ANY translation. So, with chutzpadic humility, I've decided to begin taking a crack at it.
I remember a wonderful shi-ur (class) that Art Green gave on Anim Zmirot at Adina, Norman, and Noga Newberg's house in the early 90's. I think it was a tikkun leyl Shavuot (a Shavuot night study intensive).
Ever since that class at the Newbergs, I'm always moved by Anim Zmirot. The poem is attributed to Judah the Hasid of Regensburg (1150 - 1217 C.E.). Joel Rosenberg writes in the introduction to his translation in the Reconstructionist Kol Haneshama Shabbat Ve'Hagim prayer book (p. 453)
Shir Hakavod is simultaneously our tradition's most unabashedly anthropomorphic depiction of God and its most eloquent refutation of a purely anthropomorphic conception of divinity.
The translations I have seen all try (and fail in my opinion) to evoke the grandeur of the poem's language by using flowery English and/or rhyming verse. The translation I have begun here takes the opposite tack. By translating the verse in simple language that does not rhyme, hopefully it will give hint to something beyond itself, namely the original Hebrew. Rabbi Hayon was looking for a "good online translation." Of course I can't vouch for that. But if this endeavor hasn't served Rabbi Hayon, at least it has served me in re-connecting with this wonderful piece of liturgy.
I invite you to critique and make suggestions. And certainly, please add your translations for the missing verses! Thanks to Rabbi Hayon's inspiration of tonight and to my teacher R. Art Green whose inspiration goes back a long way and continues to live inside me.
In front of me while working were the Artscroll translation and Joel Rosenberg's from Kol Haneshama.
Pleasing songs and poems I hope to craft because my soul longs for You.
My soul desires the shelter of your hand, to know every one of Your secrets.
Each time I speak of Your glory, my heart longs for Your love.
Therefore I will speak about You, about Your glories. Your name I shall honor with love songs.
I’ll tell of Your glory, though I have never seen You. I’ll give people images of You and names for You, but I do not even know You.
By the hand of Your prophets or through private counsel with Your worshippers, You provided images of the beauty and glory of Your power.
They named your powerful deeds: Your greatness, Your strength.
They imagined You, but not as You really are. They tried to describe You according to Your deeds.
They made parables about you and provided a myriad of visions of You, yet here You are, One in all the different forms.
They envisioned You as an old man and as a young man, the hair on Your head as that of a man satisfied in days or just at his dawn.
Old on the day of judgment, and young at the battle front: a man of war with many hands.
He put on a hat of salvation; His head saves him. His holiness is in His right hand and arm.
His curls are as black as a downpour at night, but only light reflects in the drops.
He will be glorified through me. He wants me. He will be for me as a gazelle crown.
Fine pure gold is my image for his head; on his forehead his glorious holy name engraved.