As you may be aware, Madonna’s latest album, Confessions on a Dance Floor came out last week, and on the strength of a massive media blitz and radio/TV saturation of the first single, “Hung Up,” it sold 4 million copies, proving once and for all that a 40-something woman with frighteningly muscled thighs, ever-more prominent cheekbones, and a completely unremarkable voice can take over the world via bland dance music.
But Madonna’s meaty thighs and her legions of slavish devotees aren’t the real story here. The single-ready song “Isaac,” which had already attracted attention when several Israeli kabbalists denounced the little shiksa tart for recording a song about esteemed Tzfat kabbalist Yitzhak Luria (Madonna denied it was about him), begins with a chant in Hebrew done by one of Madonna’s Kabbalah Kronies.
But what’s the chant? Why, it’s none other than “Im nin’alu daltei n’divim, daltei marom lo nin’alu,” the beginning of one of the many piyyutim (devotional poems) by 17 century Yemenite weaver and paytan Shalom Shabazi.
But wait, you say. Haven’t I heard that somewhere before? Of course you have. It was the centerpiece of the ’80s-era Israeli and worldwide hit “Im Nin’alu” (Number 15 on US Modern Rock chart), by the Yemenite Israeli pop princess cruelly christened as “the Israeli Whitney Houston” Ofra Haza. The Telegraph’s Christopher Howse explains it all in a brief piece.
Unfortunately for curious gentiles, Howse isn’t much of a researcher and nabbed his translation, without credit, from hebrewsongs.com, whose transliteration and translation of “Im Nin’alu” was apparently done by someone whose knowledge of Hebrew is more along the lines of “curt nod when passing in the hall” than “intimacy.”
“Im nin’alu daltei n’divim
Daltei marom lo nin’alu
El Chai, mareimawm al kawruvim
Kulawm b’rucho ya’alu
If there be no mercy left in the world,
The doors of heaven will never be barred.
The Creator reigns supreme, and is higher
than the angels
All, in His spirit, will rise”
I would use a non-stupid transliteration, and translate it as “If the doors of the generous are closed, the doors of the Heights are not closed. The Living God reigns over the cherubs. In his spirit, all will rise.”
Anyway, is it fair that poor Ofra, who never had massive, Madonna-style worldwide fame, and died tragically from AIDS she got from a blood transfusion, and by all accounts was a totally sweet lady, should get her “Im Nin’alu-to-Dance-Music” idea completely stolen, without credit, by Madonna, who uses it to sell a ton of records and spread her Kaballah shtuyot? If Madonna is really so deeply initiated in the Jewish mystical rites, couldn’t she dig a little deeper into the huge library of piyyutim? Will Madonna’s next album have as leadoff singles “Dror Yikra” and “Yom Zeh Mekhubad”?
Madonna: you suck. Isn’t it time to have a midlife crisis and get back in touch with your Catholic roots?