Moriah / Ana S’lach Na – 1977

November 9, 2022

Akeidas Yitzchak happened in the year 2085, and so, with a little “back-of-the-envelope arithmetic,” we calculate that this epic episode took place 3,698 years ago. (But who’s counting?)
Ok, that’s the when. What about the where?

In Parshas Vayeira we read,

וַיֹּאמֶר קַח נָא אֶת בִּנְךָ אֶת יְחִידְךָ אֲשֶׁר אָהַבְתָּ אֶת יִצְחָק וְלֶךְ לְךָ אֶל אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה וְהַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם לְעֹלָה עַל אַחַד הֶהָרִים אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ

Hashem speaks to Avraham and says, “Take your son, your favored one, Yitzchak, whom you love, and go to the Land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will tell you” (Bereishis 22:2). Rashi there indicates that Eretz HaMoriah is none other than Yerushalayim, but the pasuk itself doesn’t specifically state this outright.

In order to help further identify the geographical location, many commentators inquire as to the etymology of these names – Moriah and Yerushalayim – because while Moriah is called so in the Torah, the name “Yerushalayim” is not explicitly written in the entire Chumash! (We actually encounter Yerushalayim for the first time in Yehoshua (10:1), where mention is made of the king of this city, Adoni-Tzedek.)

I think we are all familiar with the beautiful Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah (56:10) that describes how Yerushalayim got its name – some may even have a certain Yossi Green song to thank for the musical mnemonic. If you recall, after rescuing his nephew Lot from captivity, Avraham was greeted by Malki-Tzedek the king of Shalem, who greeted him with bread and wine (Bereishis 14:18). Chazal tell us that Malki-Tzedek was Shem, Noach’s middle son, and that Shalem was the very place that Avraham would eventually rename in this week’s Parsha.

Since Malki-Tzedek called it “Shalem” and Avraham called it “Hashem Yireh” (22:14), Hashem combined both names into “Yerushalayim.” Good. Now we have Yerushalayim. But what about Moriah?

The name “Moriah” is only mentioned in one other place in all of Tanach – in the context of the building of the Beis HaMikdash: וַיָּחֶל שְׁלֹמֹה לִבְנוֹת אֶת־בֵּית ה’ בִּירוּשָׁלַ͏ִם בְּהַר הַמּוֹרִיָּה – Then Shlomo began to build the House of Hashem in Yerushalayim on Har HaMoriah… (II Divrei Hayamim 3:1). Here we are told explicitly, for the first time, that Har HaMoriah is the place that was designated as the Makom HaMikdash.

The truth is, the Gemara in Pesachim (54a) tells us that Hashem chose the site of the Beis HaMikdash before Creation itself – meaning, that the location’s spiritual kedushah preceded its physical location and beauty, which is really just something incredible to think about… especially for those of us who live here and frequent the Kosel, or who just come to visit from time to time.

Imagine – this is the place where Avraham davened and was answered, thereby elevating and transforming its ground to the place most conducive for prayer and repentance – a place to which his children would forever flock to perform these spiritual feats…

And it’s not just us, 3,698 years after the Akeida! In the second perek of Maseches Ta’anis we are taught the specific procedures and tefilos needed in the event that rain did not fall after already completing two sets of fasts. You may recognize the terminology used in order to achieve maximum tefillah effectiveness:

מִי שֶׁעָנָה אֶת אַבְרָהָם בְּהַר הַמּוֹרִיָּה, הוּא יַעֲנֶה אֶתְכֶם וְיִשְׁמַע בְּקוֹל צַעֲקַתְכֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה

“He Who answered Avraham on Har HaMoriah [at Akeidas Yitzchak], so shall He answer you and listen to the sound of your cries today” (Ta’anis 2:4). When in dire straits, we invoke the powerful essence of Har HaMoriah, so that in the merit of the sacrifice made by our forefathers, Avraham and Yitzchak in that holy place, our prayers, too, will be answered.

Regarding the meaning of Moriah, many explanations have been offered (see Bereishis Rabbah 55:7); together, all serve to illuminate the significance of the place from different and complementary perspectives.

One such source is the Zohar (Parshas Bo 2:39b) which simply asks and then immediately answers this very question: ?לָמָּה נִקְרָא מוֹרִיָּהWhy is it called Moriah? עַל שֵׁם הַמֹּר הַטּוֹב דְּהֲוָה תַּמָּן – Moriah was named after the good smell [of the Ketores] that was there [in the Beis Hamikdash]. According to the Zohar, the name “Moriah” is entirely rooted in the most prestigious avodah – the Ketores Hasamim – that was executed in the Kodesh throughout the year, and in the Kodesh HaKodashim on Yom Kippur!

There is much more to be said on the topic but I hope we’ve covered enough to gain a little more appreciation for today’s chosen song. Now, if you’re already starting to hum it, I wouldn’t blame you. But before we introduce the tune as we know it, I wanted to quickly mention its humble beginnings.

The melody for our featured track is one that the prolific composer, conductor, arranger and producer Moshe Mordechai (Mona) Rosenblum composed in the early years of his music career. The song was originally called Ana S’lach Na and was sung by Tzemed Harishonim – the singing duo of Yehuda Wasserman a’h and Moshe Giat – on their one and only record in 1977 entitled Mode Ani. {Don’t worry, I’ve included it here for your listening pleasure.} As you may have guessed, the song went nowhere and was all but forgotten…. But you won’t believe what happened next.

Mona says:

About 20 years after the song “Ana S’lach Na” was released, a certain Bucharian Yid called me and informed me that he hadn’t had children for 17 years. He was close to the Nadvorna Rebbe, HaRav Yaakov Yissachar Ber Rosenbaum zt’l, to whom I was also related. But other than that, I had no previous connection with him. The Nadvorna Rebbe had given him a bracha that he would have children. Indeed, a year after this bracha, a baby girl was born to the couple, and they named her Moriah.

Twelve years have passed since then, and the time for her Bas Mitzvah came. He wanted to make a big and special event for the Bas Mitzvah, as this would also be a Seudas Hoda’ah to thank Hashem for the miracle that happened to them 12 years prior, after 17 childless years.

He decided to hold a lavish Bas Mitzvah party, and even asked the well-known writer and storyteller Rabbi Mordechai Gerlitz (a Nadvorna Chossid) to suggest words that have to do with the name Moriah that would be used for a song that he would release in honor of the simcha. So, Reb Mordechai is the one who gave him these words that eventually came out in the song:
“מי שענה לאברהם אבינו בהר המוריה… למה נקרא מוריה, על שם המור הטוב שישנו שם.”
And as mentioned above, this was actually a compound of a Mishna in Ta’anis and a line from the Zohar.

So, now he had the words, but he didn’t yet have a tune. This Yid went and met with the Nadvorna Rebbe, showed him the words that Reb Mordechai had given him, and asked him what to do with the music. The Rebbe told him to get ahold of me – that’s how the Rebbe zt’l made this “shidduch” – and now this is when I got the aforementioned phone call.

He contacted me, told me the whole story, and gave me this challenge – to compose a song to these words. From the conversation that we had, I immediately understood that this is a very hartzigdik’e Yid who wants to make a big event that will leave an impression, as gratitude for the miracle that happened to him. It was literally in his blood. He wanted to hold the Seudas Hoda’ah in the most mehudardik’e way, and that it would also include a song with the newly compiled lyrics.

I had my work cut out for me. I sat down and tried to compose a song based on the words of “Moriah”, but as you know, composing a song doesn’t happen at the push of a button – even if it sometimes looks that way from the outside… I sat down with my tape recorder, pressed record, and started recording myself singing these words in all kinds of variations. In the end, two melodies came to me from Shomayim, both rhythmic and happy.

But while I was composing and recording, I suddenly remembered – and I have no idea why – the melody of my old “Ana S’lach Na.” Hashem Yisborach sent me such a ha’arah. I looked at the words of “Moriah” that were laid out in front of me, and I began to try to paste the words to the melody of “Ana S’lach Na.” I couldn’t believe it – it was a great fit! I decided to record this variation on the tape as well. I said to myself: “I’ll give him the tape, and he’ll choose what he likes best.”

I sent him the tape, and he called me only a short time later, and without any hesitation… he chose the third one! I was surprised, because I didn’t really think he would even think of it as an option! This was pure Hashgacha Pratis at its best – instead of the two rhythmic and upbeat melodies, he chose the third one, the calm one, the one that I threw in there at the end.

As you could imagine, I was the one who played at this Bas Mitzvah event, and I even brought some singers there to sing our new song (which I taught to the audience), sung to its brand-new words, for the very first time.

After that event, my new Bucharian friend came to me with a thought: he wanted me to record “Moriah” (which I had already planned to release on the soon-to-be-completed “Mona 4”), with none other than Mordechai Ben David… and if for some reason he couldn’t sing it, then Avraham Fried should be the one to sing it. And if not either of those two, then by a third singer whose name he mentioned, but I won’t reveal it here as you’ll soon see why.

And this Yid really pressed me. “Please? Ask them. Offer it to them.” I hemmed and hawed. I said, “I don’t know… it’s really not my style to bother the singers… Listen, I’m ready to give you a tape with the full arrangement and the choir, and how about YOU go offer it to them and if they are interested, then come back to me and we’ll talk….” (At this point, I had already recorded it for Mona 4 with Roi Yadid, Ephraim Mendelson and a yeled peleh (child prodigy). I hadn’t at all planned for MBD or Fried to sing it.)

Not long afterwards, I was in the Gal Kol studio and I bumped into that “unnamed” third singer who had been mentioned as a candidate. I took the opportunity and put the demo tape with “Moriah” in his pocket and said, “Listen to this, it’s a beautiful song. Let me know your thoughts!” I thought, maybe he would like it and want to record it, but he never got back to me.

After that, I called to the Bucharian Yid and informed him that Avraham Fried was in Eretz Yisroel, and that now was his chance to approach him with the song. Sure enough, he arranged a meeting with Fried, played him the song – which Fried really liked – and a short time later, Avraham Fried agreed to sing Moriah on the upcoming album. והשאר היסטוריה, and the rest is history.

But the story doesn’t end there! After the song had become famous and, Baruch Hashem, was very successful, I happened to meet the singer whose pocket I shoved the tape into when we had met in the studio. I’ll be honest, he was a little bothered with me, and only half joking when he asked “Why didn’t you give me Moriah? It’s an amazing song! I would have loved to have recorded it!” I smiled and told him, “Chabibi, check your pockets – you were the first person I gave it to!” It just wasn’t meant to be.

I’ll end with this: Moriah, this Bucharian Yid’s miracle daughter – the girl that the song was named for – has, since then, grown up to be a true Bas Yisroel, has gotten married and has Baruch Hashem given him many grandchildren. One day, sometime after “Mona 4” was released, I was stopped by someone I recognized from shul, though the two of us had never spoken to one another before. He says to me, “Mona, I want to tell you something. A few days ago, I had a granddaughter – and do you know what we named her? We named her Moriah, after the title of your beautiful new song….

Mona 4 was released in 2003, and Moriah – sung by Avraham Fried – became the hit that it is through yet another great story of Hashgacha Pratis. The pairing of the old tune to the new lyrics, along with matching the song with the singer who is able to bring just about ANY tune back to life, gives the song “Moriah” – like the holy city itself – a significance much deeper than what we see on its surface.

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2 Comments

  1. Shimon Frankel

    This is EPIC

    Yaakov you’re a legend

    Reply
  2. Shmuel Kramer

    An absolute legend!

    Reply

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