The New Year prayers have liturgical gems on every page. An example is Veye’etayu, a 7th-century 11-line hymn of unknown authorship.
After an initial vav-yod, each line begins with a succeeding letter of the aleph-bet.
Louis Lewandowski’s musical version is well known in the western European tradition and there is a popular translation by Israel Zangwill.
The wording of the hymn largely comes from prophetical passages. The author weaves his material together so well that we hardly notice the artificiality of his literary framework.
All will come to serve You and bless Your glorious name,
Acclaiming Your justice in the isles to searchers
who never knew Your fame.
The ends of earth shall praise You,
constantly telling that God is great.
Bringing You their offerings, spurning their idols,
shamed with molten gods,
Turning as one to serve You, revering You at sunrise,
seeking Your face –
Acclaiming Your royal power, teaching waverers the truth,
Uttering Your might, exalting You as high above all.
Awed by Your presence,
adorning You with the diadem of glory,
The hills shall burst into song, the islands exult at Your rule.
They shall accept Your kingdom’s yoke,
exalt You in the nations’ throng;
From afar shall they hear, come forth and
adorn You with royalty’s crown.
Musaf ends with an 8-line fragment of what was once a complete 22-line alphabetical acrostic. The medieval author’s name is not recorded.
After the introductory Hayom t’… we get lines beginning alef, bet, gimel, dalet, kaf, kuf, shin and tav. Some versions have extra material, whilst others limit themselves to the first four lines.
The idea comes from Deut. 4:4, “You who cling to the Lord your God are all alive today (hayom)”, with which the previous paragraph ends. Lively musical renderings are generally used for the hymn.
Today – give us strength. Amen.
Today – give us blessing. Amen.
Today – give us greatness. Amen.
Today – seek our wellbeing. Amen.
Today – inscribe us for a good life. Amen.
Today – accept our prayer in mercy and favour. Amen.
Today – hear our cry. Amen.
Today – uphold us with Your victorious right hand. Amen.