I do not remember when I heard it the first time. There was something so tender, so stirring about the composition.
.זָכַרְתִּי לָךְ חֶסֶד נְעוּרַיִךְ, אַהֲבַת כְּלוּלֹתָיִךְ–לֶכְתֵּךְ אַחֲרַי בַּמִּדְבָּר, בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא זְרוּעָה
הֲבֵן יַקִּיר לִי אֶפְרַיִם, אִם יֶלֶד שַׁעֲשֻׁעִים–כִּי-מִדֵּי דַבְּרִי בּוֹ, זָכֹר אֶזְכְּרֶנּוּ עוֹד;-רַחֵם אֲרַחֲמֶנּוּ, נְאֻם-יְהוָה
I remember for you the affection of your youth, the love of your espousals; how you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Is Ephraim a darling son unto Me? Is he a child that is dandled? For as often as I speak of him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him, I will surely have compassion upon him, said the Eternal.
Was it the melody that captured my attention? Or was it the text?
Not part of our shul’s minhag, this piece, composed by Louis Lewandowski, was introduced a few years ago by two of our members who had sung it at their respective shuls during their youth. Nestled in the Zichronot section of the Shofar service on Rosh Hashanah, Zacharti Lach has become, for me, one of the high points of these sacred days. When “I” told me that her voice was needed this year at the afore referenced shul, I had a momentarily sensation of loss as I anticipated the services without this piece. Replaced by gratefulness when “E” invited me to sing the alto part, thereby assuring Lewandowski’s stirring piece a definite place in the service.
In those pieces that wrap themselves around the soul, it is not uncommon for there to be one fleeting note that sends the spirit soaring. As I worked this piece in preparation for tonight’s rehearsal, it dawned on me that I would miss that moment. The listener has the luxury of basking in the momentary tension created by brilliant harmony. The musician, however, must dwell in the focused present with an eye towards the melodic future. There is no time to linger…