A hymn in the Seder, the home service for Passover eve, and so called from its initial words, but also known by its refrain of "Bimherah" (Speedily). It is one of the latest constituents of the Haggadah, in which it does not appear much before the end of the fifteenth century. Originally, according to the Avignon Maḥzor, it was a hymn for the festivals generally. But a little later it was adopted as a pendant to the hymn "Addir bimlukah" or "Ki lo naeh," which was chanted on the first evening of Passover. Each hymn has a thought to the promised redemption of Israel. But while "Addir bimlukah" is rather a hymn in praise of the Omnipotence which alone can bring on the redemption of Israel, "Addir Hu" is more strictly a prayer to that Omnipotence to hasten it by the restoration of the ancient center of Israel's religious organization. Originally, therefore, the former was chanted on the opening night of the Passover, and the latter on the second. But with the accretive tendency often evident in the development of the Jewish liturgy, it became the custom, about two centuries ago, to chant both hymns on each occasion.

The verses of these hymns differ in the first words only, these being a series of adjectives bearing an alphabetical acrostic. After the initial letter א they are usually grouped three together, thus forming the second to eighth stanzas. A quaint Judæo-German version once had great vogue, and it is still in use. It runs, "Allmächtiger (Barmherziger, etc.) Gott. nun bau dein' Tempel schiere," and so on. This German version appears even in a Haggadah of the Spanish rite (Amsterdam, 1612).

Suitability of the Tune.

The tune seems to be the successful inspiration of a Jewish singer of the early part of the seventeenth century. It has succeeded beyond any other Hebrew melody in maintaining its position against all other airs for the words with which it is traditionally associated. The tune is first met with in the Hebrew, Latin, and German Haggadah published by J. S. Rittangel, electoral professor of Oriental languages at Königsberg, in 1644. He gives it, with a bass part to both Hebrew and German texts, as illustrated below (A). The melody was then of comparatively recent origin, and took a form which, translated into modern notation, is as follows.

Adapted for Family Song.

Here, it will be seen, the melody is very simple, and little beyond speech-song suggested by the rhythm of the words (obviously according to the old German disregard of the stress-syllables) and their phrasing. The cadence itself is likewise but a conventional ending of familiar character. The modulation with the sharpened fourth is perhaps due not so much to the vocalist as to the transcriber. Altogether, the melody of 1644 has the character of a droning intonation rather than of a set melody. If taken by the father or other precentor of the family circle at an extreme pitch, as in Rittangel's transcription, the basses at the table would be tempted to sing "seconds," and would soon arrive at musical phrases nearer to some of the forms now customary. And this is, indeed, what happened: for in Gottfried Selig's "Der Jude," of 1769, just midway between Rittangel's days and ours, the melody is given almost precisely as it is now sung in North Germany. In this it illustrates the history of most Hebrew melodies, which thus gradually crystallized into a tuneful and definite shape, altogether congenial to the ears of the Jews who sang them, and transmitted them modified by the "personal equation" of each depositary of the tradition. The present melody (B), having become familiar to Jews accustomed in their every-day life to the Germanic folk-song, was easily reproduced by them in the family circle, where the ability would be wanting—among the children necessarily—to reproduce the more difficult intervals and ornaments of the synagogue plain-song. Hence it developed but little further; and although three or four variants exist of some of its phrases, they are not of essential importance, and, indeed, are often interchanged by the singer. Perhaps the version most widely followed is the following (set to the concluding stanza):


The uniform employment of this melody, in contrast with the divergence of the tunes in use for each of the other Seder hymns, is also due to its selection as the "representative theme" (niggun) for the festival of Passover, inasmuch as it is an old custom to chant the responses in Ps. cxviii. to it. The custom, however, does not date back to Rittangel's day, since he tells us that these verses of the Hallel then had their own "very beautifuland delightful melody," which, unfortunately, he omitted to transcribe.

Its Wide Popularity.

The old German tune spread rapidly east and west, being still modified to suit the local ear at each stage of its journeying. It even reached Asia and Africa, where it came into the region of a musical system widely differing from that of its northern fatherland. Thus this melody was affected by the peculiarities of the Perso-Arab music, with its plaintive sadness, its frequent repetition of brief phrases, its tendency to ornamentation, and its undiatonic tonality. When, therefore, the orientalized form was chanted to E. Lubbert in Egypt about forty years ago, he did not readily recognize its descent from the "Addir Hu" of the north; but transmitted it to Fétis, the historian of music, simply as a melody "traditional in the synagogue at Alexandria." When, however, the version which is given above (C) is divested of the local coloring of the melody and shifting of the accent which would inevitably suggest themselves in the mouth of a Jewish cantor in Egypt, very little variation in essentials remains from the version either of old Königsberg or of modern New York.

  • Rittangel, Liber Rituum Paschalium, Königsberg, 1644;
  • Naumburg, Recueil de Chants des Israélites, Paris, 1874;
  • Marksohn and Wolf, Auṡwahl Alter Synagogal-Melodien, Leipsic, 1875;
  • Japhet, Haggadah für Pesach, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1884;
  • Schoenfeld, Recitative und Gesänge zum Vortrage am Ersten und Zweiten Abende des Ueberschreitungsfestes, Posen, 1844;
  • Pauer and Cohen, Traditional Hebrew Melodies, London, 1896;
  • A. A. Green, The Revised Haggadah, London, 1897.
F. L. C.
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