Monday, July 14, 2008

Learning David Melech Yisrael at camp

My two little ones are having the time of their lives right now. They're in their second of three weeks at the local Chabad sponsored Camp Gan Israel. I'll spare you all a recital of all the 'cute moments' so far and just say I highly recommend the CGI experience.

Ok. I won't totally spare you. My wife and I have been cracking up watching the two little campsters yodeling David Melech Yisrael, complete with spastic hand movements. They love the song and are immensely proud of themselves about mastering the choreography. And, of course, my elder wiggler, my little scholar, asked me what the words mean. So here I am, 11:00 at night, with my wife already snoozing beside me, doing my homework. Because, of course, having learned the song myself 30 years ago in no way qualified me to answer the question. I mean, it's about David the King of Israel, right? Do I get partial credit for being able to figure that out? No? rats.

Ok. The lyrics of the song are "David melech Yisrael chai vekayam" (David (is) king of Israel living and existing) with a few alternating "abba/emma" (father, mother) and "cain / lo" (yes / no). So what's going on here? Where does this phrase come from?

Here's the answer, courtesy of Rabbi Yossi Marcus of
"What it means is that the kingdom of David is forever, even if it takes a break from time to time. For G-d promised that kingship would always belong to David. His kingship is compared to the moon, which waxes and wanes. So too David’s kingdom disappears for a time, but G-d promises that it will once again be reborn like the moon is reborn each month. (That’s why we say this phrase each month when we sanctify the new moon.)

The phrase has come to express the idea that the Jewish people are alive and enduring despite our historic ups and downs and that we will ultimately triumph. It has become synonymous with the motto of “am Yisrael chai (the nation of Israel lives!)”

And its got a catchy tune and great hand gestures. Here's Camp Katan in Chico showing us all how its done. Note: these aren't my kids. But they're pretty darn cute anyway.

camp Katan day 9-David Melech

Hat tip to YouTube user harveyr for posting the video and to Rabbi Marcus for the explanation.

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