Deliver Me!

Razel’s prayer-songs are widely known even to secular Israelis

By Anat Schneider | | Topics: Music
Touching song by Israeli Orthodox singer
Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90

In Israel, God seems to be everywhere. He is part of the DNA of the Jewish people. You find God in art, in culture, in literature, in everyday life. Almost everywhere you look God is there.

Both religious and secular Israeli singers dialogue with God in their songs – even if they have disagreements with God, anger or misunderstanding.

Jonathan (Yonatan) Razel is a prime example. Even though he is very religious, his songs have found their way into the mainstream of Israeli expression. Many of them are sung directly to God.

The song we examine here is based on the words of Genesis 32:11-12, with the perspective of the composer, Razel. These words are uttered by Jacob, full of fear and anxiety, about to meet his brother Esau following many years in which they had been estranged, after Jacob stole Esau’s blessing and ran away.

The nuance that Razel puts into the song creates a new interpretation, and makes the lyrics of the song a personal prayer for the unification of the people of Israel. The opening verse, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and the truth” is interpreted as Jacob admitting that he is unable to fully understand the way of God. He tries to deal with a difficult situation in his own way. He crosses over the Jordan and splits his family into two camps (to “spread his risk”).

In this context the phrase “Deliver me” can refer to the division in his family. Jacob understands that a special prayer is needed to save the family. “Deliver me” in this interpretation has nothing to do with the trepidation of meeting Esau. Jacob seeks salvation/redemption for the division in his family.

Jonathan Razel is asking for help and salvation for the people of Israel in our day. He says that even now, it is important to understand that most of our prayers and efforts should not be directed against “Esau,” or against anyone else for that matter. Rather, he is first of all burdened by the fact that Israel has come to be divided into camps internally, and from this Razel seeks salvation, reunification, and redemption.

The song ends with Psalm 86:13, “For your steadfast love for me is great; You have saved me from the depths of Sheol” – a verse of hope and faith that by the grace of God we are saved from evil.

I Am Unworthy

Lyrics: Genesis 32 and Psalm 86
Composer: Jonathan Razel

I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies 

I am unworthy of all the kindness and the truth

That you have so steadfastly shown your servant;

With my staff alone I crossed this Jordan,

and now I have become two camps.

Deliver me; Deliver me; Deliver me, I pray…

For your steadfast love for me is great;

You have saved me from the depths of Sheol.

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