One of the most intriguing and inspiring things we see here in Israeli culture is when spiritual hunger in the mainstream secular Israeli populace is suddenly revealed. One way this becomes obvious is when secular Israelis are drawn to certain Orthodox Jewish singers and songs of belief in God.
Ishay [Jesse] Ribo was born in France and immigrated to Israel as a young boy with his parents. He learned in an Orthodox school (yeshiva) where no one could understand his love for writing songs and playing them on his guitar.
No matter. He continued to write lyrics in Hebrew and invent melodies to accompany his words. Eventually his talent started coming to light during his army service and rocketed soon after, when influential secular Israeli singers discovered him.
In a heart-rending prayer song he wrote how only God can heal his pain.
Now we are excited to report on the praise anthem he wrote during the days – wouldn’t you know it – of Covid-19 lockdown. The song’s rhyme and meaning are so catchy and transcendent that the song has become arguably his biggest hit. It was the #1 most played song on ALL Israeli radio stations during the Covid year of 2021, according to the Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers in Israel (Akum).
That also tells us something about how people’s hearts can become open and “hungry” in times of real crisis.
The Ultimate Cause – the Cause of Causes – “Sibat haSibot”
The song we feature here is called “Sibat haSibot” in Hebrew. Translation: “The Ultimate Cause” or “The Cause of Causes.” As such it is not only a praise song, but also a mini-encapsulation of classic logical arguments for the existence of God as the First Cause and Author of Existence.
Here is the main excerpt of the bridge and chorus that sent the song soaring:
…Only open for us,
The gates of believing,
The gates of perceiving, that
We have no King but You…
Only You, are the Ultimate Cause,
Behind all that is, beyond all that was;
And only You, are worthy of praise,
All of the nights, and all of the days.
A viral hit
The song has so far garnered over 27 million views in its official YouTube version, over 100,000 likes, and over 5000 comments, including these:
- “I’ve listened to it 20 times every day, I love it! We have no other King but Him.”
- “Thanks to HaShem [God]. Thank you for the miracles He as done for us in these days of rocket fire…”
- “Amazing song… and the content [!] May His name be praised and exalted, Only the holy one blessed be He is worthy of our praise…”
- “There is just something beautiful about a Judean man dancing and singing in his native homeland עם ישראל חי”
- “Where does this sound come from? Every single song of yours, makes me cry or have goosebumps…”
In a rare interview and documentary (in Hebrew), the secular Channel 12 interviewer said:
“While the lyrics of his songs all speak of faith, even the secular population has fallen in love with this young ultra-Orthodox singer… He would come back to the little music room in his basement after performing before huge audiences and wonder whether the success was really good for him… This roller coaster [of emotions] peaked when the song Sibat haSibot exploded.”
Ishay shared in the interview:
“It felt too big for me. That there was this huge thing that I didn’t know how to carry.”
When asked how he deals with matters of success and ego, Ishay said:
“… It’s not that I don’t believe in myself, but ego in my eyes is unnecessary and dangerous.”
Regarding the timing and inspiration for this song, he said:
“When ‘Sibat haSibot’ went on the air, everything was less clear [due to the Covid situation]. In the middle of that breaking, suddenly I felt with certainty, that there is One greater than us who is still causing the world to spin around.”
When asked whether he might ever write lyrics that are not religious, Ishay replied:
“No. No, because it’s something I received on myself from an early age, and I believe that this gift that HaShem sent me is related to that commitment. It feels like my offering or sacrifice to HaShem at this point, and I don’t want to touch it.”
I never dreamed…
In another interview (with English subtitles), Ishay said when asked how he deals with the success:
“If we’re being honest, even I, as Ishay the teenager, with ambitions and dreams to succeed with my songs, to perform, and to make a living from this… I never dreamed I would reach this stature and this position… I don’t always succeed in thinking this [humble] way, but I do try to aspire to remember…”
He added that sometimes he himself is surprised at the songs that he writes and ascribes them to the help he receives from heaven.
Give the song a listen. Even without understanding all the words you can understand the heart.
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