Saturday, May 16, 2015

Father of Night

Bob lists the blessings
Of God in nature, hitting
Most of the big ones.

"Father of Night" closes the 1970 album "New Morning." It's a short song, with Dylan accompanying himself on piano. The repetitive and short melody is transfixing, but what gives the song its real power are the backup singers, moaning like a chorus of ghosts as he sings. It's a chilling song, but lodged in the comfort of faith. I don't know any other song like it, and as a child, I found it mysterious and deep. I think that is ever more so, the older I get. The song, says the ever-handy Wikipedia, is "Dylan's interpretation of the Jewish prayer Amidah." The Amidah, Wikipedia goes on to say, is the central prayer of the Jewish liturgy, and contains 19 blessings.

They are, as the entry for the Amidah puts it (with edits by me):
1. Avot ("Ancestors"): praise of the God of the patriarchs.
2. Gevurot ("powers"): God is powerful, heals the sick and raises the dead. AKA Tehiyyat ha-Metim. This includes the power to make it rain, spoken in winter. This changes to dew in the summer for some Jews.
3.Kedushat ha-Shem ("the sanctification of the Name"): praise of God's holiness.
4. Binah ("understanding"): God grant me wisdom and understanding.
5. Teshuvah ("return", "repentance"): Help the Jews return to a life of repentance.
6. Selichah: God forgives.
7. Geulah ("redemption"): God is the rescuer of the Israelites.
8. Refuah ("healing"): Prayer to heal the sick.
9. Birkat HaShanim ("blessing for years [of good]"): Bless the crops. Another prayer for rain.
10. Galuyot ("diasporas"): Bring back the Jewish exiles to Israel.
11. Birkat HaDin ("Justice"): Restore the righteous judges.
12. Birkat HaMinim ("the sectarians, heretics"): Destroy heretics and the slanderers of and informers on Jews.
13. Tzadikim ("righteous"):; Have mercy on those who trust in God. Support the righteous.
14. Bo'ne Yerushalayim ("Builder of Jerusalem"): Rebuild Jerusalem, restore the Kingdom of David.
15. Birkat David ("Blessing of David"): Put David's closest descendant on the throne. He (presumably) becomes the Messiah.
16. Tefillah ("prayer"): God, accept prayers and have mercy and compassion.
17. Avodah ("service"): Restore the Temple services and sacrificial services.
18. Hoda'ah ("thanksgiving"): Thank God for our lives, for our souls, and for daily miracles.
19. Sim Shalom ("Grant Peace"): peace, goodness, blessings, kindness and compassion.

Dylan invokes God 26 times, one for each letter of the alphabet.

1. Night
2. Day
3. Takes away darkness
4. Teaches the bird to fly
5. Builds rainbows
6. Loneliness
7. Pain
8. Love
9. Rain
10. Black
11. White
12. Builds mountains
13. Shapes clouds
14. Time
15. Dreams
16. Rivers and streams
17. Grain
18. Wheat
19. Cold
20. Heat
21. Air
22. Trees
23. Lives in our hearts and memories
24. Minutes
25. Days
26. Father whom we praise

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