Vehi SheAmda, How do you pronounce it?


How do you sing the paragraph in the Hagaddah Vehi SheAmda? Is it Vehi SheAmda LavoSeinu (Ashkenazic) or LavoTeinu (Sefardic) pronunciation ? In Israel a duet, that has BOTH pronunciations simultaneously has become very popular. Yonatan Razel, a Sephardi, sings it Lavoteinu. Along with him is Yaakov Shwekey singing Lavoseinu, in his usual Chassidic–Ashkenazic accent, even though he is from a Syrian–Jewish family. (BTW, Shwekey has a new album Libi BaMizrach, in a Sefardic accent, an example of hafuch al-hafuch).

In the aforementioned duet for the Pesach passage Shwekey sings Ashkenazic. What is symbolic is that Shwekey and Razel make beautiful music together, each maintaining his own identity and accent. You can hear their “legendary performance of Vehi SheAmda at Caesaria”

Although I have reservations about the razzle-dazzle of Razel/Shwekey in Caesaria, the fact that this was the site where the Romans once tried to destroy Judaism is something to ponder.

A similar Sefardi-Ashkenazi duet took place last week. One of the world’s top Ashkanazi cantors, Hazzan Yitzhak Meir Helfgot, sang at a hazanut concert accompanied by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in Tel Aviv’s bastion of secular culture, the Mann Auditorium. Hazzan Helfgot sang a duet with Amir Benayoun, who is the quintessential Moroccan paytan. Although I was not privileged to see it, I did hear this duet rebroadcast Friday (11bNisan,April 15) on Israel Army radio, Galey Zahal. A charedi couple, Yedidya and Sivan Meir, have a regular program Fridays at noon, and this Friday they played the Netanel Helfgot – Amir Benayoun duet, a Shlomo Carlebach rendition of Lecha Dodi. The popular program of this charedi couple, aimed at a young secular audience, can be heard on the Galey Zahal website, although the one on April 15 is not yet posted.

The Helfgot-Benayoun duet is another example of mizug galuyot, where each tradition is preserved while they can sing together. This reminds me that when the twelve tribes of bnei Israel crossed the Sea, they crossed together but in twelve parallel but distinct tunnels with transparent walls(Yalkut Meam Loez,Beshalah 5,28).

I’ll be thinking of this when we sing Vehi SheAmda at the Seder.

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Steve Brizel
4 years 5 months ago

What a great and historically ironic venue for a superb duet that I took in while on a break yesterday from one of our many expeditions for last minute Pesach needs. Just think of how many people are learning Torah full and part time today and contrast that the number of people interested in the decline and fall of Rome, its culture and language, etc.

Shades of Gray
4 years 5 months ago

“I’ll be thinking of this when we sing Vehi SheAmda at the Seder”

“… an example of hafuch al-hafuch”

Yaakov Shwekey recently sang Vehi SheAmda at a Chol HaMoed Succos concert at Brooklyn College; apparently, people enjoy “Vehi SheAmda” all year round! The following Chol HaMoed Pesach at the same venue, Baruch Levine did a rendition of his “Chasan HaTorah”(from Simchas Torah). As he put it, “if Shwekey can sing ‘Vehi SheAmda’ on Succos, I can sing “Chasan HaTorah” on Pesach…” :)

L. Oberstein
4 years 5 months ago

This past week, I listened to an interview of the columnist Charles
Krauthamer on Jerudalem Post Radio. He was critical of Israeli policy ,feeling
that the Oslo Accords were a mistake and set up Israel for concessions it
didn’t have to make ,even endangering the status of Jerusalem. At the end of
the conversation, the interviewer asked Mr. Krauthamer if as a Jew he had any
comment tieing in his assessment of Israel’s situation with the holiday of
Passover. Krauthamer answered that he could sum it up in two words, ” Vehi

Without commenting one way or the other on Krauthamer’s political analysis, his
use of these two words from the Passover Haggadah reveals much about his strong
Jewish identity going back to his observant parents. This is how I understand
what he was saying.
The Haggadah tells us that “in every generation they rise up to annihilate us
but the Holy One Blessed Be He ever saves us from their hands.” What Charles
Krauthamer was saying in these two Hebrew words was that as dire as Israel’s
situation may be at any given point in time, we have the assurance that we will
come though it because “the Holy One Blessed Be He ever saves us from their
This comment illustrates that without faith in the Netzach Yisrael, the Eternal
One of Israel,one can despair. With faith, we can believe that despite dire
predictions, our existence is not in doubt.

Several years ago, during the Intifada, I was very depressed about Israel’s
“matzav” (situation). One day I covered my head with my tallis before reciting
the Silent Amidah and broke down in tears. I asked the One Above to have mercy
on the Jewish People, to save us from the bombings that were killing so many
people and making life in Israel so dangerous. I was worried about the long term
viabililty of the State of Israel in a sea of hatred. I wrote an email to
Rabbi Berel Wein and asked him if he could give me some way to see the light at
the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Rabbi Wein responded that we are living in a
period similar to that described in the Bible in the Book of Judges. In those
days, there were periods of peace intersperced with periods of turmoil. One
verse says “and the land was quiet for seventy years.” This is Israel’s
situation, no permanent solution ,but periods of relative quiet until some day
in the future, things will be better.

Because I have a sense of Jewish Eternity and feel that we are part of an
unbroken chain of existence, Rabbi Wein’s connection of the Era of the Judges to
the current events in the State of Israel made perfect sense to me and calmed me
down and gave me hope. We are part of the chain, our situation is part of the
pattern and “this too will pass”.

As we each sit down with out loved ones to break the middle matzah and lean on
our left sides as they did so many centuries ago, let us remember that we as a
collective have endured much worse and that our people will come through
whatever happens . Am Yisrael Chai.

4 years 5 months ago

Razel is not a spharedi.(His father, formerly a psychologist for the Ministry of Education and today very charedi,was originally from Holland.)

Joe Hill
4 years 5 months ago

Yaakov Shwekey singing Lavoseinu, in his usual Chassidic–Ashkenazic accent

Actually, Shwekey is singing it in a Litvish-Ashkenazic accent, not Chassidic–Ashkenazic.