The origin of the beloved song “Hava Nagila” is fascinating and somewhat mysterious.
The song tells its own tale in the persona of Hava, a magical, blue-skinned woman wearing a blue-and-white robe that represents the colors of Israel and Judaism. She floats above the events as a gentle, benevolent spirit spreading hope and joy as a blessing, her mitzvah, for the Jewish people. The song evolves from a niggun, a wordless melody that was hummed in a village synagogue in the Ukraine. Many Jews escaping a difficult and dangerous life, including some from this shtetl, migrated to Jerusalem, their ancient home, where the melody was heard by a renowned musicologist. He is believed to be the most likely creator of the Hebrew lyrics known today. Hava declares the powerful words of “Hava Nagila” a miracle, a gift from Hashem, God, for they speak of rejoicing and celebrating, no matter the trying circumstances of life. Hava travels across the ocean to America accompanied by the dance Hora, a fellow blue spirit. There, the song is embraced and recorded by many, sometimes-unlikely, singers, reaching a wide audience. Benjamin’s lovingly rendered illustrations move and dance across the pages with the music. The essential Jewishness of the song and its amazing longevity and universal appeal across nations and cultures resonate throughout the tale.
Come and rejoice and sing out the heartfelt words to this anthem of hope.(glossary, author’s note, illustrator’s note, photo) (Picture book. 5-10)