ליתום | Le-yatom | To an Orphan (1912)
Artist: Abraham Zvi Idelsohn (1882-1938)
The text of this song was published in Mikraot Le-Talmidim Be-Vet Ha-Sefer U'Be-Vet Ha-Av, edited by Ben-Ami (Ben-Ami is the pen-name of Simha Ben-Zion Altar Gutman (1870-1932) (Odessa: 1905: p. 35).
“Le-yatom” is based on Bialik's poem "Be -yom kayits yom hom" [On a hot summer day], which was written in 1896 and published in 1900. The sense of personal despair that characterizes the poem can also be read as an expression of the national feelings of the Jewish people in the diaspora at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Idelsohn selected the fourth, fifth, and six verses of Bialik's eight-verse poem, but begins his setting with "Be-lel horef, lel kor" [On a cold winter night]. These verses convey a degree of optimism, and the composer highlighted this sense by changing certain words, such as "dark" to "cloudy". The orphan in the work may symbolize the Jewish people longing for their homeland, Zion.
The Hebrew combines Ashkenazic and Sephardic pronunciation (see Boasson: 2018, pp. 216-222). Idelsohn (Ben-Yehuda) chose a modal framework, lacking a clear mode or harmonic structure. His melody centers around A and D, but the final note is E. This is the only melody of this kind in the first section of Sefer Ha-Shirim.