Tonight’s installment of Jewish music for Passover involves a shameless self-promotion. Way back when I was in graduate school at UC Berkeley in the early 1980s, my brother also happens to have been doing his PhD in chemistry at the same school. We then had the opportunity to form a Jewish music ensemble, Yasmine. We put out an audio cassette, Jewish Songs of Celebration and Struggle. As the title implies, it was a collection of politically-engaged music along with pieces from Jewish liturgy which we learned through our Jewish education.
We recorded a Pesach Suite (hear it) composed of three songs: Baruch HaMakom (“Blessed is the Place”– that is, God), Dayeinu, which expresses gratitude to God for the wonderful gifts he bestowed on the Jewish people (“If He had only given us the Torah that would have been enough”), and Avadim Hayinu, a passage from the Passover Haggadah (“We were slaves in Egypt and now we are free”). The first song is part of the Hallel, a service included in the seder and all major holiday liturgies. Dayeinu is one of those ever-popular seder songs with the terrific, joyful melody that almost everyone knows. Avadim Hayinu expresses one the central principles of the seder–that we were enslaved under the Egyptian pharaoh, but now we are free human beings whose responsibility is to celebrate our deliverance in great song and joy at the seder.