Billy writes, “I was in Jerusalem in 1982 and wanted to write a piece of music that emerged from ancient Israel but that spoke to the Jewish values I cared most about. Ethics. Kindness. Compassion. And strength in the face of those who cultivated brutality. I looked to the Book of Psalms and discovered Psalms 15. Its words, penned in Israel while the Temple stood in Jerusalem, like most of the Psalms spoke of deepening one’s relationship with God. But this one prescribed human goodness and love as the pathway to God. That resonated deeply with me, and this tune emerged from that.”
Mee Yagur asks, “Who shall dwell on God’s holy mountain?” For some, the rules are an impossible obstacle: be good, be kind, be lawful, be quiet, be just. For the rest of us, it’s not only possible but it’s what we were raised to do. The music for such a prescription is celebratory. How else could you sing such words?
This recording comes from “The First Album,” Beged Kefet’s 1987 debut. Beged Kefet (1982-2009) was comprised of Rabbi Les Bronstein, Rabbi Billy Dreskin, Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Cantor Riki Lippitz, Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Beth Sher, and Cantor Leon Sher. As you will hear, we worked hard to produce tight harmonies. And this was before you could tune things up afterward. Audio verite, you might say!
Adonai, mi yagur b’oholecha,
Mi yishkon b’har kodshecha?
Holech tamim u-fo’eil tzedek
V’doveyr emet bilvavo
Lo ragal al l’shono
Lo asa l’rei’eihu ra’ah
V’cherpah lo nasa al k’rovo
Nivzeh b’einav (b’einav nim’as)
V’et yir’ei Adonai (Adonai y’chabeyd)
Nishba l’hara v’lo yamir
Kaspo lo natan b’neshech
V’shochad al naki lo lakach
Oseh eileh lo yimot l’olam
God, who may live in Your tent, who may dwell on Your holy mountain? One who lives with pure intent, who does what is right, and acknowledges the truth to their innermost core; who doesn’t speak slander; who doesn’t hurt others and cause their resentment; who detests contemptible behavior but honors those who walk God’s path; who will under no circumstances break a promise; who is fair in financial dealings and cannot be bribed. One who lives in this way shall never be shaken.
released June 1, 1987
text from Psalms 15
music by Billy Dreskin
performed by Beged Kefet
sound engineering by Skipp Tullen z”l (Tullen Sound Recording, Morristown, NJ)
MP3 Audio (orig Beged Kefet recording), Handwritten Lead Sheet for 2 Voices (pdf)