Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our daily, Shabbat or Holy Day Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look at it.
As we get closer to Pesach I wanted to take a quick look at one more item from the Hagadah. One of the best known selections from the Seder Service is Echad Mi Yodeia: Who Knows One? This clever piece of poetry is in effect a Jewish Trivia Game that challenges the participants to match a significant Jewish concept with every number from one to thirteen. Each verse then recaps all of the previous answers.
Quoting the Encyclopedia Judaica, the website Jewish Reflections .org notes that this song is based on a secular German folksong from the 15th century, “Guter freund ich frage dich – Good friend I ask you.” Echad Mi Yodeia first appears in the Ashkenazi Hagadah in the 16th Century.
There are a multitude of melodies that exist for this very popular song which is often sung, not only in Hebrew but also in the vernacular. Thus there are Yiddish, Ladino and of course English versions that abound. One of the most interesting arrangements is found in a collection of Seder melodies produced by David Levine, George Kirby, Hankus Nefsky, Rebecca Shrimpton & Theodore Bikel. This clever arrangement combines the Yiddish, Ladino and Hebrew version into one. Click Here to Listen
Our Rabbinical Assembly Hagadah, The Feast of Freedom; points out that while it is indeed fun to sing Echad Mi Yodea, the poetry also has significant meaning. Coming at the end of the Seder, this song hints at the reason for the redemption from Egypt: the perpetuation of our society as founded by our patriarchs and matriarchs, our meaningful life cycle events and of all of the other significant elements of our beautiful and ancient heritage.
For me, the final line of each verse of this song, which comes about as we are about to wrap up the Seder experience, loudly proclaims the “bottom line” and essential foundation of all that we do and all that we stand for as Jews – “One is God in Heaven and the on Earth.”
Here is a link to a piece discussing some of the other elements of the Pesach liturgy.
I hope you enjoy this brief look at our prayers. If you have a suggestion or question or request, email me at email@example.com.
Best wishes for a Zissen (sweet) Pesach.
Hazzan Michael Krausman