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by Michael Reid Winikoff

Choir (SATB div.) with optional organ

DURATION: 5:00                                                                            Purchase

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THE TEXT - “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwelling places O Israel!”  Balaam’s ironic exclamation of praise (from Numbers 24:5) becomes the opening verse of this prayer, the remainder of which is comprised of various Psalm verses.  While it is most properly said by the individual on entering a house of worship, and as preparation for worship, Ma Tovu has long been a favorite text for choral setting. 

THE MUSIC - Because no strong tradition of nusach (chant mode) is associated with Ma Tovu, it has sometimes been the basis for musical experimentation for composers, though typically it is cast in a festive, auspicious major key, particularly when intended to open the Friday evening service.  This setting in modernist style continues that practice.  To enter G-d's house is to be swept away by grandeur, awe and love, and that is the picture that has been aimed for in this music.

PERFORMANCE - This piece is challenging on many fronts: rhythm, counterpoint, harmony, subtleties of tempo.  But it is my sincere belief that the rewards are worth the diligent and extended effort required for a proper reading of the work.  

Challenge level - 5 out of 6 stars

Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov
Mishk’notecha Yisraeil
Va’ani b’rov chasd’cha
Avo veitecha
Eshtachaveh el heichal kodsh’cha

A-donay ahavti m’on beitecha
Um’kom mishkan k’vodecha
Va’ani eshtachaveh v’echra-a
Evr’cha lifnei A-donay osi
Va’ani t’filati l’cha A-donay
Eit ratzon
E-lohim b’rav chasdecha
Aneini be-emet yish-echa

How goodly are your tents, O Jacob,
Your dwellings, O Israel.
By Your plentiful grace
Do I enter Your house;
I worship You in Your sanctuary
In reverence.

O Lord, I love Your House,
Wherein Your glory dwells.
I will bow down and worship
Before the Lord, my Creator.
I offer my prayer to You, O Lord
At a time of favor.
O G-d, in Your abundant mercy,
Answer me with Your saving truth.