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I will never forget my first Shabat dinner at the synagogue of Madrid. They have a dinner for young people who have nowhere else to go and it is really a great place to meet people (was, at that time, anyway). The food was bad, but plenty, the rabbi spoke about relatively relevant stuff, and although probably none of us young people was actually orthodox, we all agreed to enjoy talking without taking out our phones. At the end of the dinner, the Birkat haMazon was done. With a different melody and slightly differnt words, but well, that’s expected of Sefardim. And then they started to sing a church song… or at least it seemed that way to me and the other Ashkanazi guests. Judge for yourself:

After seeing our puzzled faces, we quickly got the explanation that this is a traditional Sefardi song. There is the possibility that it sounds like a church song on purpose, to enable hidden Jews to say something like a Birkat haMazon at a time where anything Jewish was forbidden in Spain. Here is the text with translation from Wikipedia:

Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Al Señor que nos crió,
Démosle agradecimiento
Por los bienes que nos dió.
Let us bless the Most High
The Lord who raised us,
Let us give him thanks
For the good things which he gave us.
Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Señor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.
Praised be his Holy Name,
Because he always took pity on us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.
Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Por su Ley primeramente,
Que liga a nuestra raza
Con el cielo continuamente,
Let us bless the Most High
First for his Law,
Which binds our prayer
With heaven continually,
Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Senor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.
Praised be his Holy Name,
Because he always took pity on us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.
Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Por el pan segundamente,
Y también por los manjares
Que comimos juntamente.
Let us bless the Most High,
Secondly for the bread
And also for the food
Which we eat together.
Pues comimos y bebimos alegremente
Su merced nunca nos faltó.
Load al Señor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.
For we have eaten and drunk happily
His mercy has never failed us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.
Bendita sea la casa esta,
El hogar de su presencia,
Donde guardamos su fiesta,
Con alegría y permanencia.
Blessed be this house,
The home of his presence,
Where we keep his feast,
With happiness and permanence.
Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Señor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.

Praised be his Holy Name,
Because he always took pity on us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.

Once you get used to the church-y feel, it a really nice song!

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