Bendigamos Al Altisimo

When I was a little girl we had a guest at our table who used to sing a different Birkat Hamazon than we did. It was in Ladino. His name was Ralph. I was so young but this prayer struck a chord deep within me. I recently came across a recording on youtube and wanted to share it with you. The lyrics follow.

My question for you – do you know anyone who still sings this? Do you know anyone that still speaks Ladino?

Bendigamos
Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Al Señor que nos crió,
Démosle agradecimiento
Por los bienes que nos dió.

Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Señor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.

Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Por su Ley primeramente,
Que liga a nuestra raza
Con el cielo continuamente,

Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Senor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.

Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Por el pan segundamente,
Y también por los manjares
Que comimos juntamente.

Pues comimos y bebimos alegremente
Su merced nunca nos faltó.
Load al Señor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.

Bendita sea la casa esta,
El hogar de su presencia,
Donde guardamos su fiesta,
Con alegría y permanencia.

Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Señor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.
English:
Let us bless
Let us bless the Most High
The Lord who raised us,
Let us give him thanks
For the good things which he has given us.

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

Let us bless the Most High
First for his Law,
Which binds our race
With heaven continually,

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

Let us bless the Most High,
Secondly for the bread
And also for the foods
Which we have eaten together.

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.

Blessed be this house,
The home of his presence,
Where we keep his feast,
With happiness and permanence.

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

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25 Comments

  1. I never heard this.

    We have been listening every week to a CD of Ehud Banai singing traditional Shabbat songs from his family and other Sephardi traditions.

    I wonder if you would like the music as much as we do.

  2. Shoshana says:

    The Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue (Shearith Israel founded in 1654) on 70th and Central Park West in NYC still includes this as a zemer after Shabbat meals.

  3. simonsynett says:

    Strangely enough, I (and many others who grew up ashkenazi in England) sing the Song of the Sea to this tune when I read from the Torah. It’s a really moving nigun when sung well.

    I wonder where the tune originates from?

  4. hadassahsabo says:

    according to Wikipedia

    “Bendigamos is a prayer said after meals according to the custom of Spanish and Portuguese Jews. It is similar in meaning to the Birkat Hamazon that is said by all Jews. Bendigamos is said in addition to Birkat Hamazon. The text is in Castilian (Spanish language). The prayer was translated by David de Sola Pool. … The melody is that of the “Az Yashir”.
    It is currently sung in New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel on the holiday of Sukkot, as well as on other occasions and at sabbath meals at the homes of members. Bendigamos can also be heard weekly at communal meals such as the Shabbat morning kiddush at Lincoln Park Jewish Center, in Yonkers, New York. It is sung every sabbath in the Spanish and Portuguese communities of Great Britain and Philadelphia. It is also sung on the Jewish communities located in the north of Brazil (Manaus and Belem) with brought the melody from Morocco in the 19th century, on its earliest immigration to the Amazon. The song probably originated among the Spanish-speaking Jews of Bordeaux where the song is still sung in French translation. From France the Bendigamos song was probably transferred to the Dutch West-Indies (Curaçao) in the mid Nineteenth Century and thence to New York and Amsterdam.”

  5. simonsynett says:

    Oh yeah, so it mentions that Az Yashir is sung to this tune, but I’m still curious as to how it became quite standard in ashkenazi kehillos in England. My father sung it like that at his bar mitzvah, in a totally ashkenazi shul in Ilford, East London…

    Thanks for digging that up!

  6. Ruthie says:

    Gibraltarians sing Bendigamos after birkat hamazon…

  7. Mike (Lopes)Dias says:

    My name is Mike Dias

    I am a member of the Spanish & Portuguese synagogue in Bevis Marks A street in the City of London It is the oldest Synagogue in the UK and we sing this song every Shabbat before the Birkat Hamazon and Kiddush
    You are welcome to join us if you are ever in London

  8. hadassahsabo says:

    thank you for your kind invitation Mike!

  9. Everett Jacobs says:

    I come from a Ladino-speaking family. Unfortunately, the language is dying out as those who spoke it every day are passing on. It’s a great shame.

    This is a fabulous rendition of Bendigamos. Thanks Mike for bringing it to my attention.

  10. Stanley Dias says:

    As a member of the Bevis Marks choir in London, which I have been part of for seventy years or so and sing Bendigamos regularly, I was moved by your supurb rendition especially with the orchestral accompaniment.
    I hope to listen to it again … and again.Thank you very much and I would indeed like to meet you here in London, where you can hear our services.

  11. hadassahsabo says:

    thank you all for stopping by! this was a purely self indulgent post – i had been looking for a great rendition for years, found it on YouTube and decided to share it with you. I would never have guessed that it would have struck such a chord with so many people.

  12. I learned Bendigamos one Shabbat at Shearith Israel, and I have it memorized, and sing it sometimes, especially when I’m at a Shabbat table with others who sing it. (My yeshiva has a lot of students from Central and South America, and while they are usually Syrian rather than Judeo-Spanish, they still enjoy a song in a language they understand.)

  13. Oh, and here’s a lovely recording as well. The lyrics are in a very different order than I am used to, but the tune is closer to what I have heard sung at actual Shabbat tables: here

  14. RubyV says:

    I would love to learn Ladino. The melodies are so moving, and the lyrics beautiful. I do recite flory jacoda’s blessing over candles.

  15. mrsmelissasg says:

    My SP husband is working on implementing more SP things into the repertoire of our Shabbat table. We currently sign Ain Kelohanu (with the ladino verses) instead of Shalom Alechem, he does meziga with Kiddush, I say Poteach et Yadecha before Hamotzi, and we do the three extra brachot. We also say the SP birkat hamazon if we have guests who can read Hebrew as those birkonim do not have transliteration. Next up is Bendigamos! =)

    (I just saw that this post had been recently commented on and it made me happy)

    • mrsmelissasg says:

      Kisarita – We say an extra adama, etz, and shehakol between kiddush and handwashing. It is a traditional of some Sephardim to do it, as we say less brachot in the amida on Shabbat.

  16. Ian says:

    This is all conjecture, but I think it makes sense. Bendigamos is sung to the S&P tune for Shirat Hayam. I believe in some S&P congregations they sing it every day and use the same tune on shabbat shira and the 7th day of pesach. That tune was used for Bendigamos when the Jews in Spain were forbiden from practicing their Judaism. The first Jewish community in England was S&P and must have brought this tune with them. after expulsions and the like, the tune survived and is used accross England and Australia

  17. yehudha says:

    Melissa, where do your husband’s customs come from? I am Spanish Portuguese and no SP I know sing anything before qiddus (not shalom alekhem, not eshet hayil, not en kelohenu)
    Also I have never seen any SP people do “meziga”.

    • MrsMelissaSG says:

      Yehuda – My husband knows that the three extra brachot and meziga are not SP customs, and that SP Jews don’t say anything before kiddush. He is ba’al teshuva and learns the Keter Shem Tob with a friend/rabbi and enjoys incorporating different Sefardic customs into his (and subsequently our) practice.
      The custom of meziga and the three extra brachot are more prominent in Eastern Sephardi minhag.
      Sorry for the confusion, sometimes I have a hard time remembering which regions the different customs come from, and since I knew the birkat we use is SP I made an assumption about the rest of our Shabbat additions.

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