I Call to You: Jonah’s Prayer

In my search for prayers and songs original to Tanakh, but earlier than The Song of the Sea, my Rabbi suggested I look at Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish. While the Jonah story is newer than Exodus, Reb Irwin Keller told me that particular prayer is thought perhaps to be an adaptation of one much older.

Filled with imagery of water and earth and emerging, it is perfect for my purpose of a song women in labor can sing so the midwife can time contractions.

1 And the Lord appointed a huge fish to swallow up Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.
2 And Jonah prayed to the Lord his God, from the belly of the fish.
3 And he said: I called out from my distress to the Lord, and He answered me; from the belly of the grave I cried out, You heard my voice.
4 And You cast me into the deep in the heart of the seas, and a river surrounded me; all Your breakers and Your waves passed over me.
5 And I said, “I have been driven away from before Your eyes,” Indeed, I will continue to gaze upon Your Holy Temple.
6 Water has surrounded me even to the soul, the deep encompassed me; the Red Sea hangs over my head.
7 To the bottom of the mountains I descended, the earth-its bars are closed on me forever; but You brought up my life from Gehinnom, O Lord, my God.
8 When my soul grew faint upon me, I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came to You to Your Holy Temple.
9 Those who keep worthless futilities abandon their kindness.
10 But I-with a voice of thanks will I sacrifice to You; what I vowed I will pay, for the salvation of the Lord.
11 And the Lord said to the fish, and it spewed Jonah onto the dry land.

Jonah, Chapter 2

It has references to the Red Sea and the Temple which of course don’t work in a pre-Exodus society, so I’m going to assume those were added when the prayer was adapted to fit into Jonah’s story.  I’ve reworked the prayer to be a song, with a couple contemporaneous references added (and anachronistic ones removed).  The chorus is to be sung in a different melody from the verses.

Elena Kalis, Ocean

I Call to You

I call to You, El, in my distress
I call to You, God of Compassion
You answer me, You hear my voice
I cry out from the belly of the grave

You cast me deep in the heart of the seas
And the Nile surrounds me flowing
Breakers and waves pass over me
Have I been driven away from your eyes?

     Water surrounds me, even to the soul
     The deep encompasses me
     El, You save me and forever I sing your praise

To the bottom of mountains I descend
As the earth closes on me forever
But you bring back my life, from toil and pain
From the depths of Gehinnom I come

When grows my soul faint upon me
I remember the Compassionate One
I pray to You, kind and giving
With my voice I thank You for salvation

     Water surrounds me, even to the soul
     The deep encompasses me
     El, You save me and forever I sing your praise

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