A Brief History of the Passover Song Adir Hu

Adir Hu, or “God of Might,” has been a staple song at the Passover Seder since forever.  It is one of those songs that feels like it was handed down to us at Mount Sinai along with the Ten Commandments.   The Ashkenazi version of Adir Hu can actually be traced back to the German Minnesang period.  Much like the medieval French troubadors, German minnesänger sang songs of courtly love between the 12th and 14th centuries.  This later developed into the more formal Meistersänger period with a guild for art song and poetry. Then, just as it still does now, the music surrounding the Synagogue found its way into our liturgy.  The earliest written version of Adir Hu is found in 1644 in the “Rittangle Hagada.”   This traditional version has an upbeat, major melody, a bit like a German drinking song.   By 1769, the “Selig Hagada” listed Adir Hu as Baugesang or the song of the rebuilding of the Temple.  One traditional German Passover greeting was “Bau Gut!”  or “build well” based on the text of Adir Hu.  Our current hymn like setting of the text probably dates to the later German Protestant period, around the 18th or 19th centuries.

Besides the Passover Seder, it is traditional to use this melody to sing Mi Chamocha in the Shabbat service preceding the holiday of Passover.  It shows our excitement for the coming holiday of Pesach.  It is a Jewish tradition to sing particular melodies in anticipation of the approaching holiday.   You can hear this musical setting at our Second Night Seder as well.  The text of Adir Hu is a piyyut, a Jewish liturgical poem.  It uses a Hebrew acrostic to extol God and express hope for the speedy rebuilding of the holy Temple.  In our reworked English version found in our Reform Jewish siddur or prayer book, Mishkan T’filah, the text has been changed to extol God and express hope for a speedy end to tyranny and freedom for all.