I. Ma'oz tzur (Rock of My Salvation) 02:55
II. Hannerot hallalu (The Lights We Have Kindled) 01:47
III. Al hannissim (For the Miracles) 03:39
IV. Mi ze hidlik? (Who Kindled These Lights?) 01:36
V. El hammikdash ba y'huda (Into The Temple Judah Came) 02:35
VI. Mi y'mallel? (Who Can Retell?) 01:12
VII. Candles in the Night 02:57
VIII. Ma'oz tzur (Rock of Ages) 03:28

Liner Notes

Samuel Adler’s The Flames of Freedom—A Hanukka Celebration is a cantata for three-part treble-voice chorus and piano, based on ten well-known Hanukka songs and hymns together with original music to two other liturgical Hanukka texts. It consists of eight short movements, each representing one of the eight Hanukka lights. Adler chose the three-part treble choral medium to provide a musical counterpart to Benjamin Britten’s well-known Christmas work based on traditional carols, A Ceremony of Carols—given that the two holidays usually occur coincidentally within close calendar proximity, even though there is absolutely no religious or historical connection between the two (as there is, for example, between Passover and Easter); nor is Hanukka in any sense a Jewish counterpart to Christmas.

In the score, five movements are presented with the original Hebrew and English adaptations in the text underlay; three movements—two originally Hebrew and one originally Yiddish—are set to English words only. All but one of the English lyrics were written for this cantata by Samuel Rosenbaum, an American cantor best remembered for his many English librettos and translations from Hebrew and Yiddish. The English lyrics as sung here throughout represent liberal readings and paraphrases rather than actual translations.

I. Ma'oz tzur. Though the age and provenance of this melody is undetermined, we know that it was current as the “traditional” ma’oz tzur version among Ashkenazi Jews in Venice by the 18th century, when it was first documented as such in musical notation. Its melodic structure and rhythmic suitability to the poetic meter of the text allow for the possibility that it could have been an accepted ma’oz tzur version much earlier, even in German-speaking regions—perhaps as early as the 14th or 15th century, even before it would have been imported to Venice by Jews who resettled there.

The ma’oz tzur melody in this first movement of The Flames of Freedom is one of eleven melodies notated by the Italian composer Benedetto Marcello (1686–1739) as he heard them sung among the Jewish community in Venice. For his use as cantus firmus sources in his series of original choral and orchestral settings of Italian paraphrases of the first fifty Psalms, Estro poetico armonico (Poetic-Harmonic Inspiration; Venice, 1724–26), Marcello culled those eleven melodies from both Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions in Italy, and identified six—including this ma’oz tzur—as Ashkenazi.

II. Hannerot hallalu (the lights we have kindled). This is Adler's original setting.

III. Al hannissim (for the miracles and miraculous acts... [we thank You]) is the first of two texts inserted during Hanukka into the penultimate of the set of benedictions that forms the core of every traditional service, known collectively as the amida (“standing”), as well as in the seder birkat hammazon (grace after meals) during Hanukka. The “miraculous acts” in al hannissim, which call for additional gratitude, refer specifically to Hanukka.

The second insertion, bimei matityahu (in the days of [the High Priest] Mattathias...), summarizes the Hanukka story from the traditional theological perspective. Its first half is also included within this third movement, where it is punctuated by recapitulations of the al hannissim section. The music in this movement is not drawn from any traditional source, but is Adler’s original composition.

IV. Mi ze hidlik? (Who kindled these [lights]?). According to the Israeli scholar Natan Shachar this tune is ascribed to Shmuel Shapira, of kibbutz Ein-Harod, in Israel, who is said to have modeled it on an earlier Polish Hassidic melody. The words are by Levin Kipnis (the Ukraine, 1894–Tel Aviv, 1990), who wrote the lyrics of many of the most famous Israeli holiday songs for children. Like other Hanukka songs with lyrics stemming from Jewish Palestine, its wide dissemination in America as a children’s song is probably a function of Zionist-oriented Hebrew cultural influence in the first half of the 20th century. However, Adler combines it contrapuntally with altered yet recognizable motives from another, unrelated children’s Hanukka song, S’vivon, sov, sov, sov (Dreidl, Spin...)—a folk tune whose lyrics are also by Kipnis.

V. El hammikdash ba y'huda (to the temple Judah came). The circulation of this song in America dates at least to the early 1950s, for it appears in a 1955 children’s anthology compiled by Judith Eisenstein and Freida Prensky, Shirei y’ladim (Songs of Childhood), where it is credited to Hava Greenberg.

VI. Mi y'mallel? (Who Can Recount or Express?). The English version of the first part of the song (the first two phrases) is by B. M. Edidin and has long been established in America. The rest of the song departs from Edidin’s adaptation and is presumed to be Samuel Rosenbaum’s own.

VII. Candles in the Night. This movement is actually a well-known European folksong version of Morris Rosenfeld’s famous Yiddish poem about the emotions evoked by the Hanukka lights, sung here to Samuel Rosenbaum’s unrelated English lyrics—juxtaposed against an originally Hebrew song, Hanukka, hag yafe kol kah (Hanukka, Such a Beautiful Holiday!). The Hebrew lyrics to the latter are by Kipnis. An interesting device is the counterpoint in the sopranos to the Yiddish folk tune in the alto line in the opening measures, which appears subtly derived from the composer’s own music for al hannissim in the third movement.

VIII. Ma'oz tzur (Rock of Ages). This eminently more familiar musical version of the same text found in the first movement is undoubtedly the Western world’s quintessential melodic association with Hanukka—among both Jews and Christians. Modern research has revealed that this tune is a patchwork of motives and phrases borrowed from 15th and 16th-century German folksongs, one of which was coincidentally adopted for a Lutheran chorale. The tune extends beyond the single text by which it is commonly identified (ma’oz tzur in this case), to include its singing to many other prayer texts during the week of Hanukka and even in anticipation of it. Because of that function throughout Ashkenazi Jewry for so long, it may be considered one of the set of seasonal leitmotifs in minhag Ashkenaz known as missinai tunes, even though the “canonization” of most of the others in that group dates to the Middle Ages. By the Baroque era, dozens of original compositions—for various liturgical texts sung throughout the year—were also infused with motives from this ma’oz tzur melody to signify their rendition specifically during Hanukka. That practice has continued to the present day.

It is unlikely that this adopted hybrid melody was initially attached specifically, or even at all, to the poem ma’oz tzur, which, from the time of its introduction into the liturgy and probably until the 18th century, had other melodies. For one thing, the meter, syllabic scheme, and Hebrew accentuation of the poem do not conform ideally to the rhythmic features and contours of the melody; the tune does not fit this text as well as it does others.

One convincing thesis holds that this German melody was first adopted for the text of shnei zeitim (two olive branches), an older piyyut that at one time was sung on Shabbat Hanukka (the Sabbath of Hanukka). This poem’s rhythmic scheme is better suited to the tune and matches its contours naturally.

The most educated estimates place the merging of the ma’oz tzur poem with this Germanic tune in the early 18th century—first for the home candlelighting ritual and then, later, in the synagogue. In German Reform synagogues of the early 19th century it became a standard hymn for the Hanukka season, sometimes with newly created German lyrics.

Various English paraphrases have been fashioned expressly for this ma’oz tzur melody. But the most famous one of all, still in use, is Rock of Ages. That text, whose style is now dated, was written by Rabbi Gustav Gottheil (1827–1903), an early Reform vocal advocate and promoter of Zionism in America.

By: Neil W. Levin




Mighty Lord, O Rock of my salvation, I come before Thee to give thanks and sing Thy praise. Build once more Thy holy house, Thy Temple, and there I will come and bow down and praise Thy name. Let songs unbounded sound again; let freedom echo in every heart. May Thy will prevail and peace now resound in this our ancient land. When foe did strike in days of Hasmoneans brave, the Temple they despoiled and the altar did defile. Now rose up Judah Maccabee and fought for the glory of his people Israel. They made an end to weeping and cleansed anew the holy place. And they did ordain the feast of Hanukka for eight days of joy and dedication.


These shining lights we have kindled, they will remind us of wonders Thou didst perform so long ago, Which Thou didst perform for our fathers at this season in days so long ago. On all eight nights of Hanukka, these shining lights are holy all eight days, and we may not use them, but to look at them alone. So that we may praise Thy Holy Name for the miracles and for all the wonders Thou didst perform in ancient time in days so long ago.


We praise Thy name for the wondrous deeds, for miracles wrought, for victories won. For Thy power which sustained us in those days of old at this season. It was in the time of the priest Mattathias the Hashmonean and his sons when there fell upon Israel Antiochus the evil Greek king. He forbade us the laws of Thy Torah and from obeying Thy commandments and from following after Thee.
And then Thou in Thine infinite kindness didst stand up for them, didst stand up for them in their time of trial. We praise Thy name for the wondrous deeds, for miracles us in those days of old at this season, at this season.


See how they shine all in a row. They bring us joy and good cheer. They spread the word for all to know that Hanukka is here. S’vivon turn, turn, turn; Spin the dreidl, spin and turn. Who will win, who will lose? Soon the dreidl tells the news.
La La La...
These tiny lights they burn so bright; each light a star in the night. They tell of battles and of wonders of heroes who fought for the right.
La La La...
Joy, joy, joy without end.


Hallelujah. Into the Temple Judah came, found the oil, and lit the flame. Come all ye people, praise the Lord, join this day in one accord.


Who can retell the things that befell us, who can count them? In every age a hero or sage came to our aid.
Hark! At this season in those ancient days, Maccabee won all his people’s praise. And today again, as once they dreamed, Israel united rises up to be redeemed.


Hanukka is here! Candles shining in the night, children singing with delight. In the glow of golden light, see the faces smiling bright. All eight candles in a row, like flames so long ago, tell us God is near. They tell us of Judah Maccabee, who fought to set his people free, banish gloom and fear. When the foe was overcome, and when freedom had been won, Temple cleansed once more. Then they praised the God of Might, as we do this festive night, and forevermore. Hanukka, Hanukka, what a holiday!
Hanukka, Hanukka, time to sing and play;
Hanukka, Hanukka, see the dreidl turn, round and round,
round and round as the candles burn.


Rock of Ages, let our song
Praise Thy saving power;
Thou, amidst the raging foes,
Wast our sheltering tower.
Furious, they assailed us,
But Thine arm availed us, And Thy word, Broke their sword,
When our own strength failed us.

Kindling new the holy lamps,
Priests approved in suffering,
Purified the nation’s shrine,
Brought to God their offering.
And His courts surrounding,
Hear, in joy abounding, Happy throngs, Singing songs,
With a mighty sounding.

Children of the martyr race,
Whether free or fettered,
Wake the echoes of the songs,
Where ye may be scattered.
Yours the message cheering,
That the time is nearing, Which will see All men free,
Tyrants disappearing.



Composer: Samuel Adler

Length: 20:51
Genre: Choral

Performers: Ronald Corp, Conductor;  New London Children's Choir

Date Recorded: 03/01/2001
Venue: St. Paul's Church (D), Knightsbridge, London, UK
Engineer: Campbell Hughes and Morgan Roberts
Assistant Engineer: Weir, Simon
Project Manager: Schwendener, Paul

Additional Credits:

Publisher: Ludwig Music Publishing


Don't miss our latest releases, podcasts, announcements and giveaways throughout the year! Stay up to date with our newsletter.

{{msToTime(currentPosition)}} / {{msToTime(duration)}}