Tune of the Day: Ma'oz Tzur
“Ma'oz Tzur” is without any doubt the most popular Hanukkah (Chanukah) song. Written in Hebrew, it is traditionally sung after lighting the festival lights. The hymn is named for its first two words in Hebrew, which mean “Stronghold of Rock” as a name or epithet for God. There is also a popular non-literal translation of the song in English, called “Rock of Ages”.
The bright and stirring tune now so generally associated with “Ma'oz tzur” serves as the “representative theme” in musical references to Hanukkah; indeed, it has come to be regarded as the only Hannukah melody, four other Hebrew hymns for the occasion being also sung to it. This melody has been identified as an adaptation from the old German folk-song “So weiss ich eins, dass mich erfreut, das pluemlein auff preiter heyde”, and was widely spread among German Jews as early as 1450.