The text of Y’varech’cha really consists of two parts: the first three lines, from the book of Numbers (Bamidbar), is known as the Priestly Blessing, and is perhaps the earliest extant blessing we have in Jewish texts. The last two lines are additional blessings traditionally said by parents to their children at the beginning of the Sabbath.

The core melody of Y’varech’cha, with the mood of a lullaby, was originally written in 1995 on the joyous occasion of the birth of our child, Cass. I first composed it in a version for two-part chorus (or solo duet) and piano, and have since made many different arrangements, with accompaniments available for an obbligato instrument with piano, for string quartet and orchestra, as well as various purely instrumental arrangements. I wrote a new version for SATB chorus and piano in 2020.

In addition to its use for the Sabbath, the piece is appropriate for any setting of blessing, including interfaith services.

Text and translation:

Y’varech’cha Adonai v’yishm’recha,
Ya-eir Adonai panav eilecha vichuneka,
Yisa Adonai panav eilecha v’yaseim l’cha shalom.

Y’sim’cha Elohim k’Efrayim v’chiM’nashe,
Y’simeich Elohim k’Sara, Rivka, Racheil, v’Leia.

May the Lord bless you and guard you,
May the Lord cause the light of His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you,
May the Lord lift up His face to you, and grant you peace.

May God give you the blessings of Ephraim and Menasheh,
May God give you the blessings of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.

—Arrangement for treble voices (2 part) and orchestra (2000)
—Arrangement for 2 clarinets and piano as part of Sea of Reeds (2009)
—Arrangement for SATB chorus and piano (2020)


The web page for this composition is in progress.  Please contact me at gerald@nullgeraldcohenmusic.com for more information about the piece.

Commissioned for American Composers Forum’s Faith Partners residency


An Undaunted Heart: Songs of Elders was commissioned by the New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, conductor.  It was a commission of the Westchester Prize for New Works, and had its premieres in 2003 at the Music Conservatory of Westchester, White Plains, NY, and Shaarei Tikvah Congregation, Scarsdale, NY.

I was inspired to write this piece by my relationships with my elders—family, friends, and members of my community. The texts are from varied sources, including quotes from the Psalms on aging and honoring the old; by the American Marc Kaminsky, a humorous poem on a man’s vigorous request to his children to give him grandchildren; by the 12th- century Japanese poet Saigyo, on observing the passage of time in one’s aging body and in the natural world; by the American poet Mark Van Doren, on an old couple and their uncanny intuition of each other’s joys and pains;  and by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, using the imagery of the “ocean of peace” that lies ahead of him as he encounters the “great unknown.”

The texts are meant to reflect a variety of experience in the aging process, and yet to create a strong sense of continuity for the piece as whole.  The music is quite varied as well, responding to the texts such as the wild humor of the Kaminsky, the gentle humor of the Van Doren, and the ecstatic feeling of the Tagore, and was composed so as to utilize the marvelous technical and expressive resources of Harold Rosenbaum and the New York Virtuoso Singers.

***Note: Final movement of this piece, The ocean of peace lies ahead of me, is published by G. Schirmer/AMP


1. From the Bible (Psalm 37:25; Leviticus 19:32; Psalm 92:15; Psalm 71:9)

Naar hayiti v’gam zakanti.
I was young and now grow old.

Mip’nei seiva takum, v’hadarta p’nei zakein.
Rise before the old, and honor the face of an elder.

Od y’nuvun b’seiva d’sheinim v’raananim yihyu.
They shall still flourish in old age, they shall be ever fresh and fragrant.

Al tashlicheini b’eit zikna, kichlot kochi al taazveini.
Do not cast me off in old age—when my strength fails, do not forsake me.

2. Mark Kaminsky (American, b. 1943): “Dancing Bear”

My father, when his sons and daughters
visit his table, bringing freshly picked
husbands and wives, sits at the head
like a man who’s come into his place
and is drunk with his triumph.  He jumps
up and pulls each one of us to him
into a great wet bear hug, and cries:
Bring me grandchildren!  Go home
and get me some grandchildren!
Quick!  I want them
to get me greatgrandchildren before I die.
And my mother, trying to make him
act like a grown-up, cannot,
during the whole time he dances around us,
get him back on the leash.

3. Saigyo (Japanese, 1118-1190): “While noticing how time”

While noticing how time
Has bent my body’s silhouette
Cast in the moonlight…
Away off in the distance the moon
Sank closer to the world’s rim.

4. Mark van Doren (American, 1894-1973): “Old Man, Old Woman”

Old man, if he cares much
When old woman is achesome, gives
No sign to strangers; even when
She staggers, seems not to notice

But does, and old woman knows it
In the odd way of animals
That watch each other incessantly.
Such tenderness is in these two,

Each of them sees everything
Outside, inside the other:  old
Man, old woman suffer and then
Feel good together, their hearts equal,

Their eyes veteran, missing no
Least message, morning or evening,
Winter or summer, during or after
Pain—oh, dear, plenty of that.

5. Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali, 1861-1941), “The ocean of peace lies ahead of me”

The ocean of peace lies ahead of me.
Sail the boat, O pilot
You are my constant companion now.
Take me in your lap.
Along the journey to the infinite
The pole star alone will shine.
Giver of Freedom
Set me free.
May your forgiveness and compassion
Be my eternal resources for the journey—
May the mortal ties fall away,
May the vast universe
Hold me in embrace,
And with an undaunted heart
May I come to know the Great Unknown.

“The Ocean of Peace”, the final movement of An Undaunted Heart, is available in an instrumental arrangement, (i.e. without chorus), for:
Violin, viola, cello and piano. This arrangement was a Hoff-Barthelson/Copland House commission.
Please contact Gerald Cohen at gerald@nullgeraldcohenmusic.com for information on this arrangement.

Premiere: April 2003:  New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, conductor;  White Plains, NY
April 2003: New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, conductor;  Scarsdale, NY
March 2010 (5th movement, The Ocean of Peace): New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, conductor;  Merkin Concert Hall, New York NY
May 2016 (arrangement of 5th movement, The Ocean of Peace); students at Hoff-Barthelson Music School, Scarsdale, NY

An Undaunted Heart: Dancing Bear score sample

An Undaunted Heart: The Ocean of Peace score sample

To purchase score, contact Gerald Cohen: gerald@nullgeraldcohenmusic.com
PDF version of score and parts: $6.00 a copy (minimum 6 copies)

For printed version of score: contact Gerald Cohen for information.
For perusal version of score, contact Gerald Cohen.

***Note: Final movement of this piece, The ocean of peace lies ahead of me, is published by G. Schirmer/AMP, and can be purchased as a separate octavo from them.