Two Bonus Files to Download Now:

Be-emet - Lead Sheet Music notation with melody and chords. PDF 51.8 KB
Be-emet - Lyrics Hebrew, transliteration, and English interpretation. PDF 43.5 KB


וְטַהֵר לִבֵּנוּ לְעָבְדְּךָ בֶּאֱמֶת 
אֱמֶת, אֱמֶת, לְעָבְדְּךָ בֶּאֱמֶת 
אֱמֶת, אֱמֶת, לְעָבְדְּךָ בֶּאֱמֶת 

V’taher libenu l’ovd’cha be-emet 
Emet, emet, l’ovd’cha be-emet 
Emet, emet, l’ovd’cha be-emet 

[adapted from the Shabbat Amidah liturgy]

About the Reflections

My reflections on this chant grew out of a technique from the Kelm school of Mussar, called “polishing the stones,” which I learned from R’ Micha Berger. We search for novel interpretations of individual words (or combinations of a few words) to uncover more meaning in the phrase. Repeating a short phrase of Torah or liturgy with emphasis on a different word each time is a way to ask: “What else could this mean? What does it mean to teach me? What must I do about it?” By bringing ourselves to the words, we can acquire a personal connection to the text.

“Polishing the stones” is a double metaphor, comparing a Mussar phrase both a necklace of gemstones, and to a stone path that leads to the holy temple. The stone streets of Jerusalem are polished smooth by walking repeatedly over the stones. We polish precious gems by our lavishing time and attention on each one, until they reveal their full splendor.


Truth  אמת  Emet 
Humility  ענוה  Anavah 
Faith  אמוּנה  Emunah



Reflections on this Chant

V’taher—Purify. Clarify. 

Libenu—Our heart. Our desire, our will, our willfulness. 

V’taher libenu—Clarify our heart. Skim off the foam that clouds our heart-soup of desire, until it becomes consommé—rich, golden, nourishing, translucent. Decant it, leaving behind the murky sediment. Polish the windowpane so our inner light illuminates the world. 

L’ovd’cha—To serve You. How do we serve You? We serve in many ways, with many words, with many mitzvot. Through prayer, through song, through action. By speaking truth. By questioning, examining, and refining what we hold as true. By seeking You. By pursuing justice, by acting with kindness, by walking Your path in humility. 

Ovd’cha—Your service. Your purpose—not ourselves. 

L’ovd’cha—For Your service. Skim away the self-serving bits that obscure our true purpose on this earth. Skim away false goals, which we willfully pursue, until our will aligns with Yours. 

Be-emet—With truth. Deep down in our hearts, we know truth, yet false desires can cloud our vision, cloud our hearts. Help us use truth as Your soup skimmer, Your decanter, Your polishing cloth. Help us separate false and transient desires from the true and lasting. 

L’ovd’cha be-emet—To serve You with truth. When we can clearly see our truest desire, help us use it to serve You. 

Be-emet l’ovd’cha—With truth, draw us toward Your desire, to do Your will. 

Libenu l’ovd’cha be-emet—Our hearts, for Your service, with truth. You desire the heart, that we bring our full heart as we serve. How could we bring You a heart wrapped in falseness, when You know our heart’s inner truth? Help us untangle and discard the vines that cling, cover, and obscure our heart—that sap its inner truth. 

V’taher—Prepare to enter holiness. We yearn to enter Your holy Presence. We yearn to welcome Your holy Presence into us. Yet first we must prepare. Help make us ready. 

V’taher libenu—Clarify our innermost part. The part that animates all our actions. The part that pumps nourishing broth through us, so that we can do Your will. When our hearts are clear, our thoughts will be clear, our speech will be clear, and our actions will reflect that clarity too. 

V’taher libenu be-emet l’ovd’cha—Clarify our heart with truth, for Your service. Truth can clear away lies as sun clears away fog. Shine truth upon our hearts to free us from the fog of false desires that imprisons and enslaves, so we can serve You. Tell the Pharaoh of falseness “Shalach et ami v’ya’avduni. Let My people go, so they can serve Me.” 

Emet—Truth. Help us recognize truth amid all the falsehoods we tell ourselves. We falsely perceive our needs. We falsely interpret our desires. We falsely appraise our abilities and accomplishments. We obscure our own intentions. We falsely claim to understand Your will. Help us clarify all these within our hearts. Help us see the truth in ourselves, and in Your world. 

L’ovd’cha be-emet—To serve You using truth. And when we touch the truth, help us wield it as tool to serve You. If truth is abrasive, help us use it to smooth our rough edges. If truth is a stick, we hold it not to beat ourselves, nor others, but to support us as we travel forward together. Forward, together, in Your service. 

Ovd’cha be-emet—Your service, truly. Your essence is kindness and giving. For our service to truly serve You, it must be kind—else we do not truly serve You. 

Emet, be-emet—For truth to be fully true, it must be kind—else it is not the whole truth. “Ḥesed ve-emet nifgashu. Kindness and truth meet.” Help us to always meet truth with ḥesed, kindness.

Mixing by Alex Green.

Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash.