Shalosh Liner Notes

The Making of Shalosh: Stories, Lyrics & Credits

Frisco, Colorado, May 2012:
Every song has a story …
Cool, crisp mornings and clear star-lit evenings were gifts to enjoy in the beautiful mountain home of our good friends, Cheryl and Rob Balgley. We were back at one of our favorite haunts to write our 3rd CD. Our first album Pray for the Peace was also written here and once again, we found ourselves inspired by the mountains, the music, and the mission.Three days and twelve songs later, Shalosh our 3rd CD in 5 years, was becoming a reality.

The process for choosing a song that we develop for Sababa to record and perform is a rigorous one and very time-consuming. Living in three different time zones has its issues when we are ready to write together and we carefully plan our time and location to make sure that we can sequester ourselves away from our everyday lives and focus.

Robbi is the most prolific writer of the three of us and tends to write a lot of lyrics, writing songs that usually have a traditional song structure of: verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. She will often bring more than a dozen new songs to the table. Scott and Steve are most inspired to write when we are together – and write shorter songs that are often text based, with a verse/chorus structure. Despite our different writing styles and energy levels, the electricity and excitement we bring to our writing sessions is palpable.

Sometimes it is determined that a piece is not right for us on first hearing. Some songs need further investigation and fleshing out. Sometimes a song has the right melody for Sababa, but one or another of the band mates determine that it needs a totally different interpretation of the lyrics. Every now and then, a song appears that needs no alteration, and that happened several times on Shalosh.

We spend a lot of time choosing and creating songs and prayers that reflect our musical and lyrical style – we strive to bring out the best in each other as individuals and as a cohesive group. We hold ourselves to a very high standard. And, as we write, we ask ourselves these hard questions: How does a song or prayer bring people closer to God, Torah and Judaism? How can Sababa make a contribution in this passionate world of Jewish music? Do we have something to add to the lexicon of music that praises God, connects the Jewish people, makes you think deeply and feel a part of a greater whole? We have been a band for 7 years, yet being together and going through this intense process never gets old – this is truly a labor of love.

Thank you for listening to and supporting us!

Robbi, Scott and Steve

1. Am Yisrael Chai
Music: Sababa, Text: folk

With several new songs already in progress, this lively melody was the 2nd to last song to be written.  Simple and energetic, it captured our mood of joy as we had our last evening of writing together.
We had a blast with the “Hallelujah chorus” – that’s the three of us in at least 6-part harmony.

Am Yisrael chai!
Od Avinu chai!

(Praise God!  Our people lives!  Our Sovereign lives!)

2. L’cha Dodi
Music: Sababa
Text: Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz

Steve had been playing around with this guitar riff for a long time, but had never put any lyrics to it. We already had some deeper songs brewing, and we quickly recognized that this was a perfect intro for a rockin’ new version of one of the opening prayers for Friday night as we welcome Shabbat as an honored, beloved and beautiful guest. We welcome Shabbat as a bride. “Just what the world needs,” said Steve, “another Lecha Dodi.” Sure – why not? Every “bride” is different and every wedding unique and the “marriage” of God to the Jewish people and the Jewish people to God should be celebrated uniquely and welcomed joyously and with great enthusiasm. That’s our good friend Rabbi Joe Black playing the banjo!

L’cha dodi, likrat kalah
P’nei Shabbat n’kab’lah (x2)

Shamor v’zachor b’dibur echad
Hishmianu El ham’yuchad
Adonai echad ush’mo echad
L’shem ul’tiferet v’lit’hilah
  L’cha dodi…

Likrat Shabbat l’chu v’neilchah
Ki hi m’kor hab’rachah
Meirosh mikedem n’suchah
Sof maaseh ba’machashavah t’chilah
  L’cha dodi…

Hitor’ri, hitor’ri,
Ki va oreich, kumi ori,
Uri, uri, shir dabeiri,
K’vod Adonai alayich niglah.
  L’cha dodi…

Bo-i v’shalom ateret ba’lah,
Gam b’simchah uv’tzoholah
Toch emunei am s’gulah,
Bo-i chalah, bo-i chalah!
  L’cha dodi …

Come my beloved to welcome the Sabbath bride.
The Sabbath presence, we will welcome.
“Guard and remember” in a single utterance

Let us hear the special kind  –
God is One and God’s Name is One
for God’s name is for glory and praise

Come my beloved …

Let’s greet the Shabbat
It is the Source of blessing

It is spread over from ancient times
Every deed is resulted after a thought first

Wake up! Wake up!
You have a guest, get up!

Wake up and sing a song!
You who saw the glory of God!

Come my beloved …

Enter in peace o crown of her husband
Even in gladness and good cheer

Among the faithful of the treasured nation
Enter O bride, enter O bride.

Come my beloved …

3. Priestly Blessing
Lyrics: Joe Black; Music: Robbi Sherwin
Hebrew Text:  Numbers 6:22-26

Rabbi Joe Black, a fantastic Jewish contemporary singer, songwriter and guitarist (and banjo player!) is a close musical colleague of the band, and also happens to be the Senior Rabbi at Steve’s congregation, Temple Emanuel in Denver. Joe is also quite a limerick writer, and writes a clever rhyme for each of the weekly Torah portions. This was his entry for Parashat Naso, where Aaron, the High Priest, blessed the Israelites with words from God.  When Robbi saw it, this melody came immediately to mind. The working title of this song was “Limerick,” and although the selection and writing process for Sababa is pretty tough (see above), Robbi brought this song intact and knew it would make the cut!

May God bless and guard your sacred space
May God’s Light fill your being with grace
May you always be true
So God’s Presence shines through

Y’verechecha Adonai v’yismerecha
Ya’eyr Adonai panav elecha v’chuneka
Yisa  Adonai panav  elecha
V’yaseim lecha shalom

4. Adonai Oz
Music: Scott Leader; Hebrew Text: Psalm 29:11

Warming up the keyboard that Steve had brought to Frisco, Scott came up with this beautiful
melody on his own.  We then searched the numerous siddurim (prayerbooks) that we had on hand,
and these beautiful words that close Birkat Hamazon, the blessing after meals, jumped out on the
page. In these tenuous and difficult times, may God bless all people with strength and peace.

Adonai oz l’amo yitein
Adonai oz l’amo yitein
Adonai y’varech, Adonai y’varech
Et amo vashalom
God will grant strength to all people
And bless us with shalom

5. Modeh Ani
Music: Robbi Sherwin; English lyrics: Sababa
Hebrew Lyrics: based on Eicha, 3:23 and Bereish Rabah, 78:1

Robbi originally brought this melody with different lyrics to our session in Frisco.  Her mom, Felice Sherwin, z’l, had died recently, and some of Robbi’s fondest memories were getting up early in the morning and drinking coffee with her at the kitchen table and planning their day.   The song was truly a song of gratefulness, originally entitled “You Will Never Leave,” and in re-writing it, we discovered that the theme of the prayer “modeh ani “was truly in the heart of the song. “Modeh ani” the first prayer said upon awakening in the morning, talks about being grateful to
God for a soul returned – for without our soul, we have no life. This prayer helps us to be ready to face the day and the challenges and responsibilities ahead.  God is with us always – as are those who have left us behind. We worked longer on this song than any of the others – sitting in the warm Colorado sun outside on the patio.

Not sure if I’m still dreaming
As the morning light comes streaming into my room
And I slowly open my eyes
I am rested and revived
Grateful to be alive
And I thank You for returning my soul in mercy

Modeh ani lifanech melech chai v’kayam
Shechezarta bi nishmati
B’chemla rabbah emunatecha

I pray that I am worthy of the trust that you placed within me
That I will go out and build a better world
No, I won’t give into fear
I know You’re always near
I will have faith that Your love will never part

Modeh ani…

(I offer thanks before you, living and Eternal God, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.)

6. Hari’u l’Adonai
Music  & Lyrics: Sababa
Hebrew text: Psalm 98:4

The origins of this song, part of a joyful Psalm, are many:  the “hook” originated at a scholar-in-residence weekend that Robbi did at Beth Jacob in St. Paul, MN,  (Thank you, Rabbis Lynn
Liberman and Morris Allen!); the melody for the verses were created for the Bar Mitzvah of the
amazing Zack Van Den Berg in Austin; and the entire song with bridge and rhythm came together
for the Bat Mitzvah of delightful Helaine Bach in El Paso, Texas. Then, Robbi brought it to
Frisco, where Scott & Steve made it very much our own. Two inspiring B’nai Mitzvah kiddos, three amazingly supportive communities,  one gospel choir and the fantastic groove of our band
(check out that phenomenal bass line by Joel Gottschalk!) make this a song a true collaboration.

Hari’u l’Adonai kol ha’aretz (4x)
Pizchu v’ra-neinu v’za-meru, v’za-meru (2x)
Raise your voice to Adonai, all the earth!
Shout it out to Adonai a joyful song of praise! (2x)

7. Precious Possession (I’ll Give You My Time)
Music and Lyrics: Robbi Sherwin
Based on the words and deeds of Hymie Samuelson, z’l

Life is short and time is very, very precious. Life-altering experiences, the deaths of loved ones and frightening health issues can bring this all to light. Yet, a blessed life is a shared life. The things we treasure the most about people are the moments we shared with them. Robbi, Scott & Steve have been performing this song from Robbi’s second album, Aish HaKodesh (the Holy Fire, 2005) since before the inception of Sababa. Both Scotty and Steve appeared on the original recording – so, “Precious” has been a Sababa song all along. May we always appreciate the time we have, the time we don’t have and the time we give to each other.

What’s my most precious possession?
Is it home, is it love on my mind?
No, not my family, or a material thing
Those things are not really mine.
Is it God in All Infinite Wisdom?
Is there anything else I can find?
No, not these things, none of them are real
My most precious possession is my time.

I’ll give you my time, if you promise to see
I’ll give you my, it is so precious to me
I’ll give you my time, so willingly
I’ll give you my time, will you give yours to me?

Time is very free, like the air we breathe
We lose more with each passing day
We can give it with love, or begrudge it with hate
We each use it in our own way
We can choose to share or we can surely waste
This innocent gift of our youth
Don’t rob me with your lateness
And I won’t steal your time from you

I’ll give you my time …

Time is ours for taking at the moment of birth
It is something we cannot bribe
What a heavy burden, how we’d long to have more
Time can be the destroyer of our lives

I’ll give you my time…

Is it God in Her Infinite Wisdom?
Is there anything else I can find?
No, not these things, none of them are real
My most precious possession
Is my time.

8. Gam Zeh Ya’avor (This Too Shall Pass)
Music: Sababa, Lyrics: Robbi Sherwin

 Another of the songs that Robbi brought to Frisco – “let’s make the bridge the chorus,”
Scott said. “This one is going to rock.”
Remember that life is short.
Take chances.
Dance like nobody is looking.
Sing like nobody is listening – or like everyone is listening!
Get back up and try again.
This, too shall pass.

Let it go – don’t ya hesitate
Let it go – take a leap of faith
Let it go – life won’t wait
Let it go – you can change your fate

Keep movin’ on, keep movin’ on
Keep movin’ on, keep movin’ on
Gam zeh, gam zeh ya’avor,
Gam zeh ya’avor
This, too shall pass

Let it go – come on and seize the day
Let it go – please don’t run away
Let it go – why don’t ya stay and play?
Let it go – you can always pray

Keep movin’ on, keep movin’ on
Keep movin’ on, keep movin’ on

Gam zeh, gam zeh ya’avor,
Gam zeh ya’avor
This, too shall pass

9. Heart Full of Love
Music & Lyrics: Bo Porter
Lead vocal: Noah Budin

“Robbi first heard “Heart Full of Love” when she and her husband, the long-suffering Mark Jordan, went to see Sababa’s good friend, drummer and producer par excellance, Herb Belofsky, play with Austin blues/country/swing/ Americana/rockabilly honky-tonker, Bo Porter (you can find him at Mark turned to Robbi and said, “I think Sababa should cover this song.” So, Robbi invited Bo over for lunch and had him record it for her into her MacBook. When Sababa got to Frisco for their songwrite-athon, she said: “I’ve got a song I’d like for us to cover, but none of us can do it justice.” After hearing it, we all said in unison: “What about Noah Budin?” Noah is an outstanding singer/songwriter from Cleveland. He is a great friend, and we are delighted to show him off to you! ( – check him out – he is amazing!)>

Don’t say it can’t get no better
Don’t say it can’t get no worse
Don’t back yourself in a corner now
With words that become a curse
Just keep on reaching up and
Give your praise to the Lord above
Just keep on keepin’ on and keep your
Heart full of love (hear me brother)
Heart full of love (hear me sister)
Heart full of love

Well, the Lord now He told Noah
“Go build me a great big boat
Build that thing just like I say
Gonna make that big boat float
And send my creatures in two-by-two
Don’t listen to the people, Noah
When they call you a fool
Just keep your
Heart full of love (hear me Noah)
Heart full of love (hear me brother)
Heart full of love”

Well the Lord, now he told Moses
“Take my people to the Promised Land”
So he let them out of Egypt
And into a sea of sand
Moses began to anger
When the people began to doubt
But he Lord reminded Moses:
“I’m going to teach them what its all about:
Just keep your
Heart full of love (hear me Moses)
Heart full of love (hear me sister)
Heart full of love

Don’t say it can’t get no better
Don’t say it can’t get no worse
Don’t back yourself in a corner now
With words that become a curse
Just keep on reaching up and
Give your praise to the Lord above
Just keep on keepin’ on and keep your
Heart full of love (hear me Noah)
Heart full of love (hear me Moses)
Heart full of love (hear me brother)
Heart full of love (hear me sister)
Heart full of love (hear me children)
Heart full of love
Just keep your heart full of love

10. K’doshim
Music & English lyrics: Steve Brodsky,
Hebrew Text: Leviticus 19:2

Sometimes, a song just comes, as this one did to Steve in Frisco. The weekly Torah portion was K’doshim, from the book of Vayikra, Leviticus. It contains what is known as the “Holiness Code” – ritual and ethical practices that one must carry out to live a sacred or holy Jewish life.  A request had come through on a songleaders listserve that we are active on (Hanashir, founded by our good friend, Adrian Durlester) for a song that thematically fit this Parashah. Who could not see holiness all around when surrounded by the magnificence of the Rocky Mountains? (you can find a video of us singing this in Frisco at our writing session on our website).

K’doshim ti’hi’yu
K’doshim ti’hi’yu
Ki kadosh Ani Adonai Eloheichem
K’doshim ti’hi’yu

You shall be holy for I, your God am holy.
You shall be holy, I am your God.

11. Elijahu
Music & Lyrics: Robbi Sherwin, with Herb Belofsky and Rich Glauber.
Hebrew Lyrics from the Passover Haggadah

A few years back, Robbi was inspired after a being on the faculty with Rabbi Danny Freelander at the URJ’s Greene Family Camp in beautiful Bruceville, Texas. A huge fan of Kol B’Seder, his legendary duo with Cantor Jeff Klepper, she wanted to write a melody to go with their  classic song, “Twisted Candle,”  a fun tune that closes the sweet Havdallah ceremony after Shabbat ends. This “Elijahu” was written in the car on the way home. At the time, Robbi didn’t have a charged cell phone to record the song, so she had to sing it over and over again all the way home in order to remember it – 1.5 hours!

Elijahu ha’Navi
Elijahu ha’Tishbi
Elijahu ha’Giladi
Eiljahu ha’Navi

Bimheirah v’yameinu
Yavo eleinu
Im Mashiach ben David
Im Mashiach ben David
Elijah is our prophet, a Giladi
He’ll bring the son of David
He’ll bring the son of David
Ha’Mashiach ben David, ha’Mashiach ben David

 (Elijah the prophet, the Tishabite from Gilead. Speedily, in our day, may Elijah come with the Messiah, the Son of David)

12. We Remember
Music & Lyrics: Robbi Sherwin
for Felice Sherwin, z’l

The moments after the Mourner’s Kaddish, where we say the names of those who have come before us, should be a time of reflection and remembrance. Robbi wrote this in honor of her mom, to create just the sacred pause needed before someone jumps into synagogue welcomes and announcements.

Zichronam livracha
We remember them

 (May their memories be a blessing)

Production notes and album credits

Produced by Scott Leader
Engineered by Scott, Robbi & Steve

The Players:
Steve Brodsky, guitar, vocals
Scott Leader, guitar, piano, vocals
Robbi Sherwin, mandolin, vocals
Joel Gottschalk, bass
Jack Sterbis, drums & percussion
Mike Levin, cello
Mark Denny, harmonica
Glen West and Mark Hallman, electric guitars
Paul Anderson, sax
Joe Black, banjo
Additional vocals: Special guest star: Noah Budin (Heart Full of Love)
Ebony Green, Alan Morris and Jennifer Robinson

Recorded at:
Brick Road Studio, Scottsdale, Arizona  (; and
StudioStars, Denver, Colorado  (www.Studio

Mixed & Mastered
by Mark Hallman, Congress House Studio, Austin, TX (

All Songs Copyright 2013, SababaMusic
Except: “Heart Full of Love,” Music & Lyrics by Bo Porter, ©2000 Holy Smokes Texas (BMI);
“Elijahu,” Music  & Lyrics by Robbi Sherwin with Herb Belofsky & Rich Glauber,
©1998 MiriamShira Music; “Precious Possession,” Music & Lyrics by Robbi Sherwin
©1997 MiriamShira Music.

All rights reserved.


Our spouses, Jill, Nadine & Mark, and our children: Ben and Ari; Jessica, Ben, Katy and Sam,
for all the love, patience and support (and for constantly taking us and picking us up from the airport!)
Without our strong home foundations, none of this would be possible – or worth it!

Our “album angels,” Cheryl & Rob Balgley and Dr. Hilary Baskin and Rabbi Eliot Baskin,
Jonah & Gabe,
for opening their beautiful homes in Frisco and Denver, Colorado to us – be it for
writing, recording or gigging.

Scott, Rebecca, Zack, Rachel & Jessica Van Den Berg, who always contribute so significantly to Sababa’s projects.  Thank you for your love & support!

Our friends and fans everywhere, who continually inspire and challenge us, and all our colleagues in contemporary Jewish music, who set the barre very high.

Our temples and synagogues who are flexible and open to new melodies and “outside the bimah” worship: Congregation Emanuel, Denver; Temple Gan Elohim, Phoenix; and B’nai Butte Congregation, Crested Butte, CO.


WOW – you exceeded our wildest expectations – this exists because of you. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Date →
Mar 4
Tags →

Leave Your Comment