A brief history of מה אשיב/Ma Ashiv

Over Pesach there was some debate during Hallel over the time signature of the beginning of a melody to מה אשיב/Ma Ashiv. Some people do the beginning in 3/4 time, and some do it in 4/4.

I had to find out who was right (though I was pretty sure it was 4/4 because that’s consistent with the rest of the song), so did a bit of digging. Here’s what I was able to find.

It was composed by Aviezer Wolfson and first recorded by Leibele Haschel. I couldn’t find the year or full recording, but FAU has a 45 second sample available. There seems to have been a rerelease of that album in 2007, so here are other 30 second samples (jump to 30 seconds in, because it’s track 2 in one concatenated file). In terms of the exact year, it must have been after 1978 because the liner notes say (if I’m correctly making out extremely blurry text) that the arranger, Moshe Laufer, was named composer of the year (by…someone) in 1978.

Album cover: Leibale Haschel, מה אשיב לה׳, Music by Freilach Orchestra, Songs composed by Aviezer Wolfson and Moshe Laufer

The songs seems to have had its breakout moment when Morechai Ben David recorded it in 1987 on a compilation album with Avraham Fried, The Piamentas, and Dov Levine. It’s not available on YouTube or Apple Music, but it is on Spotify.

Album cover: Suki & Ding Present: Morechai Ben David, Avraham Fried, The Piamentas, Dov Levine. Hallel, featuring מה אשיב. Original recordings musically and digitally enhanced.

MBD has rerecorded it at least twice since, once in 2002 (Kumzits), and one other time (on an album that contains such titles as “Beethoven In Birdland”, “The Malach Piano Concerto In C”, and “The Bach Suite #2 In B Minor”).

All of these versions were in 4/4.

I did find one recording that starts in 3/4, which is an instrumental/classical guitar arrangement played by a guy who also happens to be a small plane pilot.