The Missing Piece: The Story Behind the Song “Ana Avda (I am Your Servant)”

Before Passover of this year, I was putting together a concert/workshop on the theme of moving from slavery to freedom in our lives.  I needed a Jewish song about freedom but couldn’t think of one. So, I asked on Facebook whether anybody had ideas for words about freedom that I could set to music.

Within minutes, my friend Rabbi Avi Heller responded with the following words: “Ana avda dikudsha brich hu (I am the servant of the Holy One, blessed be He).” These words are taken from the Aramaic prayer we say before removing the Torah from the ark on shabbat and festival mornings.

I thought about it and realized that, indeed, these words are the essence of freedom. When you are a slave to your highest purpose in this world, you are free from being a slave to anything else. You don’t have to be a slave to money, fame, what others say, societal expectations, or anything. You are following your highest purpose and that is all you need.

So I set the words “Ana avda,” a shortened version of that sentence, to music.

Two years ago, I was in the park with my daughter when I received some scary news over the phone. I was afraid. Instinctively, I started chanting the following words to myself: “I am Your servant, I am Your servant” over and over again. It calmed me down.

But, the song itself was strange. It had no beginning and no end.

It didn’t go anywhere.

Last week I was driving home with my family. As we were transitioning out of the activities of the day into the evening, I started thinking about how I was going to finish up recording Ana Avda that night.

Out of nowhere, that unused, two year-old melody for “I am Your servant” popped into my head.

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed out loud. “This song goes with Ana Avda!”

When we got home, I ran to the piano to see if the melodies to Ana Avda and I am Your Servant worked together. They did. So, that night, I recorded the last part of the song, “I am Your servant.”

The last piece of the song that I had written two years prior.

The missing piece that I hadn’t known was missing.

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