“Bay deym ruv in shtib” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

The song „Bay deym ruv in shtib‟ (“In the Rabbi’s House”) appears in Yisrol-Yitskhok Tsipershteyn‘s booklet Dray naye lider [Three new songs] with the title “Khayim Shmul dem gabeles”, published in Warsaw,1900, by Yehude-Leyb Morgenshtern. After the author’s name, the word “badkhn” appears indicating his profession at that time. I found this booklet while researching Yiddish parodies in the National Library in Jerusalem and immediately recognized Lifshe Schaechter-Widman‘s song imbedded in the longer text (see a scan of the text below).

The song is found in the last part of a five part song and skit performance (pages 12-22 of the Dray naye lider). Each part begins with a song describing the injustice of a world in which the wealthy and people with famed lineage/pedigree [yikhes] fare so much better than the poor man. „Bay deym ruv‟ is the opening song of the fifth part (in the printed text the line is „Bay deym khosidl in shtub”). Then a spoken skit/dialogue describes how a poor man is accused of being the father of the cook’s child though it is obvious that the wealthy man with yikhes, Khayim Shmul dem gabeles, is the real father. After this dialogue, the skit (and every one of the five parts) ends with the refrain that begins with the expression “Statsh! Reb Khayim…” [How could this be!?]

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW – see notes on her life in earlier songs] sings the song with slighly different words. The one line in her song that seems odd “Entfert zi glakh, gur on a klal” [She answers straight away, without a rule/norm] should probably read „…gur on a trakht‟ [without even a thought], which rhymes and makes sense.

Bay deym ruv and Di broder zinger:

The „author‟ of the song, Yisrol-Yitskhok Tsipershteyn, has a bizarre entry in the Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Lexicon of the Yiddish Theater) ed. Zalmen Zilbercweig, volume 6, Mexico 1969, columns 4927-4928. He was born in 1875 near Slonim, (WhiteRussia/Lithuania) and died in Chicago, August 6th, 1950. The entry only very briefly discusses his days as a badkhn and writer of theater kupletn (couplets, dialogue skits) and barely mentions his Dray naye lider. Most of the information revolves around his invention of a “bicycle airplane” that could also land on water. One writer refers to it as a luft-shif (airship). He patented it in 1917 while in Chicago. He never became wealthy from his patent as he had hoped.

Yisrol-Yitskhok Tsipershteyn

The reason I chose this short song for the Yiddish Song of the Week Blog is that it represents a rare view into the Broder zinger tradition of the 19th century; singers who were the precursors of modern Yiddish theater, performing with songs and skits in the wine cellars of Galicia, Romania and southern Russia starting in the 1850s, then expanding their audience to Poland and beyond.

When the Polish Yiddish actor Zymunt Turkov (Warsaw, 1896 – Israel, 1970) helped put together a play about the Broder zinger in Warsaw in 1938 for the VYKT (Warsaw Yiddish Art Theater) they sought out the old, still living Broder zinger. Actually, times were so bad during the Depression in the 1930s, that the old Broder zinger had started performing again in bars and wine cellars in Lemberg to make ends meet. One of the songs/skits they used in this VYKT production was Khayim-Shmil dem gabeles, reprinted word for word as in Tsipershteyns “Dray naye lider” (This information from the essay „Di Broder zinger‟ in Turkov‘s Shmuesn vegn teater, Buenos-Aires, 1950; reprinted in the introduction to Shloyme Prizament‘s „Broder zinger‟, Buenos-Aires, 1960).

Turkow must have had the printed version in front of him but makes no mention of Tsipershteyn, instead, he adds this comment at the end  – “In this song we encounter one of the first examples of a spoken dialogue.” This implies that Turkow believed the song/skit to be older than Tsipershteyn’s 1900 text. I have to respect Turkow‘s intuition and knowledge on this matter since he was obviously so much closer to that world. And I think he was right about it being older than Tsipershteyn for two reasons…

First, in Noyekh Prilutskis first volume of Yiddish folksongs, Yidishe folkslider, Warsaw 1911, Prilutski discusses another song in Dray naye lider and writes „The publisher assured me that all three songs are folklore and are crawling among the folk [krikhn arum tsvishn folk], to use his expression – in other words, Tsipershteyn was only the one who wrote it down‟ [page 49-50]

And the second reason: Lifshe Schaechter-Widman learned this song at the end of the 19th century, early 20th century in Bukovina – a long way from Slonim and Warsaw. In her repertoire you can hear songs of the Ukrainian, Galician and Romanian Jewish 19th century poets such as Linetski, Zbarzher, Goldfaden, Bernstein, Apotheker, but none of the popular Litvish poet of the 19th century Eliokum Zunser or any other Litvish/Polish poet. She did sing Mikhl Gordon’s song “Afn beys-oylem, unter a matseyve,” but Gordon (1823 -1890) spent the first half of his life in the “north” (born in Vilne) and half in the “south” (the Ukraine) so his songs were known over a wider area. It strikes me as odd that this one song by a Litvish Yiddish badkhn/poet would be included in her repertoire, while Zunser‘s songs were not. It reinforces the idea that Tsipershteyn just printed this Broder zinger song that he had heard and put his name on it.

When one says Broder zinger tradition he refers to the humorous song and skit tradition that was performed in taverns and other spaces and we have texts and music to some of the songs (for example, see Chana Mlotek‘s notes to Berl Broder‘s „Lid fun dem pastekh‟ in the journal Yidisher folklor, vol.1, n. 3, Mar. 1962, page 53.) However, as far as I know, we don‘t have the text to a complete skit, and „Khayim Shmil dem gabeles‟ provides that missing link! LSW‘s song provides the melody to the sung portion of the  performance.

Bay dem ruv in shtib
iz mir zeyer lib,
tsitsikikn vus se tit zikh dort, dort.

In the Rabbi‘s house
I enjoy
looking around and to see what‘s happening there.

Dortn iz men frim
mer vi imedim,
nor eyn zakh gefelt mir nit fort.

They are more observant there,
than anywhere else.
But there‘s one thing I still don‘t like.

Der kekhins bokh
iz hekher vi di nuz
fregt men vus iz dus?

The cook‘s belly
is higher than her nose.
So people ask – What‘s going on?

Zi entfert im glakh
gur on a klal.
„S‘iz fin deym balebus.‟

She answers straight away
without even thinking
„It‘s from the head of the household‟

Statsh!?
Reb Khayim Shmil dem gabeles,
A eynikl, dem rebn, reb Abele‘s
Derekh-erets far im
vayl er iz imedim
Khayim Shmil dem gabeles.

How is that possible!?
Reb Khayim Shmil the gabe‘s* son,
A grandchild of the rebbe, Reb Abele.
Respect him,
for everywhere he is –
Khayim Shmil the gabe‘s son.

*Weinreich‘s Yiddish dictionary translates gabe as „manager of the affairs of a Hasidic rebbe‟

בײַ דעם רבֿ אין שטוב
איז מיר זייער ליב,
צוצוקוקן וואָס סע טוט זיך דאָרט, דאָרט.

דאָרטן איז מען פֿרום,
מער ווי אומעדום,
נאָר איין זאַך געפֿעלט מיר ניט פֿאָרט.

דער קעכינס בויך,
איז העכער ווי די נאָז,
פֿרעגט מען „וואָס איז דאָס?‟

זי ענטפֿערט אים גלײַך
גאָר אָן אַ כּלל
„ס‘איז פֿון דעם באַלעבאָס‟.

סטײַטש!
רב חיים־שמואל דעם גבאילעס,
<אין אייניקל דעם רבין, רב אַבאלעס.

דרך־ארץ פֿאַר אים!
ווײַל ער איז אומעדום,
חיים־שמואל דעם גביאלעס.

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