Notes by Itzik Gottesman
Got fun Avrom is a woman’s prayer/song which is read as the Sabbath concludes Saturday night. It is attributed to the Hasidic rebbe
Levi-Yitskhok Barditshever (1740-1810), who also, according to tradition, wrote several Yiddish songs.
There was a debate among Yiddish folklorists whether this prayer constituted a folksong. Noyekh Prilutski maintained it did and published 23 versions in his first volume of collected Yiddish folksongs – “Religious and Holiday Songs” Warsaw 1911. S. An-sky did not agree (I have written about the various points of view: see pp. 41-42 in Defining the Yiddish Nation, Gottesman, 2003 and in Yiddish, “Tsi iz Got fun Avrom a folkslid?” in the Forverts newspaper, Feb. 12-18, 2010, p. 4). Prilutski was correct, “Got fun Avrom” is a folksong with a text and melody that passes from generation to generation, forming variants in various locations.
On the Ari Davidow’s listserve “World Music from a Jewish Slant” I had once written that based on Prilutski’s work on Got fun Avrom, we can conclude that the popular folksong, “Shnirele Perele” made famous by the Klezmatics, evolved from versions of Got fun Avrom. As you can see, Bella Bryks-Klein’s version provides furthur evidence for this connection.
I recorded Bella Bryks-Klein in my office at the Yiddish Forward in April, 2010 in New York City. She is the representative in Israel of our newspaper and is also active in a number of other Yiddish activities there. Her father, the Yiddish writer Rachmil Bryks, was known for his powerful works on the Holocaust, especially on the Lodz ghetto. He included a version of Got fun Avrom in “Der keyser in geto” NY, 1961 [The Emperor in the Ghetto] on page 234 which is clearly based on the one here. A scan of that page is included in this commentary.
Since Bryks-Klein learned her version from her Transylvanian mother, who learned it from her mother, we can assume that Rachmil Bryks based his text on his wife’s, not a local Lodzer variant. I hope to include other versions of Got fun Avrom in future blog-postings. I have a much simpler version done from a cousin; and an interesting longer version-recording of a older Lubavitch woman who grew up, however, in a Satmar family. These prayers/songs were said/sung so fast sometimes, that if you asked the person what a certain line is, they cannot always tell you!
As part of the “Yiddish Atlas Project” conducted at Columbia University, I believe that several versions were also recorded and could perhaps be posted here once that material is made available. Today in any Hasidic bookstore you can purchase the “classic” text of Got fun Avrom (often laminated), but it is much simpler than the one discussed this week.
Mayn numen iz Bella Bryks-Klein, ikh bin di tokhter fun a yidishn shrayber Yerakhmil Bryks, un mayn mame, Hinde Eta Volf, fun der heym, Irene Bryks, hot yeder moytse-shabes mit undz gezingen “Got fin avrum” vi zi hot mit ir mame dus gezingen in Transylvania. Ikh gedenk zi hot a vays tikhl af ir kop, dos heyst, tsigedekt, un mayn shvester un mikh tsigetsoygn tsi ir, un azoy tsugetulyet, shtayendik, in tinkl nokh, hot men gezingen azoy:
My name is Bella Bryks-Klein, I am the daughter of a Yiddish writer, Yerakhmil Bryks, and my mother Hinde Eta Volf, (her maiden name), Irene Bryks sang with us every Saturday night at the end of Shabes “God of Abraham”, as she had sung with her mother in Transylvania. I remember her with her white shawl on her head, covered, and she drew close to her my sister and me and standing, still in darkness, she sang it like this:
Got fun Avrom fun Yitskhok un Yankev,
bahit un bashirem dayn lib folk yisrol
vegn daynem loyb.
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
Protect and shield us, your dear people of Israel
Who praise you.
Az der liber shabes koydesh geyt avek,
az di zise libe vokh zol undz kimen:
tsu gezint, tsu leybn, tsu shulem,
tsi parnuse, tsu gite bsires toyves.
Now that the dear holy Sabbath is leaving,
may the sweet, dear week now come to us
and bring us good health, life, peace
livlihood, good news.
Umeyn Veumeyn! S’zol vern vur
Meylekh hamoshiekh ben duvid zol kimen dus yur.
Kimen zol er tsufurn,
in zayne sheyne yurn.
Kimen zol er tsi raytn
in zayne sheyne tsaytn.
Amen and amen! May it come true
Messiah the King son of David should come this year.
May he come traveling,
and bring with him beautiful years.
May he come riding,
and bring wonderful times.
Eliyahu hanuvi kimt in der hoz arayn,
brengt er aldus gits arayn,
Eliyahu hanuvi geyt fin undzer hoz aros,
trugt er aldus beyzs aros,
Eliyahu hanuvi kimt in undzer hoz aran,
nemt a bekher in der rekhter hant,
Makht a brukhe ibern gantsn land.
Elijah the prophet comes into our house,
and brings all good things inside.
Elijah the prophet leaves our house,
and takes all the bad things out.
Elijah the prophet comes into our house,
and takes a goblet in his right hand,
and makes a blessing over the entire land.
Di brukhe zol hoykh zan,
zol iber undz ale zan.
Tir un toyer shteyt dokh ofn
tsu dir futer, al rakhmim shaday,
in zibetn himl tien mir ale hofn.
The blessing should be loud,
and be over all of us,
Door and Gate are thus open
for you father, god of mercy,
into the seventh heaven we all hope for this.
A gite vokh! a gezinte vokh!
A gebentshte vokh! A zise vokh!
A sheyne vokh!
A good week! A healthy week!
A blessed week! A sweet week!
A wonderful week!