“Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes” Performed by Zinaida Lyovina and Dasya Khrapunskaya

Commentary by Dmitri Slepovitch

Nina Stepanskaya (1954–2007) and I recorded Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes (“שבת לכבֿד , טאָב-יום לכבֿוד “, In Honor of the Holiday, In Honor of Shabes) in Pinsk in June, 2005 from two sisters, Zinaida Lyovina (b.1928) and Dasya Khrapunskaya (b. 1931), both born in Turov, Zhytkavichy region (rayon), Gomel oblast, 169 km east of Pinsk. Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes is a variant of Gabe, vos vil der rebbe, which has been featured previously in the Yiddish Song of the Week.

The father of the sisters (they were four siblings) became their first source for learning the Yiddish songs. Not to a lesser extent he became a source of their inspiration as they created their own songs, translated several Russian songs into Yiddish and composed new verses for popular Yiddish songs. Zinaida and Dasya told us that the father would never take them with him to the synagogue, but he sang at home, infusing the Passover seder and other home ceremonies with the delicious taste of rare and beautiful Jewish songs.

One of their father’s songs is Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes (In Honor of the Holiday, In Honor of Shabes). It is a quite typical dialog song between a rebbe (Hasidic sect leader) and a gabe (gabbai, synagogue assistant) known in several melodic versions (e.g., the one in the Hazamir choir repertoire published in Copenhagen in 1937).

The rhythmical structure of this song brings together a free time recitative in the verse and the clear 6/8 time in the refrain. The given type is inherent to a vast corpus of Yiddish songs, primarily those representing either a dialog (as in this case) or a monologue in first person.

A remarkable feature of this performance (not only of this song, but also of many others that we heard from the two sisters) is that Dasya and Zinaida tend to sing in harmony, most typically in third, sometimes meeting in unison. The reason for that rather non-typical manner of Ashkenazi Jewish vocal performance lies – not surprisingly – in the Belarusian cultural milieu. The two sisters, as some of our other interviewees in Belarus, explained to us that they “felt like singing in harmony because it was customary among their Belarusian friends and they often used to sing with them (before the WWII) in such way.”

Singing in harmony is one of a few amazing regional markers in Yiddish music performance known from both recent recordings and Beregovsky’s and Maggid’s collections, that all give a clear perspective on a given regional style and, in a wider sense, represent a regional soundscape as adapted by and mirrored in a local Jewish tradition.

The following video of Zinaida Lyovina’s and Dasya Khrapunskaya’s remarkable performance of “Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes” is featured in Dmitri Slepovitch’s new program, “Traveling the Yiddishland,” produced for the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theater. The show integrates video taken from Slepovitch’s and Nina Stepanskaya’s field research in Belarus with live performances of the music arranged by Slepovitch for his ensemble.


Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – Latkes mit shmalts,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in haldz.
 
Gabbay! – What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? – Latkes with goose fat,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy throats.
 
Chorus:

Lekoved yontef,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
Lekoved Shabes,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
Lekoved yontef,
Bim-bam-bam-bam,
Lekoved Shabes, bim-bam.
 

In honor of the holiday,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
In honor of Sabbath,
Bim-bam-bam-bam.
In honor of the holiday,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
In honor of Sabbath, bim-bam.

Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – A telerl mit yoykh,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in boykh.
 

Gabbay! ­– What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? ­– A plateful of chicken soup,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy stomachs.
 
Chorus
 
Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – A telerl mit fish,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in di fis.
 

Gabbay! ­– What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? ­– A plateful of fish,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy feet.

 Chorus

3 Responses to ““Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes” Performed by Zinaida Lyovina and Dasya Khrapunskaya”

  1. Zvi Gitelman Says:

    Vunderbar! Oisergevainlich! Mayn tateh, a’h, iz geborn gevorn in Pinsk.

  2. Me escantó está canción sobre el Gabai.
    Forvats!

  3. Lovely, playful little song. Easily accessible for those of us not exposed to Yiddish culture and music

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