“Rosh-yeshivenik” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, Rosh-yeshivenik, is sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, from Zvinyetchke, Bukovina. She was recorded by Leybl Kahn in 1954 in the Bronx.

It is a song to pass the time, using the alef-beys (Yiddish alphabet), as its structure. The first son’s name “Avreml” starts with an alef, the second son’s name “Burekhl” with a beys, the third son’s name “Getsl” with a gimel and so on. In other versions, after the naming of ten sons, ten daughters are then named. 

In Folklor-lider, Volume Two, edited by Z. Skudutski (Moscow, 1936) pages 374-375, we have a Yiddish song text with no melody on a similar theme:

Yisgadal veyisgadash shmey rabo, [opening of the kaddish prayer]
Vos amol iz geven iz haynt nishto. [What was is no more]
Taytidl, didl, didl, didl, didl, didl, day.

Amol iz geven a yid a oysher, [Once there was a rich man]
iz er geven a kaptsen a groyser,  [who was very poor]
Taytidl, didl, didl, didl, didl, didl, day.

Hot er gehat tsen tekhter  [He had 10 daughters]
Di ershte hot geheysn Osenyu [The first letter is an alef]
Di tsveyte hot geheysn Beylenyu [The first letter is a beys]

This is followed by a similar Ukrainian song text.

I have only heard the word “Rosh-yeshivenik” in this song. The usual word is just “Rosh-yeshive” (director of a yeshiva, or religious school for boy) and I have to wonder whether in an earlier version it was not “Yeshuvnik”, a simple village Jew who was often made fun of.

What I enjoy about LSW’s singing here is how the “oy” ornamentation, of which she is the master, is used for a humorous effect. In a way, she is parodying her own singing style: the words are bringing us only good news, but the “oys” and “oy veys” are comically telling us the opposite.

Der rosh-yeshivenik
S’iz a mul iz geven a rosh-yeshivenik.
Oy, oy, a rosh-yeshivenik,
Oy, oy, a rosh-yeshivenik,
Oy vey, oy vey, a rosh-yeshivenik.

Once there was a Rosh-yeshivenik [Director of a Yeshiva]
Oy, oy, a Rosh-yeshivenik
Oy, oy,  a rosh-yeshivenek
Oy vey, oy vey, a rosh-yeshivenik.

Der rosh-yeshivenik hot tsu mazel khasene gehat.
Oy, oy,  khasene gehat.
Oy, oy khasene gehat.
Oy vey, oy vey, khasene gehat.

The rosh-yeshivenik, with good fortune, got married
Oy, oy got married.
Oy, oy, got married.
Oy vey, oy vey, got married.


Der rosh-yeshivenik hot tsu mazl kindelekh gehat.
Oy, oy, kindelekh gehat.
Oy, oy, kindelekh gehat.
Oy vey, oy vey, kindelekh gehat.

The rosh-yeshivenik, with good fortune, had chidren.
Oy, oy, had children.
Oy, oy had children
Oy vey, oy vey had children

Dos ershte hot geheysn Avreymele.
Oy, oy, Avreymele.
Oy, oy, Avreymele.
Oy vey, oy vey, Avreymele.

The first one was called Avreymele.
Oy, oy Avreymele,
Oy, oy Avreymele,
Oy vey, Oy vey Avreymele.

Dos tsveyte hot geheysn Burekhl.
Oy, oy Burekhl.
Oy, oy, Burekhl
Oy vey, Oy vey, Burekhl.

The second one was called Burekhl,
Oy, oy Burekhl,
Oy, oy Burekhl,
Oy vey, Oy vey Burekhl.

Dos drite hot geheysn Getsele.
Oy, oy, Getsele
Oy, oy, Getsele
Oy vey, oy vey Getsele.

The third one was called Getsele.
Oy, oy Geltsele.
Oy, oy Getsele
Oy vey, Oy vey Getsele.

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One Response to ““Rosh-yeshivenik” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman”

  1. So great! Thank you, Itzik!

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