Commentary by Itzik Gottesman
Since we start reading the book of Breyshis (Genesis) this week of Sukes, I thought it would be appropriate to post this recording of Ita (Eda) Taub singing a song about Adam and Eve and the snake. I recorded it from her in 1984 at the Circle Lodge Workmen’s Circle camp in Hopewell Junction, NY.
The words and music appear in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin. Wayne State University Press, 2007. Rubin recorded this song [tape 26] in 1962, and I recorded it again 20 years later at Circle Lodge, a camp for adults in upstate New York.The two versions are the same except for one or two words.
In the Rubin book she translates “Hot Got tsigenimen di reyd fun zayn layb” as “God perceived the needs of Adam’s body”. Literally, one should translate this line as “So God took away the speech from his body.” But I would think that the line once was “Hot Got tsigenimen di rip fun zayn layb” (God took out the rib from his body). This is supported by the version in Yiddisher folklor, ed. Y. L. Cahan (YIVO, Vilna, 1938), song #199 that is attached at the end (we’ve also included #200, for a similar melody).
The song, I believe, is very old and includes midrashim (interpretations or extensions) of the Biblical telling of Adam and Eve and the snake. Similar motifs can be found in the so-called “Women’s Bible”(the Tsene Rene) and the classic midrashic collections. The line “Eve, Eve what have you done? An entire world you did destroy” reflects the midrash that Eve had all the animals take a bit of the apple (except the immortal Phoenix bird) and therefore mortality was introduced into the world (see also Louis Ginzburg’s Legends of the Jews, Volume One).
Given the simplicity of the melody, almost a recitative, and the subject matter, my feeling is that the song evolved from a Yiddish woman’s prayer, a tkhine.
After the song Taub talks about the impression this song and her other song, Oy vey mame (also on the Yiddish Song of the Week Blog) left on her friend, the historian Raphael Mahler (who also recorded songs and nigunim for Ruth Rubin). She then tells us where she learned the songs.
The footnote in the printed Rubin version adds that the last verse refers to biting the umbilical cord, but this is not clear to the listener I believe.
Additionally, Michael Alpert and Julian Kytasty have recorded the song on their wonderful album Night Songs From a Neighboring Village (Oriente, 2014). You can hear it at the beginning of this video:
LYRICS TO TAUB’S VERSION:
1) Az got hot bashofn mentshn af der velt
oy, mentshn af der velt.
Oy, udem harishen tsum ershtn geshtelt.
2) Udem harishen iz shpatsirn gegangen in vayngurtn aran.
Oy iz im a vab in zin aran.
3) Hot Got tsigenimen di reyd fin zan lab,
Un hot im gegegeybn Khoven far a vab.
4) Oy Khove mit Udem zenen shpatsirn gegangen in vangurtn aran.
Iz Khoven an epl in der rekhter hont aran.
5) Iz tsigekimen di beyze shlong “Khove, Khove,
gib a bis dem epl, vesti zen vi zis er iz.”
6) Oy hot zi genimen un gegebn a bis deym epl.
Oy hot zi gezen vi zindik zi iz.
7) Hot zi genemen a blot kegn der levone,
un hot zikh tsigedekt dos zindike punim.
8) Hot zi genimen a blot kegn mist,
un hot zikh tsigedekt di zindike brist.
9) Khove, Khove vus hosti getrakht?
A velt mit mentshn imgebrakht.
10) “Nisht ekh hob es getun, nisht ekh hob es getun
di beyze shlong hot es tsigetrakht.”
11) “Zibn yur zolsti trugn, shver un biter zolsti hubn.
Af di skoles zolst dikh rasn, un ven di vest es hubn, zolst es tsebasn.”
Dialogue After the Song:
Dus iz take epes zeyer, zeyer originel. Vu’ zhe iz – hot er [Raphael Mahler] gevolt nemen di tsvey lider, un nokh tsvey lider, ikh gedenk shoyn nisht vus. Ober di zenen geveyn di ershte. Az er vil nemen un mekh arimfirn iber di kibutzim. Zol er zey vazn vus se meynt originele ekhtkayt. Un az zey farshteyn nisht di shkutsim, vel ikh zey shoyn derklern. Ikh vel shoyn derklern vus dus iz. Zey veln dus zeyer shtark upshatsn, zugt er. ___kibutz.]
Gottesman: Fin vanen kent ir dus lid?
Taub: Fin vanen dus lid? Dus lid gedenk ikh fin der heym ___ Dortn vi me hot geneyt. Es fleygn zan a pur meydlekh un zey fleygn zingen. Dus ershte lid [Oy mame ikh shpil a libe] hot gezingen man miters a shvester. Zi iz geveyn farlibt, hot zi demlt gezingen dus lid.
Gottesman: Vi hot ir dus gezingen?
Taub: In Skedinits, mayn shteytl.
Gottesman: Ven hot ir dus gehert, ven zi hot gearbet?
Taub: Zi hot gemakht di breyte kleydlekh vus di poyertes trugn. Fleyg zi neyen far zey. Iz zi gezesn bay a mashin un hot geneyt un ikh hob es zikh oysgelernt.
Gottesman: Tsi hot zi gezingen andere lider?
Taub: Ir veyst vifl yurn di ale zikhroynes…dus iz tsulib aykh vus ikh grub aroys ikh zol zikh dermanen. Ober ikh ken nisht gedenken.
When God created people in this world
O, people in this world,
O, Adam was the first one he made.
Adam went walking into the vineyard,
O, then a wife came into his head.
So God took out his speech from his body,
and gave him Eve for a wife.
O, Adam and Eve went walking in the vineyard
And a red apple came into Eve’s hand.
Then the evil snake came over – “Eve, Eve, Eve
Take a bite out of the apple,
So you will see how sweet it is.”
O, then she took a bite out of the apple,
and realized how sinful she is.
Then she took a leaf against the moon,
and covered up her sinful face.
Then she took a leaf against her waste,[?]
and covered up her sinful breast.
Eve, Eve what were you thinking?
A whole world full of people you’ve condemned to death.
“It was not I who did it, it was not I who did it –
the evil snake thought it up.
” Seven years you should be pregnant,
hard and bitter should your birth be, on the cliffs may you climb,
and when you give bith, you should bite it to death”.
Dialogue after the song:
Gottesman: Where do you know this song from ?
Taub: Where do I know this song from? This song I remember from home. ____ The place where we sewed. There used to be a few girls who used to sing.
The first song [Oy mame ikh shpil a libe] was sung by my mother’s sister. She was in love so she sang that song.
Gottesman: Where did you sing it?
Taub: In Skedinits (Stidenitse, Ukraine), my shtetl.
Gottesman: When did you hear it, when she worked?
Taub: She made the broad dresses that the peasant women used to wear.. She used to sew for them. So she sat at the [sewing] machine and sang.
Gottesman: Did she sing other songs?
Taub: Do you know how old these memories are?…For your sake I am digging them out and remembering them. But I can’t remember them.
As published in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin (Wayne State University Press, 2007):
As published in Yidisher folklor, ed. Y. L. Cahan (YIVO, Vilna, 1938):