Archive for Leviathan

“Brider, Zog” by Sholem Berenshteyn

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Brider, zog (Brother, Say) is by the 19th century Yiddish poet Sholem Berenshteyn. No one seems to be sure of his life dates (and not even his first name – some say Shmuel) but he lived in Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, and died before 1880. In 1869 he published his collection Magazin fun yidishe lider far dem yidishn folk in Zhitomir, which was reprinted several times.

The best source for his biography is Zalmen Reisin‘s Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, volume 1. Reisin considers him one of the first Yiddish folkpoets and even the poet Mikhl Gordon („Maskhe‟, „Di bord‟) considered him a better poet than himself. As Reisin points out, his work sometimes touches upon typical maskilic themes (anti-Hasidic, Russian patriotism) but he mostly stays clear of them, and his most popular poems became songs with traditional themes such as Brider zog and Sholem-Aleykhem which the Bessarabian folksinger Arkady Gendler sings on his recording, released in 2001, Mayn shtetele Soroke, produced by Jeanette Lewicki.

The most extensive discusssion of the song Brider, zog is in Joseph and Chana Mlotek‘s book Perl fun der yidisher poezye which was recently translated into English by Barnett Zumoff as Pearls of Yiddish Poetry, Ktav Publishing. The song was originally titled Zmires has 15 verses; what was sung were the first four verses.

I have attached the Yiddish words and music in the version found in Z. Kisselhof‘s Lider zamlung far der yidisher shul un familye, St. Petersburg 1911 which is very close to the version sung here.

The unidentified singer is clearly more of a „pro‟ than we are used to hearing in the songs posted on this blog. But listening to her interpretation of khasidic song does raise interesting questions about the “art song” interpretation of khasidic style. The late, great Masha Benya, among others, comes to mind in this regard. This singer turns a song, which melodically could be quite boring, into an interesting performance.

I know this song from my mother, Beyle Schaechter Gottesman, who learned it from her mother, Lifshe Schaecther Widman, and the words as they are sung here are almost exactly the same (we sing „Ver vet lakhn, un khoyzek makhn…‟).

Thanks again to Lorin Sklamberg, sound archivist at YIVO, who allowed us to post another song from the YIVO Stonehill collection.

A folkslid…khsidish.
A folksong, khasidic.

Brider zog, vi heyst der tog,
ven mir ale zenen freylekh?
Der yidele, der kleyner, der kusherer, der sheyner
Iz dokh dan a meylekh.

Tell me brother what is the day called
when we are all joyous?
The Jew, the little one, the kosher one, the beautiful,
Then feels himself like a king.

Shabes aleyn, kimt tsu geyn,
Freyt aykh kinder ale!
Oy tantst kinder, yederere bazinder,
Lekoved der heyliker kale.

The Sabbath itself arrives,
Be happy all you children!
O, dance children, each on his own,
in honor of the holy bride.

Dos iz klor, vi a hor
az shabes is di kale.
Der khusndl der sheyner, iz nit keyner.
Nor mir yidelekh ale.

This is obvious as a hair,
that Sabbath is the bride.
The beautiful groom is no one else
but all of us Jews.

Un ver es lakht, un khoyzek makht.
Fun der kale-khusn.
Der vet take esn a make
fun der side-levyusn.

And he who laughs, and mocks
the groom and bride.
He will indeed eat nothing
at the Leviathan-feast.

o, brider zog….

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“Vos vet zayn?” Performed by Rabbi Eli Silberstein

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Joel Rubin

Rabbi Eli Silberstein (first name pronounced to rhyme with “deli”) has been the charismatic leader of the Roitman Chabad Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York for over twenty-five years. Silberstein comes from a long line of Hasidic scholars from Russia and can also trace his lineage to the Vilna Gaon, one of the foremost rabbis and scholars of the 18th century. He possesses a large repertoire of nigunim that he had learned as a child in Antwerp, Belgium, where he grew up in a community comprising Hasidim from a number of different dynasties, as a Yeshiva student in Israel and France, and in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, New York, the headquarters of the Lubavitcher Hasidim.


Photograph of Rabbi Eli Silberstein by Anastasia Chernyavsky

A noted Talmudic scholar, Silberstein is renowned for his vast knowledge of Jewish law, philosophy and kabbalah. He lectures and publishes extensively, and has developed many courses for the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Silberstein is also a ba’al menagen, a masterful singer and an acknowledged expert on Hasidic nigunim and storytelling.

Vos vet zayn? (What Will Happen?) is a cumulative folk song that Silberstein learned from an old recording of Yossele Rosenblatt (1882-1933). Silberstein grew up with the old recordings of the great cantors, especially those of Rosenblatt and Zavel Kwartin (1874-1952).

Rabbi Eli Silberstein is the featured vocalist on the new Joel Rubin Ensemble CD, The Nign of Reb Mendl: Hasidic Songs in Yiddish (Traditional Crossroads, 2010).  For more information about the CD, click here.

Field recording of Silberstein made by Rubin in Ithaca (the field recording leaves out the last verse which is included in the transcription below):

Excerpt from the Joel Rubin Ensemble CD The Nign of Reb Mendl: Hasidic Songs in Yiddish:

Zog zhe rebenyu
vos vet zayn
ven meshiakh vet kumen?
Ven meshiakh vet kumen?
veln mir makhn a sudenyu.

Tell us, rebbe,
what will happen,
when the Messiah comes?
When the Messiah comes,
we’ll make a big feast.

Vos veln mir esn oyf dem sudenyu?
Dem shoyr ha-bor, leviyasan veln mir esn
oyf dem sudenyu.

What will we eat at the feast?
The Wild Ox and Leviathan we will eat
at the feast.

Vos veln mir trinken oyf dem sudenyu?
Dem yayin ha-meshumor veln mir trinkn…
oyf dem sudenyu.

What will we drink at the feast?
Preserved wine (from the time of creation) we will drink…
at the feast.

Un ver vet uns toyre zogn oyf dem sudenyu?
Moyshe rabenyu vet uns toyre zogn…
oyf dem sudenyu.

Who will teach us Torah at the feast?
Moses the teacher will teach us Torah…
at the feast.

Un ver vet uns shpiln oyf dem sudenyu?
Dovid ha-melekh vet uns shpiln…
oyf dem sudenyu.

Who will play for us at the feast?
King David will play for us…
at the feast.

Un ver vet uns khokhme zogn oyf dem sudenyu?
Shloymoy ha-melekh vet uns khokhme zogn…
oyf dem sudenyu.

Who will tell us things of wisdom at the feast?
King Solomon will tell us things of wisdom…
at the feast.

Un ver vet tantsn oyf dem sudeynu?
Miryam ha-naviya vet uns tantsn…
oyf dem sudenyu.

Who will dance for us at the feast?
Miriam the Prophetess will dance for us…
at the feast.