Archive for messiah

“Af a shteyn zitst a reytekh mit a khreyn” Performed by Khave Rosenblatt

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2017 by yiddishsong

Af a shteyn zitst a reytekh mit a khreyn
On a Stone Sit a Turnip and a Horseradish
performed by Khave Rosenblatt

Text by Eliezer Shteynbarg, music by “Prof. Kohn”.
Recorded in Jerusalem by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, 1970s.
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

use as picture

Illustration by Arthur Kolnik in Eliezer Steinbarg’s Mayn alef-beys (My Alphabet), Chernovitz, 1921

(in Khava Rosenblatt’s dialect)

Of a shteyn, of a shteyn
zitst a reytekh mit a khreyn.
Eytekh – beytekh! zugt der reytekh
Vus s’iz der himl azoy reyn?
Eytekh – beytekh! zugt der reytekh
Vus s’iz der himl azoy reyn?

Lomir beyde tontsn geyn.
Lomir beyde tontsn geyn.
Bald gevorn iz a freyd
in gelofn s’kind un keyt.

S’tantst a reytekh mit a khreyn!
Vi zhe loyft men dus nit zeyn?
Meshiakhs tsat hot men gemeynt
in me hot far freyd geveynt.

Eykh bin oykhet dort geveyn
Eykh bin oykhet dort geveyn
tsigeshtipt hob ikh mikh shver
in kh’ob oykh gelozt a trer!


On a rock, on a rock
sit a turnip and a horseradish.
I beg of you, says the horseradish:
Why is the sky is so clear ?
I beg of you, says the horseradish:
Why is the sky is so clear ?

Let’s both go dancing!
Let’s both go dancing!
Soon there was such a celebration
and everybody ran over.

A turnip dancing with a horseradish!
How could you not run to see?
The Messiah has come we all thought
and for joy we all cried.

I was also there.
I was also there.
With difficulty I pushed myself through
and I too let fall a tear!

The text of this song is slightly altered from Mayn alef-beys (My Alphabet) by Eliezer Steynbarg (1880 – 1932) published in 1921, Chernovitz, Romania; a classic work of Yiddish children’s literature with illustrations by Arthur Kolnik, Ruven Zelikovitsh (later known as Reuven Rubin) and Solomon Lerner. The original text in Yiddish is attached below.

Khave Rosenblatt was born in a Shatava, a Ukrainian town near Kamenets-Podolsky.  In 1917 the family moved to briefly to Khotin (Khotyn/Chotin) in Bessarabia and then to Chernovitz, Bukovina. There she was a kindergarten teacher in a Hebrew school and emigrated to Israel with her husband and child in 1934. Her husband had been a famous eye doctor in Romania but became a natural healer in Israel saying he would no longer spill blood. He died in 1945. In Israel Khava Rosenblatt worked for the Kupat Kholim, the national health care agency in Israel.

Rosenblatt’s family was very close to the poet laureate of Chernovitz, Eliezer Steynbarg, and she helped proofread the first volume of his Mesholim (Fables) published in Chernovitz in 1933 which appeared posthumously. She recalls that the composer of this song, and others by Steinbarg, was someone named Prof. Kohn.

In the small collection Eliezer Shteynbarg: gezungene lider edited by Hersh Segal, Rekhovot, 1977, the editor writes that except for one song in the collection, none of the composers are known. Attached is the music to this text from that 1977 collection which is similar.

Another song from Mayn Alef-beys – “Der ber” (aka – “Af di aksl mit tsvey kanen”) – was recorded on the Living Traditions CD “Di grine katshke“.

Thanks to Dr. Paul Glasser for assistance with this week’s post.




“Der heyliker moshiakh” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week features a performance of Der heyliker moshiakh (The Holy Messiah) by New York-based Yiddish singer Josh Waletzky, recorded at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance on January 28, 2011. The song is from Waletzky’s family repertoire (his family referred to it as “The Name Song”); Ruth Rubin collected the song from Waletzky during her fieldwork at Camp Boiberik.

Josh Waletzky

I have attached a variant of this song as found in Noyekh Prilutski‘s collection Yidishe folkslider volume one, Warsaw, 1914. Number 61 (pages 90 – 91). There is no melody given in Prilutski‘s volume, so thanks to Waltezky we have one now!

Der heyliker moshiakh is a great example of a maskilic Yiddish song (composed by Jews who were adherents of the Jewish Enlightenment movement, the Haskalah) in which the irony of the song was confusing or lost to the ‟folk‟, and in this case, to the Maskil as well, Noyekh Prilutski. See his comment on the bottom of the attached Yiddish page 91, footnote number 2,  where he writes:

Typical: as often happens that in the most Hasidic songs, secular [‟fraye”] lines are sung at the end. Perhaps because the song was sung at Simkhes-toyre, when everyone was a little drunk?‟

So Prilutski believed that the song was Hasidic, not Maskilic (anti-Hasidic), and perhaps he had even seen it performed by Hasidim? That would not be shocking, since it was common for similar parodic anti-Hasidic songs such as this, written from the point of view of Hasidim, to be ‟misinterpreted‟ as pro-Hasidic, pro-rebbe. The classic example is Velvl Zbarzher‘s Kum aher du filosof  which was recorded in a typically lyrical fashion by Theodore Bikel.

Is it mis-interpretation? ‟Reinterpretation‟ or just plain ‟interpretation‟ would be preferable. The singer, whose context and audience varies from that of the composer, gives the song a different meaning through his performance.

Waletzky clearly sings it as a parody in the way the Maskilic composer wrote it, and the song has several of the subjects of satire that the maskilim often mocked about the traditional shtetl life: the blind devotion of the hasidim to their rebbe, the fanatic anti-modern/progress attitude (e.g., mocking the popular secular dance kadril  ‘quadrille’ as shmadril, which also alludes to the word for converting, shmadn), and the highlight of the song, the satirizing of Yiddish names that comprises the refrain.

Notice that in Prilutski‘s version there is no reference to shmadril but non-traditional dance is mentioned (Zey veln tantsn mit fremde yunge-layt / They will dance with young strangers).

“Der heyliker moshiakh”

“The Holy Messiah”

un az der heyliker moshiekh vet kumen
vel ikh zayn der ershter af der shlakht.
af di daytshn vet men zikh nemen
un zey shlogn tog vi nakht.
gor on pulver un on blay,
koyln veln flien iber aln.
un az der rebe vet nokh tsugebn a posek derbay,
vi shtroy veln di daytshn faln.

And when the holy Messiah comes
I will be the first into battle.
We’ll set upon the Assimilators
And beat them day and night.
No need for powder or lead,
Bullets will be flying everywhere.
And the moment the Rebbe adds a verse from Scripture,
The Assimilators will drop like straw.

un es vet nokh tsuhelfn
zurekh un burekh, yankev, danil,
zindl, grindl, khayem, smil,
berl, shmerl, getzl, azril,
veln firn dos gantse krentsl.
keyle, beyle, yente, sose,
khane, brayne, yakhne, dvose,
sime, blime, pesi un rose
veln tantsn dos mitsve-tentsl.

And helping out will be
Zorekh and Baruch, Jacob, Daniel,
Zindl, Grindl, Chaim, Samuel,
Berl, Shmerl, Getsl, Azriel,
The ringleaders.
Keyle, Beyle, Yente, Sose,
Hannah, Brayne, Yakhne, Dvose,
Sime, Blume, Pesi and Rose
Will dance the Mitsve Dance…


der rebe vet zayn der komendant.
er vet komedirn ahin un aher.
un ikh vel zayn zayn atyudant,
di khsidim dos militer.
un az der rebe vet onfangen fun toyre tsu shmaysn,
tsu bavayzn zayne havayes,
azoy veln di khsidim onhoybn tsu shisn
af di drabes, af di hultayes.

The Rebbe will be the commander.
He’ll issues orders this way and that.
And I will be his adjutant;
The Chassidim–his troops.
And when the Rebbe begins thrashing them with Torah,
Making his faces at them,
The Chassidim immediately open fire
On the freethinking prostitutes and adulterers.

And helping out will be
Zorekh and Baruch, Jacob, Daniel,…

di daytshn, zey vern dokh poshet dil–
zey veysn nit vos zey zoln tin.
zey hobn a tants vos heyst ‘shmadril’:
eyner loyft aher, un der anderer ahin.
un di daytshke vos tsimblt af dem shlambil
vet fayerdike kneydlekh esn;
un az der rebe vet aroyfleygn zayn lape af ir,
vet zi in tsimbl fargesn.

un es vet nokh tsuhelfn…

The Assimilators will simply get confused–
They won’t know what to do.
They have a dance called the ‘Shmadrille’:
One runs this way and the other runs that way.
The Lady Assimilator tsimbling* her ‘shmambourine’
Will eat hot matzo-ball ammo.
And when the Rebbe lays his paws on her
She’ll forget all about her tsimbl*.

And helping out will be
Zorekh and Baruch, Jacob, Daniel..

*tsimbl = cimbalom/hammered dulcimer; tsimbling =  to play a tsimbl (or in this case, to beat with sticks as if playing a tsimbl)

Der heyliker moshiakh in Noyekh Prilutksi‘s collection Yidishe folkslider (click to enlarge)

“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.