Archive for shabes

“Mirtseshem af shabes” Performed by Khave Rosenblatt

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2018 by yiddishsong

Mirtseshem af shabes / God Willing, This Sabbath
Performance by Khave Rosenblatt
Recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman
Jerusalem, 1970s
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The most popular version of this 19th century mock-Hasidic song begins with the line “Ver hot dos gezen…” or “Tsi hot men azoyns gezen…” (“Who has seen this” or “Who has every seen anything like this”). In the Mlotek’s collection Mir trogn a gezang, pages 126-127.  the song is called “Dos lid fun ayznban” (“The Song About the Train”).  Theodore Bikel recorded that version on his LP “Theodore Bikel Sings Jewish Folksongs” 1959.

Khave Rosenblatt’s version however is closer in some respects to the variants found in the collections Yidishe folks-lider, ed. Itzik Fefer and Moyshe Beregovski, Kiev 1938. pp. 386-387  (see below) and in A.Z. Idelsohn’s The Folk Song of The East European Jews, volume 9 of his Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies, song # 558, beginning with the line “Nokh shabes imirtseshem….”.   Idelsohn also includes the “Ver hot dos gezen..” version, #556, from the German journal Ost und West. A scan of that page is also attached (see below)

train whistle

Only Rosenblatt’s theatrical version plays with the verbs “fayfn” (“fafn” in her dialect), which means “whistle” and  “onfayfen”  (“unfafn” in her dialect) meaning “to thumb one’s nose at.” One could easily imagine the wandering entertainers, the Broder Singers, performing this song in the wine cellars of the 19th century in Galicia.

Mirtseshem af shobes
vel ikh bam rebn zan.
Ikh vel tsiklugn di hiltayes, di drobes
vus zey nemen azoy fil gelt un zey leygn in dr’erd aran.

Rebe, hot er a fafer
mit a meshenem knop.
Er faft indz un hekher in hekher
in er vet gurnisht vern farshtopt.

Er faft un faft un faft un faft un faft
Er vil gurnisht oyfhern.
mit dem rebns koyekh
vet di ban tseshlugn vern.

God willing this Sabbath
I will spend with the Rebbe.
I will denounce the hedonists, the wastrels,
who take so much money and spend it wildy. [lit: bury it in the ground]

Rebbe, what a whistle it has!
with a brass knob.
He thumbs his nose at us louder and louder,
and nothing shuts him up.

He whistles and whistles and whistles and whistles and whistles
and doesn’t want to stop.
With the Rebbe’s power
the train will be trounced.

dos lid gottesman

Khane and Joe Mlotek, Mir trogn a gezang, pages 126-127:

dos lid mlotek

Yidishe folks-lider, ed. Itzik Fefer and Moyshe Beregovski, Kiev 1938. pp. 386-387:
miritzhashem (1)

dos lid fefer 2b

A.Z. Idelsohn’s The Folk Song of The East European Jews, volume 9 of Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies (#558 & #556)

dos lid idelsohn 558dos lid idelsohn 556


“Der freylekher kaptsn” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Der freylekher kaptsn (The Happy Poor Man) is an upbeat song I recorded from Jacob Gorelik in 1985 in New York City. The song follows the alef-beys for 23 verses. Der freylekher kaptsn is also known as Der freylekher khosid and Hop-tshik-tshak, which is a dance or dance step.


Jacob Gorelik sings at the Sholem-Aleichem Center with
Dr. Joshua Fishman sitting next to him (Bronx, 1980s)

As he says in his spoken introduction, Jacob Gorelik sent this song to the Israeli folklore journal Yeda-Am and it was printed in 1967 (Vol. 12 no 31-32) with the music. Attached are scans of those pages which include the Yiddish verses, a Hebrew translation and a brief commentary (in Hebrew) by the editor on the song at the end which includes references to other versions of the song found in other song collections. When he sang this for me Gorelik was reading the lyrics from the journal.

Gorelik also pointed out the similarity in melody to Khanele lernt loshn-koydesh (words by A. Almi), a song that was later recorded by Chava Alberstein and the Klezmatics among others.

The verse that corresponds to the letter ע begins with the word “helft” – because, as Gorelik explained, in the Ukrainian Yiddish dialect the “h” sound at the beginning of the word is often silent.

A humorous parody of the song about kibbutz life was collected and published by Menashe Gefen in issue 3-4, 1972, of the Israeli periodical מאסף, Measaf. Two scans of that are attached as are two scans of the version collected by I. L. Cahan and included in his 1912 publication Yidishe folkslider mit melodyen.

Thanks this week for help with the blog go to Paula Teitelbaum, Psoy Korolenko and Facebook friends


Gorelik speaks:

Lekoved mayn tayern gast, Itzikn, vel ikh zingen a folklid, an alte, alte folklid – “Der freylekher kaptsn”.  Un es geyt in gantsn loytn alef-beys. Du veyst kaptsonim zenen ale mol freylekhe. Gehert hob ikh dos mit etlekhe tsendlik yor tsurik fun mayn froys a shvoger: Hershl Landsman. In Amerike hot gebitn – in Amerike tut men ale mol baytn – gebitn dem nomen af London. Far zikh, far di kinder, zey zoln kenen vern doktoyrim.

Un er hot es gehert baym onfang fun tsvantsikstn yorhundert. Hershl iz shoyn nito; lomir im take dermonen. Landsman is shoyn nito. Zayn froy iz nito shoyn. Mayn eygene tayere froy iz shoyn nito.

Der freylekher kaptsn.  Es geyt loytn alef-beys. Gedrukt iz dos in Yeda-Am. Flegt aroysgeyn in Yisrol a vikhtiker zhurnal, a folklor-zhurnal. Unter der redaktsye fun Yom-Tov Levinsky, 1967 iz der zhurnal aroys, der numer.


Ikh bin mir a khosidl, a freylekhe briye.
Bin ikh mir a khosidl, on a shum pniye.
Bin ikh mir a khosidl, a khosidak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Borves gey ikh mit hoyle pyates.
Fun oyvn biz arop mit gole lates;
Bin ikh mir a lustiker a freylekher bosyak
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Gole lekher iz mayn kapote
fun oybn viz arop mit shvartser blote;
Tu ikh mir on fun eybn dem yarmak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak!

Der dales iz bay mir afn pritsishn oyfn.
Der kop tut vey fun dem arumloyfn;
kh’loyf un loyf azoy vi a durak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Hering mit broyt iz bay mir a maykhl,
abi ikh shtop zikh on dem baykh.
un kartofles far a pitak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Ver s’geyt in mayn veg,
der vet hobn gute teg;
in a bisl bronfn gefin ikh nit keyn brak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Zingen, zing ikh af mayn gorgl
un shpiln, shpil ikh af mayn orgl.
Bin ikh mir a khosidl, a spivak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Khotsh ikh bin mir horbevate
un dertsu nokh stulovate;
A bisl bronfn nem ikh mir geshmak
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Toybenyu, mayn vayb zogt tsu mir:
nito af shabes, vey tsu dir;
leydik iz mayn keshene, nito keyn pitak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Yontif iz bay mir di beste tsayt,
tsu antloyfn fun der klipe – vayt;
un makh ikh dort a koyse mit dem knak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Koshere kinderlekh, a ful getselt,
hungerike tsingelekh aroysgeshtelt.
Esn viln zey gants geshmak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Loyfn, loyf ikh af di piates,
vayl shikh zaynen gole lates.
Ikh loyf un loyf vi a bosyak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Mirenyu, mayn tokhter, zi zogt tsu mir:
ven met kumen di nekhome af mir?
Gib mir a khosn mit a kurtsn pidzak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Nekhome, mayne, zog ikh tsu ir:
Du vest nokh heysn mitn nomen – shnir.
Dayn shviger vet zayn a groyser shlak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

S’hoybt nor on tog tsu vern,
heybn zikh on di kinderlekh iberklern;
un kalt iz zey gants geshmak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Elft mir kinder zmires zingen,
vet ir zayn bay mir voyle yingen;
shenken vel ikh aykh a pitak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Peysekh kumt, bin ikh mir freylekh,
mayn vayb a malke un ikh a meylekh.
Matsos hobn mir a fuln zak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Tsadikim, rebeyim, veysn aleyn,
az s’iz nit gut tsu zayn gemeyn;
tsores faran in a fuler zak,
tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Kinder mayne, hob ikh gezogt:
haynt iz simkhes-toyre, nit gezorgt;
A koyse veln mir makhn gants geshmak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Royzenyu, mayn tokhter, zogt tsu mir:
kh’hob a man, iz er gerotn in dir:
er git mir nit af shabes afile keyn pitak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Shoyn Purim iz do, a yontif bay mir,
Ikh trog shalekh-mones fun tir tsu tir.
Khap ikh a trunk bronfn gants geshmak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

Tomid freylekh, nit gezorgt,
Nor layen, nor geborgt.
un in keshene iz nito keyn pitak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

In honor of my dear guest, Itzik, I will sing the folksong, an old, old folksong “The Happy Poor man”. It goes according to the alphabet. You know poor people are always happy. I heard this a few decades ago from my brother-in-law Hershl Landsman. In American he changed – In America one is always changing – In America he changed his name to London; for his sake, for his children, so that they can become doctors.

And he heard it at the beginning of the 20th century. Hershl is no longer here; his wife is no longer here. My dear wife is no longer here.

“The Happy Poor Man”. It goes according to the alphabet. It was published in Yeda-Am, that used to be published in Israel: a folklore journal, an important journal, edited by Yom-Tov Lewinsky. In 1967 this issue was published.

I am a khosid, a happy creature.
I am a khosid, with no bias.
I am a khosid, a khosidak [humorous form of khosid]
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

I go around barefoot with bare soles.
Up and down I’m full of patches.
I’m happy-go-lucky, cheerful and barefoot
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

My kaftan is full of holes
from top to bottom full of mud.
So I put on my overcoat
and I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak.

I treat poverty as if it were nobility,
my head hurts from all my running around.
I run and run as an fool,
so I dance a joyous hip-tshik-tshak.

Herring with bread is a real treat
as long as I can stuff up my tummy,
with potatoes for a penny.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Whoever goes in my path
will enjoy good days.
In a little whiskey I find nothing to waste;
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

I sing with my throat
and play on my organ.
So I am a khosid, a singer.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Though I am a hunchback
and I slouch a little too,
I take a nice swig of whiskey.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Toybeynyu, my wife says to me:
We have nothing for sabbath, woe is me.
Empty is my pocket with no penny.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak.

Holidays are the best time for me,
to escape far from my shrewish wife.
And I drink a shot with real snap.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Observant children – I have a tent full;
their hungry tongues sticking out.
They really want to eat a lot.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

I run on my soles
because my shoes are all patched up.
I run and run like a barefoot man,
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Mirenyu, my daughter, says to me:
when will I get some relief?
Give me a groom with a short jacket.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

“My solace”,  I say to her:
“You will yet one day be called ‘daughter-in-law’.
Your mother-in-law will be big nuisance.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

As soon as the day breaks,
my children start to consider their state:
and they are so very cold.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

If you help me children to sing zmires
you will be good kids.
I will give as a tip, a coin.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

When Passover comes I am happy:
my wife is a queen and I a king.
We have a full sack of matzoh
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Holy rabbis, Rebbes, know already
that it’s not good to be vulgar.
We have a sack full of troubles.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

My children, I said,
today is Simkhes-Torah, don’t worry.
We will all down a good drink,
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Rose, my daughter, says to me.
I have a husband just like you.
He doesn’t give me a penny for the Sabbath
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Purim is already here, a real holiday for me,
I carry shalekh-mones from door to door.
I take a quick swig of whiskey, really fine.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Always joyous, never worried,
Always borrowing, always mooching,
And in my pocket not a penny.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Yeda-Am, 1967 (Vol. 12 no 31-32):



Measaf, 3-4, 1972:



I. L. Cahan, 1912:

Cahan1Cahan2 copy

Arye-Leibush Laish’s Backwards March Nigun

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week for the first time we present a nigun with no words instead of a Yiddish song. The nigun and the custom connected to it was learned from the singer and writer Arye-Leibush Laish (אריה ליש, also spelled “Arie Leibisch Laisch”) and became the basis for the annual backwards march tradition at Klezkanada on the eve of the sabbath.

LaishArye-Leibush Laish

Laish’s original field recording 1998, Bnei Brak, Israel:

Klezkanada Backwards March 2011 (one of many clips on YouTube):

Laish was born in 1929 in Stanisesti, in the Bacau district of Romania, and attended kheyder and talmud toyre. During the Second World War he worked in hard labor camp for the Germans. After the war he acted in the Romanian Yiddish theater before immigrating to Israel in 1963. He has written several autobiographical works in Hebrew as well as plays and scenes in Yiddish. He recorded an album of the songs of Zelig Barditchver (“Freyen zikh iz gut”), and has been featured in documentaries on Yiddish culture, including one on Itzik Manger directed by Radu Gabrea “Itzik Manger” 2005). He lives in Bnei-Brak, Israel.

I recorded Arye Laish singing Yiddish songs in his apartment in Bnai-Brak in 1998 and he told me about a rare custom from Stanisesti,

The Jews of the shtetl would gather at the river where the Friday night sun was setting and the Sabbath would arrive. Walking backwards so as not to dishonor the Sabbath, the entire community accompanied by two or three local Jewish musicians sang and played this nigun until they reached the shul where they left the instruments, and began the Sabbath prayers.

In 2001 the theater director, writer and performer Jenny Romaine led a theater workshop that summer at Klezkanada on the theme – “How do Jews Walk?”, and upon hearing about this custom and nigun she introduced them into the Klezkanada program preceding dinner Friday night. Frank London transcribed the music and taught the nigun (parts A and B) to the music classes, asking them to prepare the melody. Here is Jenny Romaine discussing the Backwards March recorded by the Yiddish Book Center:

Since then, Arye Laish’s Staniseti nigun and backwards march have been integrated into the Klezkanada program by the entire community.

The spoken parts of Laish in the original recording are:

Un dos khazert zikh iber di gants tsayt. Farshteyt zikh mit variatsyes.” [And this repeats the whole time. Of course with variations.}

Me kert zikh um tsu bidibidmmm…” [Then you return to the bidibum, bidibum, bidimbum…]

A mol hert men stam ge__(?)hay! hay! hay! hay!” [Every now and then you could hear – hay! hay! hay!]

laish yiddish

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

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2011 by yiddishsong

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.

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

In honor of the holiday,
In honor of Sabbath,
In honor of the holiday,
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.
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.


“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….

“Got fun Avrom” Performed by Bella Bryks-Klein

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Got fun Avrom is a woman’s prayer/song which is read as the Sabbath concludes Saturday night. It is attributed to the Hasidic rebbe
Levi-Yitskhok Barditshever (1740-1810), who also, according to tradition, wrote several Yiddish songs.

There was a debate among Yiddish folklorists whether this prayer constituted a folksong. Noyekh Prilutski maintained it did and published 23 versions in his first volume of collected Yiddish folksongs – “Religious and Holiday Songs” Warsaw 1911. S. An-sky did not agree (I have written about the various points of view: see pp. 41-42 in Defining the Yiddish Nation, Gottesman, 2003 and in Yiddish, “Tsi iz Got fun Avrom a folkslid?”  in the Forverts newspaper, Feb. 12-18, 2010, p. 4). Prilutski was correct, “Got fun Avrom” is a folksong with a text and melody that passes from generation to generation, forming variants in various locations.

On the Ari Davidow’s listserve “World Music from a Jewish Slant” I had once written that based on Prilutski’s work on Got fun Avrom, we can conclude that the popular folksong, “Shnirele Perele” made famous by the Klezmatics, evolved from versions of Got fun Avrom. As you can see, Bella Bryks-Klein’s version provides furthur evidence for this connection.

I recorded Bella Bryks-Klein in my office at the Yiddish Forward in April, 2010 in New York City. She is the representative in Israel of our newspaper and is also active in a number of other Yiddish activities there. Her father, the Yiddish writer Rachmil Bryks, was known for his powerful works on the Holocaust, especially on the Lodz ghetto. He included a version of Got fun Avrom in “Der keyser in geto” NY, 1961 [The Emperor in the Ghetto] on page 234 which is clearly based on the one here. A scan of that page is included in this commentary.

Since Bryks-Klein learned her version from her Transylvanian mother, who learned it from her mother, we can assume that Rachmil Bryks based his text on his wife’s, not a local Lodzer variant. I hope to include other versions of Got fun Avrom in future blog-postings. I have a much simpler version done from a cousin; and an interesting longer version-recording of a older Lubavitch woman who grew up, however, in a Satmar family. These prayers/songs were said/sung so fast sometimes, that if you asked the person what a certain line is, they cannot always tell you!

As part of the “Yiddish Atlas Project” conducted at Columbia University, I believe that several versions were also recorded and could perhaps be posted here once that material is made available. Today in any Hasidic bookstore you can purchase the “classic” text of Got fun Avrom (often laminated), but it is much simpler than the one discussed this week.

Mayn numen iz Bella Bryks-Klein, ikh bin di tokhter fun a yidishn shrayber Yerakhmil Bryks, un mayn mame, Hinde Eta Volf, fun der heym, Irene Bryks, hot yeder moytse-shabes mit undz gezingen “Got fin avrum” vi zi hot mit ir mame dus gezingen in Transylvania. Ikh gedenk zi hot a vays tikhl af ir kop, dos heyst, tsigedekt, un mayn shvester un mikh tsigetsoygn tsi ir, un azoy tsugetulyet, shtayendik, in tinkl nokh, hot men gezingen azoy:

My name is Bella Bryks-Klein, I am the daughter of a Yiddish writer, Yerakhmil Bryks, and my mother Hinde Eta Volf, (her maiden name), Irene Bryks sang with us every Saturday night at the end of Shabes “God of Abraham”, as she had sung with her mother in Transylvania. I remember her with her white shawl on her head, covered, and she drew close to her my sister and me and standing, still in darkness, she sang it like this:

Got fun Avrom fun Yitskhok un Yankev,
bahit un bashirem dayn lib folk yisrol
vegn daynem loyb.

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
Protect and shield us, your dear people of Israel
Who praise you.

Az der liber shabes koydesh geyt avek,
az di zise libe vokh zol undz kimen:
tsu gezint, tsu leybn, tsu shulem,
tsi parnuse, tsu gite bsires toyves.

Now that the dear holy Sabbath is leaving,
may the sweet, dear week now come to us
and bring us good health, life, peace
livlihood, good news.

Umeyn Veumeyn! S’zol vern vur
Meylekh hamoshiekh ben duvid zol kimen dus yur.
Kimen zol er tsufurn,
in zayne sheyne yurn.
Kimen zol er tsi raytn
in zayne sheyne tsaytn.

Amen and amen! May it come true
Messiah the King son of David should come this year.
May he come traveling,
and bring with him beautiful years.
May he come riding,
and bring wonderful times.

Eliyahu hanuvi kimt in der hoz arayn,
brengt er aldus gits arayn,
Eliyahu hanuvi geyt fin undzer hoz aros,
trugt er aldus beyzs aros,
Eliyahu hanuvi kimt in undzer hoz aran,
nemt a bekher in der rekhter hant,
Makht a brukhe ibern gantsn land.

Elijah the prophet comes into our house,
and brings all good things inside.
Elijah the prophet leaves our house,
and takes all the bad things out.
Elijah the prophet comes into our house,
and takes a goblet in his right hand,
and makes a blessing over the entire land.

Di brukhe zol hoykh zan,
zol iber undz ale zan.
Tir un toyer shteyt dokh ofn
tsu dir futer, al rakhmim shaday,
in zibetn himl tien mir ale hofn.

The blessing should be loud,
and be over all of us,
Door and Gate are thus open
for you father, god of mercy,
into the seventh heaven we all hope for this.

A gite vokh! a gezinte vokh!
A gebentshte vokh! A zise vokh!
A sheyne vokh!

A good week! A healthy week!
A blessed week! A sweet week!
A wonderful week!

“Dos Shabes Lid” Performed by Avrum Yitshkhok Moskovitz

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Michael Alpert

A frequently overlooked and still under-researched genre of Yiddish folksong and folksinging is the significant body of songs with Jewish religious themes and spiritual intent. Such songs are most frequently found today among Hasidic Jews throughout the world. They fulfill both a spiritual and didactic function, affirming traditional Ashkenazic religious practice and spirituality as well as serving as a guide and exhortation to younger generations.

It can be said that older songs of this genre like Dos Shabes Lid (“The Sabbath Song”), whose lyrics are in a Yiddish heavily interlaced with Hebrew and Aramaic quotations from Torah/Tanakh, Talmud, Jewish liturgy and other religious texts, are imbued with much of the spiritual significance associated with nigunim (paraliturgical Hasidic spiritual melodies sung to fragments of Hebrew and Aramaic religious text and/or wordless syllables). They are a kind of Ashkenazic gospel song or spiritual, summoning forth and embodying an atmosphere of deep contemplation and mystical transcendence.

Dos Shabes Lid
, popular to this day in many Hasidic communities of Hungarian and Carpathian descent, is a classic and majestic example of a religious Yiddish folksong. Its many verses describe an idealized ambience of the Friday night home and family celebration marking the arrival of Shabes – the Jewish Sabbath. It is in many respects a quasi-balladic paean to the intricacies and pleasures of traditional Shabes observance and the interweaving of spiritual exaltation, mystical devotion, traditional cuisine, home and family, sacred time and the repose from the cares of the week it can bring. All of which are bound together and expressed through the complex interweaving of quotations from and allusions to Jewish religious texts for Friday night or referring to Shabes and conjuring up its atmosphere. The song is both nostalgic – it’s about Shabes, not for it – and deeply reflective of its ambience. It is simultaneously outside of Shabes, looking in, yet entirely embedded within it.

Similar religious folksongs in Yiddish continue to be created in today’s thriving Hasidic communities, particularly in the New York area and Israel. Frequently they are didactic songs for children and young people– a sub-genre representing to a sort of Hasidic “Sesame Street,” though many are appreciated by older youth and in some cases all generations. They are disseminated today through the vibrant Hasidic recording industry, as well as in religious school, shtibl / synagogue and family contexts. In recent years, Yiddish scholar and songwriter Asya Vaisman has pioneered the systematic study of Yiddish song among women and children in Hasidic communities in Brooklyn, and wrote her Harvard Ph.D. dissertation on this subject.

The Transcarpathian region of Ukraine, known in Yiddish as “di Karpatn” (the Carpathians), is located at the meeting point of Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. It encompasses the eastern tip of the Hungarian plain and climbs the southern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains. Historically known as Ruthenia, it is home to a plethora of ethnic groups including Ukrainians, Hungarians, Roma, Romanians, Slovaks, Poles and Jews fluent in their distinctive regional dialect of Yiddish in addition to Hungarian, Ukrainian, German, and other local languages.

In Soviet times Transcarpathia was the most traditional Ashkenazic Jewish area of the USSR. The Yiddish language was almost universally spoken by the region’s Jews, even children born in the late 1980s. Traditional religious practice and education – usually secret but quite successful education – continued there to a degree unparalleled among Ashkenazim in other parts of the USSR.

Since 1972, the vast majority of Jews from Transcarpathia have emigrated to North America, Israel or Hungary. Time-honored Jewish communities that continued to thrive even in Soviet times now remain nearly devoid of Jewish life, though their legacy is maintained in immigrant communities in New York and throughout the world. A significant number of today’s Hasidic dynasties have their roots in the Transcarpathian area or adjacent regions.

Avrum Yitskhok “Izu” Moskovitz, a extraordinary traditional Yiddish singer and Ashkenazic bal-tfile (lay prayer leader), was born in 1934 in the Ruthenian town of Svaljava, Czechoslovakia (now Svaliava in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine). Raised in a traditional Jewish family who were adherents to the Hasidic tradition of Sasov, he learned the art of davenen (leading prayer) and Torah cantillation from his father.

Photo by Martin Koenig, Center for Traditional Music and Dance Archive

During the Second World War, after first Hungary and then Nazi Germany occupied the Carpathian region of Czechoslovakia, Moskovitz was interned in Hungarian labor and concentration camps and later escaped, surviving by hiding in the forest. After the war, his fingers damaged by cold and deprivation, he worked as an accountant in Svaliava and became the leading bal-tfile (lay prayer leader) and khazn (cantor) in the Transcarpathian SSR from the 1950s-early 1970s. He would sing at weddings and other Jewish occasions as well as in synagogues in the region. Typically he would daven the yontoyvim — officiate at High Holiday services — one year in Minkatsh (Mukacheve / Munkács), the next in Beregsas (Berehove / Beregszász), then Ingvar (Uzhhorod / Ungvár), and so on.

In 1972, at the very beginning of the mass emigration of Jews from the USSR, Moskovitz left with his family for the US. He and his wife, children, and grandchildren live in Brooklyn, where they continue to speak Yiddish at home in addition to Russian, Hungarian and English, and lead an Orthodox Jewish life. Like many Jews from Transcarpathia, they inhabit the Orthodox and Hasidic worlds as well as the Former Soviet Jewish sphere. Moskovitz is proud of having learned English well and reading the US press for years. His wife Sure (Sarina) is a virtuosic traditional Jewish cook and has worked as such in several yeshivas in Brooklyn.

A word on the singing style heard in Dos Shabes Lid: it is classic folk khazones, a wonderful example of the musical art of the bal-tfile. It features much of the rich, melismatic ornamentation typical of men’s singing in the Orthodox Ashkenazic religious context, yet is also straightforward and powerful in relatively unornamented phrases. Like much Yiddish traditional singing in a variety of genres, it features the occasional insertion of extra, interstitial syllables in vowel sounds, e.g. “meli-ye-khu” for melikhu (His reign), and some of the same tendency between consonants, but less of the latter in comparison to many Yiddish folksingers from further east in Ukraine.

Regarding the pronunciation of Yiddish and Hebrew/Aramaic here: it is largely but not entirely characteristic of Carpathian Yiddish, which is also the predominant dialect in today’s Hasidic communities. However, Izu’s hometown Svalyave is not far from the dialect border between Hungarian and Galician Yiddish. Like the majority of 20th century Yiddish speakers and singers – even native and lifelong speakers – Izu is not 100% consistent in his dialect or pronunciation in this or any performance of this song. Though he primarily uses his own Carpathian pronunciation, especially in the Hebrew and Aramaic portions of the song, he occasionally utilizes forms more typical of northeastern (“Lithuanian”) Yiddish, which in the course of the 20th century became the pronunciation basis for klal-yidish, the largely standardized literary language now learned by almost all students of the language outside of the Hasidic world. The vast majority of native Yiddish speakers today are Hasidic and – other than Lubavitcher Hasidim and a few smaller groups — do not use Lithuanian or standard Yiddish, nor the pronunciation of Hebrew and Aramaic that accompanies it. Izu’s pronunciation may be influenced slightly by the encroachment of a literary or performance standard – unusual in the religious Jewish world but common in official Yiddish films, theater and recordings in the USSR, even after 1948. In addition, the influence of modern German characteristic of much 19th- and early 20th-century Yiddish, especially from former Austro-Hungarian areas like the Carpathian region, is evident in usages like “a portsyon mit fish” – a portion of fish (Ger. “Portion” rather than the more Yiddish “portsye”). Itzik Gottesman very correctly adds that in the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the northern (Litvish) pronounciation increasingly infuenced cantorial singing, becoming both a status symbol and eventually a virtual standard among khazonim, even many folk khazonim / baaley-tfile like Izu Moskovitz.

As with most Yiddish singers, Izu’s pronunciation varies even within this performance of the song. E.g.: tsi/tsu “to”; tsvey/tsvay “two”; kavone/kavune “intention, fervor, spirit,” etc.

Musically, Dos Shabes Lid employs the freygish mode in the verses, shifting to a minor refrain based on the fourth degree of the freygish – a classic device in many Yiddish musical genres. The song is likely of a more modern Yiddish melodic type, probably dating from the later 19th and early 20th centuries. The verse melody, typical of the Greco-Ottoman influenced dance and song melodies of that era, has variants in klezmer tunes – the A section of the playoff bulgar in violinist Abe Schwartz’s 1920 National Hora, Part II; secular Yiddish folksong – Shimke Khazer, Beregovski/Slobin 1982, Nos. 107 and 108, and the Lodz Ghetto song S’iz Kaydankes, Kaytn by street-singer Yankekle Herszkowicz; as well as the popular Yiddish theater song Vi nemt man parnose.

Recorded by Tom Van Buren for the Center for Traditional Music and Dance at the final concert for Nashi Traditsii (Our Traditions) Soviet Jewish Community Cultural Initiative, May 2002, The Danny Kaye Theater, Manhattan, New York.

Dos yidele kimt zikh fraytik tsi nakhts
 fun der shil ahaym.
Baglaytn im tsvey malukhim
 in zayn shtib arayn.
Der malekh hatoyv vintsht im un: “Leshabes habu keyn”
In der malekh haray [sic: haro] miz zugn
 bal korkhoy: “Umeyn”.

The Jew comes Friday night from the shul to his home
Two angels escort him into his house
The good angel wishes him:
”Shabes is here!”
And the evil angel must unwillingly say “Omeyn.”

Dos yidele nemt zikh tsi zugn, azoy vi men broukht,
Fayerdik un haylik: “Shabes shuloym imvoyrokh‟
Tsvay malukhim baglaytn im 
in zugn dem pusek fur:
”Vesar avoynekhu 
vekhatusokh tekhipor” [sic].

The Jew pronounces, as one is required.
With fire and with holiness:
“A peaceful and blessed Sabbath!‟
Two angels escort him 
and quote the verse:
”Your sins will be forgiven‟

Er fargest fin ale zorgn, 
fin der gantser vokh.
Fin gesheftn shmist er gurnisht, er geyt nukh zey nisht nokh
Azoy vi in pusek shtayt geshribn: “’Uveyoym hashvii
Yehi beeynekhu
kilu kol melakhtekhu asim’”.

He forgets all the worries of the week.
Of business matters he says nothing, 
they don‘t bother him now.
As is written:
“’On the seventh day’ –
You should feel that all your labors will have been completed‟

Dem shabes ver es haylikt, der vert geraynikt
 fun a yeyder aveyre.
Ver es farshteyt di kavune, (bay) deym i’ dus a matune
Der bakimt a neshume yeseyre.
Der shabes iz tayer, er brent vi a fayer
S’iz mamesh min ([me’eyn] oylem habu
Ober nor der ken dus shpirn, ver es tit zikh yidish firn
Voyl iz eym bezey ivabu.

Whoever makes the Shabes holy will be purified
 of every sin.
It is a gift for whoever understands the inner meaning
He receives the additional, holy Shabes soul.
The Shabes is holy, it burns like a fire
Truly like the world to come.
But the only person who can feel it
is the one who conducts himself in a Jewish way
He will be fortunate in this world and the world to come.

Kidush tsi makhn mit groys kavone, nemt er zikh dertsi.
Er zugt „Vayhi erev, vayhi voyker, 
yoym hashishi
Vaykhili hashomayim vehuoretz 
vekhol tsevuom.”
”Vehi yoytsrom,
 vehi boyrom.”

Making Kiddush with great fervor,
he begins.
He says: “And it was evening, it was morning –
the sixth day.”
“The heaven and earth
were completed with all their hosts.”
”He is their Creator, He is their Maker.”

Di kedishe hersht in shtibl,
 es laykhtn di lekht.
Ofn tish ligt lekhem mishne 
mit a shayn geflekht.
Tsvay malukhim baglaytn im 
in zugn deym pusek fur:
“Vesar avoynekhu vekhatusokh tekhipor.”

Holiness reigns at home,
The candles shine,
On the table lie the two khales,
Beautifully braided.
Two angels escort him
 and quote the verse:
”Your sins will be forgiven.”


Er vasht zikh tsi der [sic] lekhem mishne, zetst zikh tsi tsim tish.
Di balebuste shtelt im tsi
a portsiyon mit fish.
Er zugt: “Azamayr beshvukhin…”
 ”Vehey ravu…” dernokh.
In me shtelt im tsi
a frishn teler youkh.

He washes for the two khales and sits down at the table.
The woman of the house gives him 
a portion of fish.
He recites „Let us sing praises…‟ and then
 „May it be his will…‟
And he gets a fresh 
bowl of chicken soup.

Flaysh in tsimes feylt dokh oukh nisht, s‘iz fin alem du.
Afile payres brengt men eym
t si der shabes-sidu.
Bay an ureman iz oukhet ungegrayt
 fin “bakoyl mikoyl koyl.”
Vi der pusek zugt: “Loy niker
shio bifney dol.”
[sic: Veloy niker shoya lifney dol]

Meat and tsimes are also not lacking, there’s a bit of everything.
Even fruits are brought to him for the Shabes feast.
For the poor man too, 
”the best of everything” is prepared
[From bentshn (Birkas Hamozon), the grace said after meals].
As it is written:
„He does not favor the rich over the poor‟
[Job 34:19]


Reboynoy shel oylom, vi lang
veln mir nokh in gules shrayen:
Leshono habo beyerishulayim.
Helf zey shoyn bezekhus der tfile
Vos dos yidisher eylem [oylem] beyt zikh of der geile.

Master of the universe, how long
 will we still cry out in exile:
”Next year in Jerusalem‟?
Help us soon, on account of this prayer,
That we Jews may be redeemed.

Er shrayt mit a yimerlekh kol:
“Tate ziser!‟
“Eylohu di ley yekar [yikor] ir visu
Proyk yas unokh mipim aryevuso
Veapeyk yas ameykh megoy guliso.”

He exclaims with a woeful voice:
“Sweet Father! Almighty to whom honor and greatness belongs,
Redeem your sheep from the mouths of lions,
And bring your people out of exile.”
[from the Shabes zmires (spiritual table song) “Yo Riboyn Olam” (God, Lord of the World)

Shoymeya tsakas dal umaazin tekhinu.
Helf zey shoyn gikh in bald mit (de’) gules hashkhinu.
Se zol shoyn kimen
hoysu lashem hamelikhu
Tankhileynu leyo(y)m shekiloy
 shabos umenikhu.

The one who listens to the cry of the poor man,
and the one who listens to prayer.
Help us soon to liberate the Shekhinah.
May the reign of God soon come.
May we live to see “The day that is entirely
 Shabes and peace.” [another quote from the grace after meals].


Transcribed and translated by
 Itzik Gottesman and Michael Alpert, with generous assistance from Yoel Matveyev and Sruli Dresdner. Below text is a version of Dos Shabes Lid in an undated songbook “השיר והשבח”  (Hashir Vehashevakh), printed in Bnei-Brak  (ca. 1970?).