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“S’iz shvarts in himl” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2019 by yiddishsong

S’iz shvarts in himl / The Sky is Black by Avrom Goldfaden
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman.
Recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman: 

This song about Rebecca in the Bible is a folklorized version of a song written by Avrom Goldfaden. It appears, text only, in his volume Dos yidele, where it is called “Rivkes toyt” (Rebecca’s Death, see scans below). Before the poem, Goldfaden gives this introduction:

In the midrash it says: When Rebecca died, they had to bury her at night so that Esau would not see and follow her to the burial. For if he did so, she would be cursed for having such a son. Jacob had run away to Horon and Isaac was too old. So no one accompanied her at her funeral. 

rebeccacoro“Rebecca at the Well”, painting by Corot, 1839

The midrash addresses the question – why was Rebecca’s death not mentioned in the Torah?

Goldfaden was a master of creating songs that resonated with Yiddish folklore. Though this song is about Biblical figures, it resembles a typical Yiddish orphan song. The second line “S’iz a pakhed af der gas aroystsugeyn” (It is a fright to go out in the street) is the exact same as the second line in the ballad “Fintser glitshik shpeyt ba der nakht“, the first song ever presented on Yiddish Song of the Week. And the last line “Elnt blaybsti du vi a shteyn” (Alone you remain like a stone) is found in other Yiddish orphan songs. In this case, biblical Jacob is the orphan. LSW, in her slow, emotional and mournful style, sings this song about Biblical characters as if it reflected a contemporary, local tragedy.

Two textual changes worth noting:

1) Instead of Goldfaden’s “A mes, a mes” א מת, א מת  (A corpse, a corpse), Lifshe sings “emes, emes” (true, true) אמת אמת. which just by combining the two words into one word, changes the meaning completely. This reminds us of the Golem legend in which “emes” אמת [truth] was written on the Golem’s forehead, but when he was no longer needed, the rabbi wiped off the first letter, the alef א and the Golem became dead מת

2) LSW sings “miter Rukhl” (mother Rachel) instead of “miter Rivke” (mother Rebecca). This can be explained, I believe, by the fact that the appellation “muter/miter Rukhl” is far more common than “muter Rivke”. I  did a Google Search in Yiddish to compare both and “muter Rukhl” won 453 – 65. The Yiddish folksinger would have found the phrase “muter Rivke” strange to the ear. In addition, the matriarch Rachel also had an unusual burial: she was buried far from home, on the road to Efrat, and therefore all alone, as Rebecca.

In the papers of the YIVO Ethnographic Commission there is a version of the song collected in the 1920s or 1930s, singer, collector and town unknown. There too the singer changed “a mes” to “emes” but sang Rivke not Rukhl.

TRANSLITERATION

S’iz shvarts in himl me zeyt nit kayn shtern.
S’iz a pakhid af der gas aroystsugeyn.
Shvartse volkn gisn heyse trern
un der vint, er bluzt mit eyn geveyn.

Emes, emes, ersht nisht lang geshtorbn.
Etlekhe mentshn geyen trit ba trit.
Me trugt deym toytn, ersht a frishn korbn:
indzer miter Rukhl, ver ken zi nit?

Yankl iz dekh fin der heym antlofn.
Er shluft dekh dort af deym altn shteyn.
Shtey of di yusem! Di host dekh shoyn keyn mame nisht.
Elnt blabsti du vi a shteyn.

TRANSLATION

The sky is black, no stars can be seen.
It’s a fright to go out in the street.
Black clouds gush hot tears
and the wind blows with a great cry.

True, true she died not long ago.
Several people walked step by step.
They carry the deceased, a fresh sacrifice:
our mother Rukhl, who doesn’t know her?

Jacob had run away from home.
He sleeps on that old rock.
Wake up you orphan! You no longer have a mother.
You remain alone like a stone.

siz shvarts 1siz shvarts 2

From Goldfadn’s Dos yidele, 1891:

goldfadn1
goldfadn2
goldfadn3
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“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

TRANSLITERATION
(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!

TRANSLATION

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.

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