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“Kale lebn, kale lebn” A Badkhn Parody Performed by Dora Libson

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Kale lebn, kale lebn
A badkhn parody sung by Dora Libson
Recorded by Lionel Libson, 1977

Transcribed by Eliezer Niborski, English translation by Itzik Gottesman.

Kale-lebמ, kale-lebn
Kale-lebn, kale-lebn,
Meyn darfsti veynen un shrayen.
Az zolst hobn aza velt azoy zis
vi borsht fun klayen.
Un zolst darfn geyn borgn un layen.
Un zolst keyn mol nit aroys
funem rov un funem dayen.

Dear bride, dear bride,
You should cry and scream some more.
You should have a world so sweet
as borsht made with bran.
You should rely on borrowing and lending.
And may you never get out from 
the rabbi and his assistant.

Oy, a ber un a shver un a shlimazelnitse 
zenen dokh oykhet darbay.
A ber hot a langn veydl 
un a shver hot lib a sheyn meydl.
Un az a shlimezalnitse geyt in mark – 
fardripet zi dus kleydl.

Oy, a bear and a father-in-law and an unlucky woman
are also present. 
A bear has a long tail,
and a father-in-law loves a pretty girl.
And when an unlucky woman goes to market
she spatters her dress

Oy, a bukher un a meydl un a shlimezalnitse
zenen dokh oykhet darbay.
A bukher az er geyt avek heyst men zikh im nit (h)aylen.
un a meydl, az zi geyt avek heyst men zikh ir nit zamen.
Un az me shikt a shlimezalnitse nokh fleysh 
brengt zi plyamen.

Oy, a young man and girl and an unlucky woman
are present as well. 
A young men when he leaves is told not to hurry
and a girl, when she leaves is told not to wait.
And when you send an unlucky woman to buy meat
she comes back with stains. 

כּלה־לעבן, כּלה־לעבן
,מיין דאַרפֿסטו וויינען און שרײַען
אַז זאָלסט האָבן אַ וועלט אַזוי זיס
.ווי באָרשט פֿון קלײַען
,זאָלסט דאַרפֿן גיין באָרגן און לײַען
און זאָלסט קיין מאָל ניט אַרויס
.פֿונעם רבֿ און פֿונעם דיין

אוי, אַ בער און אַ שווער און אַ שלימזלניצע
.זענען דאָך אויכעט דערבײַ
אַ בער האָט אַ לאַנגן וויידל
.און אַ שווער האָט ליב אַ שיין מיידל
–און אַ שלימזלניצע גייט אין מאַרק
.פֿאַרדריפּעט זי דאָס קליידל

אוי, אַ בחור און אַ מיידל און אַ שלימזלניצע
.זענען אויכעט דערבײַ
אַ בחור, אַז ער גייט אַוועק, הייסט מען זיך אים ניט אײַלן, [אַרויסגערעדט „הײַלן”]
,און אַ מיידל, אַז זי גייט אַוועק, הייסט מען זיך איר ניט זאַמען
,און אַז מע שיקט אַ שלימזלניצע נאָך פֿלייש
… ברענגט זי פּליאַמען 
[“וואַריאַנט־מערצאָל פֿון „פּליאַמע“ = „פֿלעק]

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In the spirit of Purim this week, we present a parody of a badkhn’s bazetsns.  Before the ceremony of veiling the bride, the wedding entertainer, the badkhn, used to address the bride, reminding her of the youth that she leaves behind and how to lead an observant Jewish life with her husband. Sometimes the rhymes would be a stretch, almost non-sensical  and that is at the heart of the parodies.

I believe the repeated lines in our parody “…are also present” are mocking the lines of the badkhn when he reminds the bride that although her parents or grandparents may have died, they are with her today at this happy occassion. 

The badkhn parodies are usually of the bazetsns, the seating, and the badekns, the veiling; two emotional moments before the marriage under the khupe/canopy. The bazetsns is strickly a women’s ceremony, except for the badkhn, and a time of much weeping. I have added below two pages from Hayyim Schauss’s work The Lifetime of a Jew (1976) in which he discusses these moments at the wedding. Schauss was a Litvak from Lithuania so much of what he describes is particularly true of his region. It is worth reading.

This is a link to a “real” badekns, not a parody, as sung by Majer Bogdanski, born 1912 in Piotrkow-Tribunalsky, Poland, from the CD Yiddish songs / Yiddishe liders:

One can also see the badkhn perform in such Yiddish films “Yidl mitn fidl” “Uncle Moses” and “The Dybbuk”. The badkhn tradition has made a comeback in today’s Hasidic world and many examples can be found on YouTube. As far as I can tell, they have become mainly comics, and do not paricipate in other wedding ceremonies.

To get a feel for the type of music that might be played at the bazetsn, here is violinist Jutta Bogen playing an example (from Pete- this one has the structue of a Romanian doina):

Many such bazetsnbadekn parodies were recorded on 78 RPMs in the 1910s- 1930s, and even later. Here is Henri Gerro’s Kolomeyer badchn. The badkhones parody begins at 1:00.  

Further reading on the badkhn:

1) Article by Joel Rosenberg “Badkhones in Life and Cinema” on the website In geveb
2) “Badkhonim” in the YIVO Encyclopedia by Jean Baumgarten.
3) Book: הבדחן (in Hebrew) by Ariela Krasney

Special thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski who transcribed the recording. 

Excerpt from Hayyim Schauss’s work The Lifetime of a Jew (1976):

“Bay dem rebn” Performed by an Unidentified Singer at the Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home

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Bay dem rebn / At the Rabbi’s House 
Unidentified singer, recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG] at the Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home, Bronx  1980s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song begins with the Hebrew song “Hayta tsira bikineret” (There was a Young Woman at the Kinneret), which is then followed by a Yiddish verse. which then returns to the Hebrew beginning and so on and so forth. Israel’s Kinneret (also known as the Kinnereth, the Sea of Galilee and Lake Tiberius) is the world’s lowest-altitude freshwater lake.

The melody is from a Ukrainian folk song “Тече річка” “The River Flows”, which you can listen to here:

The most common version of the Yiddish verse involves a cat. However the one we present this week tells of a goat that eats up the skhakh, the sukkah covering (a sukkah or suke is the temporary structure that Jews build for the Sukkot holiday); so we felt this was an appropriate post during the current holiday of Sukkot.

Photo courtesy the Treehugger Blog

A thorough look at the origins and development of the Hebrew song including the Yiddish variants (but not this one) can be found at David Assaf’s Hebrew “Oneg Shabat” blog.

A recording of the song with the more common Yiddish verse about a kitten can be heard in the collection of recordings made by ethnomusicologists Sofia Magid and Moshe Beregovski, Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin. In that recording, singer Rakhmil Grin (1910 – 1943)  sings it for Beregovski in 1941, probably in Kiev (listen below).

Inge Mandos, a Yiddish singer from Hamburg, released a CD entitled Waks  (וואַקס, 2005) in which she re-imagines old Yiddish field recordings and includes Grin’s recording of “Bay mayn rebn iz geven a ketsle”

The Yiddish words and music to Grin’s version (the more popular version) can also be found in Undzer gezang (Bina Steinberg, ed. 1984), and are attached.

This is the first of a number of Yiddish songs that BSG recorded at the Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home in the Bronx. She was asked to edit a monthly Yiddish journal comprised of memoirs and folklore that she recorded from the elderly Jews living there. Unfortunately on the original cassette recording of this song the name of the singer was not mentioned. His Hebrew words do not match up entirely with the usual lyrics, and he makes a grammatical mistake. 

Thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski.

TRANSLITERATION (Daughters of Jacob version)

Hayta alma bakineret
asher bigalil.
Kol hayom hayta shira [!]
lanu mishirey galil.
Kol hayom hayta shira [!]
Shir akheyr hi lo yada..
hey!

Bay dem rebn hot di tsig
far hinger ofgegesn dem skhakh.
Hot di rebetsin mit der kotshere
ir gemakht di zakh. 
Tse keyver yisrul hot men zi gebrakht 
in an ofshrift hot men ir gemakht, hey…

Hayta alma….

TRANSLATION (Daughters of Jacob version)

There was a young lady at the Kinneret
that was in the Galilee.
She used to sing for us of
the songs of the Galilee.
A whole day she would sing –
no other song did she know. Hey!..

At the Rabbi’s house the goat
got hungry and ate up the skakh.
So the Rabbi’s wife with a poker
put an end to her. 
[literally: did the thing to her]
They gave her a Jewish burial
with an inscription, hey!

There was a young lady…

TRANSCRIPTION (Daughters of Jacob Version)

הָיְתָה עַלְמָה בַּכִּנֶּרֶת
,אֲשֶׁר בְּגָּלִיל
!כָּל הַיּוֹם הָיְתָה שִׁירָה
,לָנוּ מִשִּׁירֵי גָּלִיל
!כָּל הַיּוֹם הָיְתָה שִׁירָה
שִׁיר אַחֵר הִיא לֹא יָדְעָה
!היי

בײַ דעם רבין האָט די ציג
.פֿאַר הונגער אויפֿגעגעסן דעם סכך
האָט די רביצין מיט דער קאָטשערע
.איר געמאַכט די זאַך
צו קבֿר־ישׂראל האָט מען זי געבראַכט
.און אַן אויפֿשריפֿט האָט מען איר געמאַכט

…הָיְתָה עַלְמָה בַּכִּנֶּרֶת

 “Bay mayn rebn iz geven a ketsle” from Undzer gezang (Bina Steinberg, ed. 1984):

“Di farfirte” Performed by Leo Summergrad

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Di farfirte / The Woman Who was Led Astray
Words and (music?) by Morris Rosenfeld
Sung and recorded by Leo Summergrad

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This poem appears in the first volume of Morris Rosenfeld’s  (1862 – 1923)  poetry. Leo Summergrad learned it from his mother and I have only found one reference to the song: a query in Chana and Yosl Mlotek’s Forverts column “Leyner dermonen zikh lider”. But the two compilers had never heard of the song.

photo (1)Leo Summergrad’s mother, Minnie, and father, Abram Summergrad, on the right side. His in-laws Moishe and Esther Korduner are on the left.

Rosenfeld’s original poem is composed of three 14-line stanzas and we have printed it this way, though in Summerfeld’s handwritten transcription, which we attached, he has divided it into the more common 4 line stanzas. We are also attaching the printed version from Volume I of Rosenfeld’s collected works.

Though we are not sure who composed the music, we do know that Rosenfeld composed melodies to his poetry and sang them at readings.

Thanks to Leo Summergrad for contributing this recording.

1
Gedenkstu vi du host mir libe geshvorn,
gegrint hot der eplboym tsvishn di korn.
Der foygl hot ruik geblikt fun di tsvaygn
un ales arum iz gelegn in shvaygn.
O, ver hot es damolst gevust dayn kavone.
Geshtumt hobn himl un erd un levone.
Ven du host geshvorn far mir mit a fayer,
az eybik farblaybstu mayn eyntsik getrayer.
Du hot mikh farkisheft, du host mikh batrunken.
Ikh bin vi batoybt in dayn orems gezunken.
O, dan iz dayn umreyner vuntsh dir gelungen.
Du host in mayn heyliktum frekh ayngedrungen.
Mayn ere geroybt un mayn lebn tserisn.
Mikh biter baleydikt un endlikh farshmisn.

Do you remember, you swore your love for me.
The apple tree was greening among the rye.
The bird calmly watched us from the branches
and everything around us lay in silence.
O, who could then have known your intention.
Silent were heaven and earth and the moon,
when you swore to me with a fire,
that eternally you would remain my one true one.
You cast a spell on me; you intoxicated me.
I was as if deaf when i lay in your arms.
O, then you succeeded with your filthy desire;
into my sacred shrine you insolently penetrated.
You robbed me of my honor and tore my life apart.
Insulted me bitterly and finally whipped me.

2
Bin orm un elnt vos darfstu zikh shtern?
Fleg ikh bay dir shtendik zikh betn mit trern.
Un du bist dokh raykh un gebildet un eydl.
Gey zukh dir a shenere, raykhere meydl.
O, zol mir der fayer fun elnt farbrenen,
fleg ikh tsu dir zogn du darfst mikh nit kenen.
Farges on mayn sheynkeyt, ikh darf nit keyn gvires.
O loz mikh in armut, ikh zukh keyn ashires.
Gedenkstu di nakht ven mir zaynen gegangen
der mond iz vi zilber in himl gehangen.
Fun goldene shtern bakranst undzer svive
vos hobn geshmeykhlt vi kinder nayive.
Gedenkstu yene nakht? O, du darfst ir gedenken.
Ikh shenk es dir, Got zol in himl dir shenken.

I am poor and alone, why bother yourself.
I had always with tears pleaded with you.
Yet you are wealthy, educated and gentle.
Go find yourself a prettier, richer girl.
O, let the fire of loneliness burn me up,
I used to say to you, you should not know me.
Forget about my beauty; I need no valor.
Leave me poor, I do not search for riches.
Do you remember the night when we walked;
the moon was like silver hanging in the sky.
Golden stars crowned our surroundings
and smiled like naive children.
Do you remember that night? O, you should remember it.
I give it to you as a gift; God should give you it as a gift in heaven.

3
Ikh hob zikh bay dir mit rakhmones gebetn.
O, rays mikh nit oys vest mikh shpeter tsetretn.
O, loz mikh! ikh vel mir tsvishn di mashinen
an erlekhn man, a gelibtn gefinen.
A shapmeydl bin ikh, vos hob ikh tsu klaybn.
Bin orem geborn, vel orem farblaybn.
Dokh, du host mit zise un kuntsike verter
geshvorn az du nor muzst zayn mayn basherter.
Tsu sheyn bin ikh, hostu gezogt, tsu farvyanen
far mir iz a beseres lebn faranen.
Gedenkstu di nakht tsi iz lang shoyn fargangen
der vint hot koym vos geshoklt di zangen.
Arum di natur hot gekukt un geshvign
o, ver hot gerekhnt du zolst mikh batribn.

With compassion I pleaded with you.
O, don’t tear me out; stomp on me later.
O, leave me, so that among the machines
I will find an honest man, a lover.
I’m a shopgirl, what is my choice –
I am poor and will remain poor.
Still, with sweet and artful words
you swore that you must be my destined one.
Too beautiful am I, you said, to every wilt.
For me there is a better life awaiting.
Do you remember the night or is it far in the past?
The wind barely moved the stalks.
The nature around watched and was silent.
O who would have thought you would sadden me so.

4
Atsind zogstu vilstu mikh mer nit bagegenen
ikh hob derkegn, ikh kum zikh gezegenen.
Ikh veys az du gist zikh an anderer iber.
Nu, vintsh ikh dir, mazel-tov, mazl mayn liber.
Du bist keyn bal-khayim, dayn shem iz genezn
Di shuld zi iz mayne, yo, mayne gevezn.
Ikh hob nit gegloybt az du vest mikh baroybn
Ikh hob nit gevust nokh dem umglik fun gloybn.
Ikh hob nokh di mentshn genoy nit bagrifn.
Ikh hob nit gevust az di tsung iz geshifn.
Neyn, du bist nit shuldik; Ikh kum dir fartsayen
Ikh vil dikh farlozn, ikh vil dikh bafrayen.
Vi kum ikh, an oysvorf, in elnt geshlosn
farlangen mayn maysters a zun far a khosn?

Now you say you no longer want to see me.
I, to the contrary, come to bid farewell.
I know that you now love another:
so I wish you good luck and good fortune my love.
You are a living creature, your name will recover.
Guilty am I, yes I was the guilty one.
I did not believe that you would rob me.
I did not know of the tragedy in believing.
I did not know that the tongue is sharpened.
No, you are not guilty; I come to ask your pardon.
I want to leave you; I want to liberate you.
How could I, an outcast, trapped in loneliness,
ask my boss’s son to be my groom?
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