Archive for Yiskhok-Yoel Linetski

“Der shpigl mitn zeyger” Performed by Avi Fuhrman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2019 by yiddishsong

Der shpigl mitn  zeyger / The Mirror and the Clock
Sung by Avi Fuhrman
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, at Circle Lodge Camp, NY, Summer 1984.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

The text to this song was written by the classic 19th century Yiddish writer and satirist Yoel Linetski (1839 -1915) and can be found in his poetry collection Der beyzer marshelik (The Cruel Jester), 1869. The original has 12 verses, a dialogue between a mirror and a clock (scans are attached). Fuhrman remembers only one verse plus the “tra-la-la” refrain but thanks to him, as far as I know, we now have the melody.

Title page of Linetski’s Der beyzer marshelik (1869)

We have previously posted another of Linetski’s songs “Di mode”.  Yet another of his songs “Dos redele iz di gore velt” can be heard on Ruth Rubin’s fieldwork album Jewish Life: The Old Country (Smithsonian Folkways) and more recently on Jake Shulman-Ment’s recording A redele (Oriente Musik, 2015) sung by Benjy Fox-Rosen.

The text to the song (nine verses) also appears in the Yiddish song collection Der badkhn (“The Wedding Jester”, Warsaw, 1929) by Eliezer Bergman and we have attached those scanned pages. The version there is closer to Fuhrman’s and like his, and unlike the original, begins with the mirror speaking, not the clock.

The dialogue centers on the vain snobbishness of the mirror; an object that at that time was found in only the homes of wealthy families, as opposed to the clock who served all classes.

Avi (Avrom) Fuhrman was born in Chernovitz, then Romania, in 1922.  He says that all of his songs were learned from his father who often sang. Fuhrman was active in Yiddish theater in Chernovitz from a very young age.


Both parents had tailoring workshops where singing was often heard. Fuhrman was a fine singer at a young age and was a soloist with Cantor Pinye Spector (Pinye Khazn) of the Boyaner Hasidim in Chernovitz.  He attended an ORT school.  During the war he was in Baku in Azerbaijan and participated in the Yiddish theater there , particularly in the “Kharkover Ensemble”. He returned to Romania, then Poland then Salzburg, Austria.  He and his wife and in-laws were on an (illegal) aliya to Israel but the path forced them to hike over a mountain and his in-laws could not manage it so they eventually came to the US in 1951.

The last line of this verse is a pun since “shpiglen zikh” can mean both “to see oneself in the mirror” as well as “delight in”


Batrakht nor dayn vert di narisher zeyger
Mit deym khitrerer mine firsti deym shteyger.
Di shrayst un du klopst un beyts dikh bay laytn.
Me varft dikh, me shmitst dikh in ale zaytn.
Vi shteyt mir gur un tsi reydn mit dir?
Aza nogid vi ikh bin, az me shpiglt zikh in mir.


Consider your worth you foolish clock,
With a sleazy face you lead your way of life.
You yell and you beat and plead with people.
You get thrown, beaten in all sides.
It’s beneath my dignity to talk to you.
Such a wealthy one as I whom all delight in me.


From Yoel Linetski’s Der beyzer marshelik, 1869:




“Di mode” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

I never thought I would thank Google Books in this blog, but the website has opened up tremendous possibilities for the Yiddish folksong researcher. In addition to having access to song collections, one can type in a search word in Yiddish and find it in dozens or hundreds of works. The Harvard Library and its unique Leo Wiener Collection, which is full of 19th century Yiddish folk literature, is being made available on the site.

And so I was able to look at Yitskhok-Yoel Linetski‘s work Der beyzer marshelik (1869) for the first time in its entirety. One of the poems is called „Di mode‟ (“Fashion;” “modehas two syllables) and I immediately identified it as the source of a song my grandmother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] sang called „Di mode.” 

Linetski (1839 – 1915) was one of the earliest maskilic (“enlightened”) Yiddish writers, and his novel Dos Poylishe yingl (1868) later called “Dos khsidishe yingl‟ was the first bestseller of modern Yiddish literature.

Yitskhok-Yoel Linetski

Linetski’s life story was amazing. He was raised in a strict Hasidic home in Vinnitsa, and when he was suspected of reading “forbidden” literature, he was married off at age fourteen to a twelve-year old girl. But then he convinced his young wife of his path, so they forced him to divorce her and marry a “deaf, half-idiotic woman” (see Zalmen Reizen‘s Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur). That didn‘t work either and when they tried to throw him into the river, he escaped to Odessa.

To analyze how Linetski‘s text was folklorized in LSW‘s version, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn in New York City, is a longer essay. But as an example, compare Linetski‘s original refrain:

Oy a ruekh in der mode a leyd.
Vos zi hot af der velt a nets farshpreyt!

Oh, the devil take the fashion, what a pain,
That spread a net over the world. 

with LSW‘s refrain:

Oy, nor di mode aleyn, nor di mode aleyn, 
 hot far undz umglik gebrengt.

Oh, only the fashion alone, only the fashion alone
has brought us misfortune. 

Only in the last refrain does she sing “the devil take the fashion,” which I believe works better dramatically. Usually the “folk process” improves the longer, wordy maskilic poetry.

Other songs that originate from the work Beyzer marshelik are Dos redl  performed by (Israel Srul) Freed on Ruth Rubin‘s field recording collection “Jewish Life: The Old Country” and recently recorded as the title track of klezmer violinist Jake Shulman-Ment‘s CD A Wheel/A redele, sung by Benjy Fox-Rosen. LSW also sang a version of Dos vigele with the opening line „Shlis shoyn mayn kind dayne oygn…‟ which will be posted on this blog at some point.

In LSW‘s performance of Di mode you get to hear her sing a more upbeat song, with a great melody. The traditional aspects of  LSW‘s singing (the ornamentaion in particular) are applied to a more modern song, and the synthesis works wonderfully.

This recording of Di mode can be found on the Global Village Music cassette recording “Az di furst avek: a Yiddish folksinger from the Bukovina” now available on iTunes.