Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Gots vunder (Gottes wunder) - a Yiddish Passover song from Avrom Goldfadn's Melets Yoysher

UPDATE: reposting because Larry Gillig did me the favor of correcting my translation. And because Pesach is coming!

Gotes vunder doesn't properly belong here because, though its tune was used for two of the penny songs (here's one I recorded: Mayn vaybs vunder), it was not in the collection itself.

But it's almost Pesach and it's a Pesach song, so enjoy this beautiful 1919 recording shared with me by the Mayrent Collection at the University of Wisconsin, Marcus Eisenberg singing Gott's vunder for Victor records:

I went hunting for the lyrics and found them via Harvard's Hollis catalog. Afterwards Itzik Gottesman told me it can also be found as A mol hobn di yidelekh sheyn gelebt... in the Mloteks' "Pearls of Yiddish Poetry" (Perl fun der yidisher poezye).

Gottes wunder is the final song from the play Meylets yoysher, oder Rebe Yozelmann: a hisṭorishe opera fun di gzeyres̀ fun Elzas in 5 aḳṭen un 23 bilder by Abraham Goldfaden (1840-1908). Other spellings:  Rebe Yozelmann, Melits yosher, Rabbi Yoselman. Or, sadistically, on the fiddle part (which is all I could find online) it's spelled Malitz Josher. A מליץ־יושר is an advocate / defender / intercessor.

I didn't read the play itself, but you can if you like, it's on Google Books, you can even download it.

About the word ketsapikhis, Larry Gillig wrote:
It is a Biblical word used in the description of Mannah. Exodus 16:31
וַיִּקְרְאוּ בֵית-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, מָן; וְהוּא, כְּזֶרַע גַּד לָבָן, וְטַעְמוֹ, כְּצַפִּיחִת בִּדְבָשׁ
ke-tsa-pi-khis (bi-dvash) usually translated as "wafers (made with honey)". (rhymes with "mi-yi-khes" if you use the "poylish" pronunciation of mi-yu-khes)
In the old days when most Jews who spoke Yiddish would have either known or at least or remembered their kheder lessons, the phrase would have been immediately recognizable, as it would be today to a khasidisher yid.

Here's the whole translation (not just the two verses Eisenberg recorded) - if you want the rest of the Yiddish email me.

This is what I wrote for the first two lines:

Once the nation concerned itself with listening to the influential man,
The Hebrew who declared: there is one God.

Here is Larry Gillig's correction:

I think it says, A mol hot zikh di ume ongekert mit heydn di khaldayer... Once upon a time, the nation was related to the Chaldean pagans,

az es iz do eyn got hot er derklert, eyner a hebreyer - when "There is one God," he explained - (i.e.,) a certain Jew.

in other words we were idol-worshipers until Avrohom proclaimed the existence of the only God.

and now to continue...

And God spoke to him: Listen to Me, Abraham.
Look upon heaven and earth, this will be My store.
I'll make you great, from you will come a Godly folk
I'll take care of nature and you turn the books' pages.
To every generation I will show great wonders
If you'll just be my good, fine, faithful children.

Before He brought his children to him in Jerusalem
They spent four hundred years in Egypt.
People oppressed them very harshly there
Until God heard their laments,
And he sent unto them amazing plagues:
A beast that devoured, a pestilence, hail,
a dark Angel of Death,
Until Pharoah himself told them to leave
And even gave them traveling money.
Thus will I show you many great, powerful wonders
If you will just be good, fine, faithful children to me.

They wandered forty years in the hot wasteland
There was no trace of water, only sand and stones
Moses the illustrious drew water out of a stone for them
And from heaven they grabbed bread-like manna
Many birds came flying right to them
"Cut off our heads and cook us in the pot,
and enjoy it."
Thus will I show you many great, powerful wonders
If you will just be good, fine, faithful children to me.

They had barely left Egypt when Pharoah ran after them
He and his whole army found them by the sea
He wanted to finish them off, they would have been lost
But God whistled, and the frightened ocean congealed
And Pharoah's soldiers found their burial place in the sea
And since then our people have happily sung the song from the other side:
"Thus will I show you many great, powerful wonders
If you will just be good, fine, faithful children to me."

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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Blogger Dr.Zack Martin said...


June 22, 2016 at 7:01 AM  

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