According to the Israeli scholar Natan Shachar, the tune of Mi ze Hidlik (Who Has Kindled These [Lights]?) is ascribed to Shmuel Shapira, of Kibbutz Ein Harod in Israel, who is said to have modeled it on an earlier Polish Hassidic melody. Assuming that to be the case, the origin of the Hassidic tune has yet to be established. It might have been adopted, as so many Hassidic melodies were, from surrounding Polish or other Slavic secular songs; or it might have been an original composition stemming from a particular Hassidic rebbe or court.
The words are by Levin Kipnis (Ukraine, 1894–Tel Aviv, 1990), who wrote the lyrics of many of the most famous children’s holiday songs. Like other Hanukka songs with lyrics or music—or both—stemming from Jewish Palestine, the wide dissemination of Mi ze hidlik in America as a children’s song well before the establishment of the State of Israel is testimony to the Zionist-oriented Hebrew cultural influence in the United States that often flourished separately from the political cause of the Zionist movement. Outside specifically Zionist circles in the United States, few people if any were even aware of the origin or association of these songs as they sang them.
Elliot Z. Levine’s artistic treatment puts the song into the wide gray area between arrangement and composition.
Sung in Hebrew
Poem: Levin Kipnis
Who has lit these thin candles like stars from above?
The children themselves know that today is Hanukka.
Every happy candle, every dear candle, burns, hints, sparkles.
The children stand around and their joy is boundless.
Performers: The Western Wind
Translation: Gerald C. Skolnik
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