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Der sholem zokher 04:28
 

Liner Notes

Der sholem-zokher (1973), adapted from a 1937 choral piece to the same text, is another narrative scena that is full of Hassidic song and dance figures and idioms. The dramatic contrasts and the sense of continuity suggest an operatic impulse.


Editor's note by Neil W. Levin:

The full title of Itzik Manger’s poem is “Avrom ovinu pravet a sholem-zokher” (Abraham Our Patriarch Hosts a sholem-zokher). It is part of Manger’s larger cycle of poetry, Khumesh lider (Songs of the Pentateuch; 1935), in which biblical accounts are recast within 19th-century settings of typical eastern European villages and shtetlekh (market towns), and in which patriarchal and other biblical personalities are portrayed as contemporary Jews—with the sensibilities, concerns, superstitions, and failings of Jewish inhabitants of those towns. A sholem-zokher (lit., welcoming a son) is a home ceremony and celebration for friends and relatives that is held on the first Friday night following the birth of a son. In some traditions the event is also called y’shu’at ha’ben (redemption of a son) or sh’vu’at ha’ben or a ben zokher. In Sephardi ritual, this ceremony includes additional prayers and readings in honor of the prophet Elijah—the symbolic patron of the child at his circumcision. This poem recounts the birth of Isaac in the context of a 19th-century Hassidic-oriented sholem-zokher hosted by his father, Abraham, while Sarah, having just given birth, is still in the lying-in chamber. The three angels of the biblical story—here recast as three “Turks,” or disciples (hassidim) of the so-called Turkisher Rebbe—visit and remind Abraham of Sarah’s laughter in disbelief at their announcement a year earlier that she would bear a child in her old age. The poem contains references to certain customs, folkways, and superstitions then common among many nonurbanized religious Jews living in a world that was still barely affected by modernity—even after the dawn of the 20th century. The shir hamaylesn were amulets, or charms, that customarily were hung on the doors of a newborn’s home in order to protect the child from the evil demon Lilith, as well as from other perceived evil spirits. Those amulets contained words from Psalm 121 (one of the fifteen Psalms that begin with the words shir hama’a lot) and various kabbalistic quotations. Other amulets, k’mi’ot, could be worn during pregnancy to ward off miscarriage. Still others were placed above the head and under the pillow of a woman in labor. Chickpeas (bob) are customarily served in connection with birth celebrations in many Jewish traditions—perhaps because their round shape is perceived as symbolizing the recurring life cycle. The shtrayml is a distinct fur hat worn by certain Hassidim. The “ten Jews” singing and dancing probably refers to the custom in some circles then of a vigil kept by a minyan (prayer quorum of ten) until the day of circumcision.

By: Yehudi Wyner

 

Lyrics

Poet: Itzik Manger

The birth amulets shine
Down from all the walls,
Ten Jews in sable shtraymlakh
Clap their hands.

“Ay bim-bam, bim-bam, father,
Ay dai-dam, dai-dam, dai...” 
They are singing the holy nign [melody] 
Of the Turkish rebbe.

They eat boiled chickpeas, 
Their beards dipped in beer. 
“Reb Avrom, wonder of wonders,
A miracle, a miracle happened.”

Abraham our Patriarch smiles
Into his gray beard. 
He hears little Isaac whimper 
Under the sheets.

For a moment he shuts his eyes
And sees the three Turks coming,
Holding on to the thread 
Of the child’s cry.

Here, they brush off the dust
From their clothes and shoes, 
And here, they kiss the mezuza 
And quickly say:

Mazl tov, Reb Avrom.
You surely remember the night
When your wife, Sarah,
Laughed at us.”

And before Avrom can say: 
“Welcome, dear guests! 
Sit down at the table
And drink and sing and eat”—

The Turks lift their coats 
And are gone in no time— 
Avrom opens his eyes: 
“Where are the visitors?”

“God is with you, Reb Avrom!
Ay dai-dam, dai-dam, dai,
Better sing with us the song
Of the Turkish rebbe.”

Ten Jews in sable shtraymlakh
Clap their hands. 
The birth amulets shine 
Down from all the walls.

Poet: Itzik Manger

di shir-hamaylesn laykhtn
arop fun ale vent,
tsen yidn in soyblene shtraymlekh
pliesken mit di hent.

“ay bim-bam, bim-bam, tate,
ay day-dam, day-dam, day...”
zey zingen dem heylikn nign 
fun dem rebn fun terkay.

zey esn gezotenem arbes 
un tunken in bir di berd,
“reb avrom, pile-ploim, 
a nes, a nes iz bashert.”

avrom ovinu shmeykhlt 
arayn in der groyer bord.
er hert vi yitzkhokl pishtshet 
hinter dem laylkhl dort.

er farmakht a rege di oygn 
un zet: di dray terkn geyen, 
zey haltn zikh on di fedem 
fun dem kinds geveyn.

ot treyslen zey op di shtoybn
fun di kleyder un di shikh, 
un ot kushn zey di mezuze
un zogn op af gikh:

“mazl tov reb avrom,
ir gedenkt mistome di nakht, 
ven ayer ployneste, sore,
hot fun undz gelakht.”

un nokh eyder avrom zogt zey:
“vilkomen, libe gest! 
zetst aykh tsum tish anider 
un trinkt un zingt un est”—

farheybn di terkn di poles
un zenen oys di tsayt— 
avrom efnt di oygn: 
“vu zenen di fremde layt?”

“got iz mit aykh, reb avrom! 
ay day-dam, day-dam, day, 
zingt beser mit undz dem zemer 
fun dem rebn fun terkay.”

tsen yidn in soyblene shtraymlekh
pliesken mit di hent, 
di shir-hamaylesn laykhtn
arop fun ale vent.


 

Credits

Composer: Lazar Weiner

Length: 04:28
Genre: Art Song

Performers: Raphael Frieder, Baritone;  Yehudi Wyner, Piano

Date Recorded: 12/01/2001
Venue: Lefrak Concert Hall/Colden Center for the Arts (E), Flushing, New York
Engineer: Lazarus, Tom
Assistant Engineer: Martyn, Tim

Additional Credits:

Translations and Transliterations: Eliyahu Mishulovin
Preliminary preparations by Adam J. Levitin

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