Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oyfn pripetchik

I am heading away from the Bible blogging and back to another realm. The alphabet. A lot simpler. Here is a song I just had to share. Too beautiful. Think as you listen about the multiple meanings of the letters, hard to learn the alphabet, hard to learn Torah and hard to be part of the diaspora.

    In the Fireplace

    Oyfn pripetchik brent a fayerl

    In the fireplace burns a fire

    un in shtub is heys

    And the room is warm

    Un der rebe lernt kleyne kinderlekh

    And the Rabbi teaches little children

    Dem alef-beyz.

    The aleph-beis.

    Zet zhe kinderlekh,

    See you dear children,

    Gedenkt zhe, tayere, vos ir lernt do,

    Remember dearest ones, what you're learning here

    Zogt zhe nokh a mol un take nokh a mol:

    Say it once again, and yet still once again,

    "Komets-alef: o!"

    "Komets-alef: o!"

    Az ir vet, kiderlech, elter vern,

    Oh dear children, when you are older,

    vet ir aleyn farshteyn

    You will understand

    vie'fl in die oysiyos liegn trern

    How many tears in the letters lie

    un vie fiel geveyn.

    And how much weeping.
I was listening to this tonight when I realized that the words don't match after the first two verses, so these words should be better, but the second half is in Russian. (The first half is in Yiddish.) Check it out here.

Steve Herald gave us this literal translation of the last verse, "When you will, children, bear the exile (and) be worn down (by it), you should draw strength from these letters, look inside them."

He also added, "I think that last phrase (Kukt in zey arayn * look inside them) refers back to a line from the previous verse of the song: Vifil in di oysyes lign trern * how many tears lie in these letters (i.e., because of the torments of the diaspora). Also, 'oysyes' (letters) means the letters of the alphabet, but it also refers indirectly to the letters making up the words of the Torah, since the rabbi is teaching the children the alef-beys only so that they can study Torah.

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