Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thoughts of Yehoram Gaon and Passover

Every Pesach I like to listen to an album by Yehoram Gaon that I think is one of his best, Canticos Del Pesah, which is an album of songs for Passover in Ladino, which is a Jewish dialect of Spanish. My grandmother told us that her family was descended from Spanish Jews who ended up in Germany. Aside from some Spanish Jewish names on the family tree, there was not anything left of Spanish Jewish customs or even German Jewish customs.

With knowledge of my ancestry comes a curiousity, a sense of connectedness to the world. Sometimes I wonder if the choices of siblings to stay or depart from Spain might not have influenced the destiny of generations to follow. This in turn invests my decisions of today with a gravity they might not otherwise assume.

I always make a mental connection between Passover and overcoming personal limitations and obstacles. Reconnecting to the Jewish people through conversion is a theme that resonates in its own way around Pesach.

Yehoram Gaon sings a number of Ladino songs as a part of his repertoire. He was very popular in the 1960's and 70's in Israel. One of my favourite songs of his is the Ladino version of Chad Gadya, a cummulative song that seems to be a simple children's song but is really an allegorical treatment of Jewish history.
I am including the lyrics with transliteration and translation, compliments of Wikipedia. I am also including Yehoram Gaon's Ladino version at the end of this post

English
ONE LITTLE GOAT
Transliteration
Chad Gadya
Hebrew
חַד גַּדְיָא
Verse 1:
1 One little goat, one little goat: Chad gadya, chad gadya, חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא
2 Which my father bought for two zuzim. dizabin abah bitrei zuzei. דְּזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי
Verse 2:
3 One little goat, one little goat: Chad gadya, chad gadya, חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא
3 The cat came, and ate the goat, ve-ata shunra ve-akhlah le-gadya וְאָתָא שׁוּנְרָא, וְאָכְלָה לְגַּדְיָא
4 Which my father bought for two zuzim. dizabin abba bitrei zuzei. דְּזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי
Verse 3:
3 One little goat, one little goat: Chad gadya, chad gadya, חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא
3 The dog came, and bit the cat, that ate the goat, ve-ata kalba ve-nashakh le-shunra, de-akhlah le-gadya וְאָתָא כַלְבָּא ,וְנָשַׁךְ לְשׁוּנְרָא, דְּאָכְלָה לְגַּדְיָא
4 Which my father bought for two zuzim. dizabin abba bitrei zuzei. דְּזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי
Verse 4:
5 One little goat, one little goat: Chad gadya, chad gadya, חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא
6 The stick came, and beat the dog, ve-ata chutra, ve-hikkah le-khalba וְאָתָא חוּטְרָא, וְהִכָּה לְכַלְבָּא
7 that bit the cat, that ate the goat, de-nashakh le-shunra, de-akhlah le-gadya דְּנָשַׁךְ לְשׁוּנְרָא, דְּאָכְלָה לְגַּדְיָא
8 Which my father bought for two zuzim. dizabin abba bitrei zuzei. דְּזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי
Verse 5:
9 One little goat, one little goat: Chad gadya, chad gadya, חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא
10 The fire came, and burned the stick, ve-ata nura, ve-saraf le-chutra וְאָתָא נוּרָא, וְשָׂרַף לְחוּטְרָא
11 that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, de-hikkah le-khalba, de-nashakh le-shunra, de-akhlah le-gadya דְּהִכָּה לְכַלְבָּא ,דְּנָשַׁךְ לְשׁוּנְרָא, דְּאָכְלָה לְגַּדְיָא
12 Which my father bought for two zuzim. dizabin abba bitrei zuzei. דְּזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי
Verse 6:
13 One little goat, one little goat: Chad gadya, chad gadya, חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא
14 The water came, and extinguished the fire, ve-ata maya, ve-khavah le-nura וְאָתָא מַיָּא, וְכָבָה לְנוּרָא
15 that burned the stick, that beat the dog, de-saraf le-chutra, de-hikkah le-khalba דְּשָׂרַף לְחוּטְרָא ,דְּהִכָּה לְכַלְבָּא
15 that bit the cat, that ate the goat, de-nashakh le-shunra, de-akhlah le-gadya דְּנָשַׁךְ לְשׁוּנְרָא, דְּאָכְלָה לְגַּדְיָא
16 Which my father bought for two zuzim. dizabin abba bitrei zuzei. דְּזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי
Verse 7:
17 One little goat, one little goat: Chad gadya, chad gadya, חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא
18 The ox came, and drank the water, ve-ata tora, ve-shatah le-maya וְאָתָא תוֹרָא, וְשָׁתָה לְמַיָּא
19 that extinguished the fire, that burned the stick, de-khavah le-nura, de-saraf le-chutra דְּכָבָה לְנוּרָא ,דְּשָׂרַף לְחוּטְרָא
20 that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, de-hikkah le-khalba, de-nashakh le-shunra, de-akhlah le-gadya ּ דהִכָּה לְכַלְבָּא, דְּנָשַׁךְ לְשׁוּנְרָא, דְּאָכְלָה לְגַּדְיָא
21 Which my father bought for two zuzim. dizabin abba bitrei zuzei. דְּזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי
Verse 8:
22 One little goat, one little goat: Chad gadya, chad gadya, חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא
23 The slaughterer came, and killed the ox, ve-ata ha-shochet, ve-shachat le-tora וְאָתָא הַשּׁוֹחֵט, וְשָׁחַט לְתוֹרָא
24 that drank the water, that extinguished the fire, de-shatah le-maya, de-khavah le-nura דְּשָׁתָה לְמַיָּא ,דְּכָבָה לְנוּרָא
25 that burned the stick, that beat the dog, de-saraf le-chutra, de-hikkah le-khalba דְּשָׂרַף לְחוּטְרָא, דְּהִכָּה לְכַלְבָּא
26 that bit the cat, that ate the goat, de-nashakh le-shunra, de-akhlah le-gadya דְּנָשַׁךְ לְשׁוּנְרָא, דְּאָכְלָה לְגַּדְיָא
27 Which my father bought for two zuzim. dizabin abba bitrei zuzei. דְּזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי
Verse 9:
28 One little goat, one little goat: Chad gadya, chad gadya, חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא
29 The Angel of Death came, and slew the slaughterer, ve-ata mal'akh ha-mavet, ve-shachat le-shochet וְאָתָא מַלְאַךְ הַמָּוֶת, וְשָׁחַט לְשׁוֹחֵט
30 who killed the ox, that drank the water, de-shachat le-torah, de-shatah le-maya דְּשָׁחַט לְתוֹרָא,דְּשָׁתָה לְמַיָּא
31 that extinguished the fire, that burned the stick, de-khavah le-maya, de-saraf le-chutra דְּכָבָה לְנוּרָא, דְּשָׂרַף לְחוּטְרָא
32 that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, de hikkah le-khalba, de-nashakh le-shunra, de-akhlah le-gadya דְּהִכָּה לְכַלְבָּא, דְּנָשַׁךְ לְשׁוּנְרָא, דְּאָכְלָה לְגַּדְיָא
33 Which my father bought for two zuzim. dizabin abba bitrei zuzei. דְּזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי
Verse 10:
34 One little goat, one little goat: Chad gadya, chad gadya, חַד גַּדְיָא, חַד גַּדְיָא
35 Then came the Holy One, Blessed be He, ve-ata ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu וְאָתָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא
36 and smote the Angel of Death, who slew the slaughterer, ve-shachat le-mal'akh ha-mavet, de-shachat le-shochet וְשָׁחַט לְמַלְאַךְ הַמָּוֶת ,דְּשָׁחַט לְשׁוֹחֵט
37 who killed the ox, that drank the water, de-shachat le-tora, de-shatah le-maya דְּשָׁחַט לְתוֹרָא, דְּשָׁתָה לְמַיָּא
38 that extinguished the fire, that burned the stick, de-khavah le-nura, de-saraf le-chutra דְּכָבָה לְנוּרָא, דְּשָׂרַף לְחוּטְרָא
39 that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, de-hikkah le-khalba, de-nashakh le-shunra, de-akhlah le-gadya דְּהִכָּה לְכַלְבָּא ,דְּנָשַׁךְ לְשׁוּנְרָא, דְּאָכְלָה לְגַּדְיָא
40 Which my father bought for two zuzim. dizabin abba bitrei zuzei. דְּזַבִּין אַבָּא בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי
Verse 11:
41 One little goat, one little goat. Chad gadya, chad gadya,

Even though Yehoram Gaon is usually classified as a secular entertainer, he has been very helpful to me in strengthening my connection to Jewish tradition. I find that as an American Jew looking at Israel, I draw the borders between secular and religious in my own way. At our Shabbos and Yom Tov table we sometimes sing a mix of Sefaradi and Ashkenazi melodies. This is not so much an expression of ethnic identity as it is perhaps a reaction to the world becoming smaller. I hope my readers will enjoy the song with this posting by Yehoram Gaon and check out some of his other music




















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