What were they singing about?


Passover is coming! Time for matzoh-balls, seder and beautiful songs! On the eve of the Pesach, I’ve remembered the only Jewish Passover song that I’ve heard in my atheistic childhood in the Soviet Union — “Passover Medley” by legendary Claire and Merna Barry.

“The Passover Medley” was recorded by the Barry Sisters in 1962 and featured at their album “Shalom”, released by The Roulette in 1962.
The cong was composed by Moshe Oysher, performed with orchestra, arranged and conducted by Joe Reisman.

In fact, this funny and catchy song is a medley, that consists of at least 3 traditional songs performed by religious Jews during Pesach celebration.

The first one is “Dayenu”

The word “Dayenu” means approximately “it would have been enough for us”, “it would have been sufficient”, or “it would have sufficed”. This traditional Passover song is over one thousand years old. The earliest full text of the song occurs in the first medieval Haggadah. The song is about being grateful to God for all of the gifts he gave the Jewish people, such as taking them out of slavery, giving them the Torah and Shabbat, and had God only given one of the gifts, it would have still been enough.

The Haggadah is a book that Jews read on the first night of Passover. It tells about our slavery in Egypt and the miracles G-d did for us when freeing us. The word Haggadah means “telling,”

The song appears in the Haggadah after the telling of the story of the exodus and just before the explanation of Passover and matzah.

The second one is

“Chad Gadya”

Chad Gadya, ‘One little Goat’, is one of the best known songs of the Seder and is sung after the meal towards the end of the evening. Its earliest known inclusion is in the Sefer Rokeach was about 1160–1238. The song’s canonical text is almost entirely in Aramaic, but in the Barry Sisters’ interpretation “Chad Gadya” sounds in Yiddish.

What were they singing here about? Actually it’s a story that tells how one father bought a little goat, which is eaten by a cat, which is bitten by a dog, which is hit by a stick and so on. At first the song seems to be a child’s story but has traditionally been interpreted in an allegorical way, each of the verses connecting the song to one of the themes of Pesach and referring to the many persecutions of the Jews who, according to the song’s optimistic ending, will be redeemed by the one true God ‘slaying the Angel of Death’.

In Yiddish slang, the term “chad gadya” is a euphemism for jail. A prisoner is said to languish in a chad gadya — that is, all alone.

The third part of the medley is

“Ki Lo Na’eh, Ki Lo Ya’eh”

“Ki Lo Na’eh, Ki Lo Ya’eh” dates from the 15th century and is one of the later constituents of the Haggadah. It is constructed in eight stanzas, and it’s meaning is “For it fits and befits him…”

Words na’eh and ya’eh are near synonims, both meaning "befitting, appropriate, proper"

And now, “lomir zingen tsuzamen” — “let’s sing together!” (Yiddish).

A Koshern Pesach!!!

Passover Medley (Dayenu / Chad Gadya / Ki lo Na’eh)

Dа-da-eynu, Dа-da-eynu
Dа-da-eynu, Dа-eynu, Da-eynu, Da-eynu …
Hert a maise s’iz gesheyn take ba mayn tatn
Iz a tsygeleh geven, hert a maise-matn
Kumt a ketsl, s’iz nit foil,
Hapt dos tsigeleh in moyl —
Khad gadyo, Khad gadyo, Khad gadyo!
Ikh gedenk fun vigele
S’nign funem tsigele —
Khad gadyo, Khad gadyo, Khad gadyo!
Ki loy noe, ki loy yoe, ki loy noe, keyser melukho
Ki loy noe, ki loy yoe, ki loy noe, keyser melukho
Khevre, khevre, khevre, bo nirkod yakhad,
Venashira, venashira, venismakha, venismakha,
Anu anu bney Tsiyon, Am Yisroel Khay.
Ki loy noe, ki loy yoe, ki loy noe, keyser melukho
Ki loy noe, ki loy yoe, ki loy noe, keyser melukho
Dum-durum-dum-dum-dum-dum, mardem mardem maidem liram…

Illustrations: Dan Almagor, “Chad Gadya” (1957); El Lissitzky “The tale of the goat” (1919); “Jewish family around seder table”, print, Netherlands, XVIII century.

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