Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Na -Nach-Nachman-Me-Uman Notes on the greatest story-teller of all times, Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav --Lecture 4 on Chasidism

Na -Nach-Nachman-Me-Uman

Notes on the greatest story-teller of all times, Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav

Source notes from Wikipedia and other sites

For the recorded discussion, go to:https://youtu.be/2DRly7WHJ4U

Nachman of Breslov (Hebrew: נחמן מברסלב), also known as Reb Nachman of Bratslav, Reb Nachman Breslover (Yiddish: רבי נחמן ברעסלאווער‎), Nachman from Uman (April 4, 1772 – October 16, 1810), was the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.


Rebbe Nachman, a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, revived the Hasidic movement by combining the esoteric secrets of Judaism (the Kabbalah) with in-depth Torah scholarship. He attracted thousands of followers during his lifetime, and his influence continues today through many Hasidic movements such as Breslov Hasidism.[1] Rebbe Nachman's religious philosophy revolved around closeness to God and speaking to God in normal conversation "as you would with a best friend."

Also, the father of modern Yiddish and Hebrew literature-since he write his stories in both languages,before Sholem Aliechem and Peretz, before Mapua and Bialik, long before these had become modern literary languages.


Recommended reading:Arthur Green, The Tormented Master.

“If Hasidism begins in the life-enhancing spirituality of the Baal Shem Tov, it concludes in the tortuous, elitist and utterly fascinating career of Nahman of Bratslav (1722–1810).

            “Nahman of Bratslav is unique in the history of Judaism, Green emphasizes, for having made the individual’s quest for intimacy with God the center of the religious way. He was a Kierkegaard before his time, believing in the utter abandon of the life of faith and the risk of paradoxicality. . . . He was, more than all others, the predecessor of Kafka, whose tales, like Nahman’s, have no explicit key and rankle, flush and irritate the spirit, compelling us—even in our failure to understand—to acknowledge their potency and challenge.”—New York Times





Secluded meditation practices were encouraged by many medieval rabbis, such as Abraham Maimonides, Abraham Abulafia, Joseph Gikatilla, Moses de Leon, Moses Cordovero, Isaac Luria, and Chaim Vital.[2] The founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov, encouraged his close disciples to find deveikus through hisbodedus and by meditating on the kabbalistic unifications (yichudim) of Isaac Luria.[3]

 Rebbe Nachman taught that the best place for hitbodedut is in the forests or fields. "When a person meditates in the fields, all the grasses join in his prayer and increase its effectiveness and power," he wrote.[5]

Modern influence- the song of Naomi Shemer Shirat Ha-asavim:

Da lekha,
shekol ro'eih ve ro'eih
yeish lo nigun meyuchad mishelo.

Do know
that each and every shepherd
has his own tune.

Do know
that each and every grass
has its own poem.


Sung by Shuli Rand, popular Israeli actor-photos below show then and  then and now:


During a session of hitbodedut, the practitioner pours out his heart to God in his own language, describing all his thoughts, feelings, problems and frustrations.

"It is very good to pour out your thoughts before God like a child pleading before his father. God calls us His children, as it is written (Deuteronomy 14:1), "You are children to God." Therefore, it is good to express your thoughts and troubles to God like a child complaining and pestering his father."[9]

Hitbodedut also lends itself to certain silent meditation techniques. One is the "silent scream," which Rebbe Nachman himself practiced. He described the silent scream as follows:You can shout loudly in a "small still voice

 Munch, The Scream

A Breslaver in the woods( also Shukli Rand, Ushpizin)

 A contemporary psychological example of screaming for therapy.

The scream-1st 30 seconds: https://youtu.be/gSoMvDJyp0w



Another form of hitbodedut is called bitul (nullification), in which the practitioner meditates on God's presence to the exclusion of all other things, including himself. ( Unmindfulness?)

(Bitul hayesh- Nullification of the “in one’s self”. Yesh.( There is) This is an extension of concept found in early Jewish sources, of the nullification of one’s will in the presence of God’s will, also very common in mystic thought world-wide.) ( The opposite of Descartes, I think, therefore I am.)


Old joke: how many Breslavers does it take to change a light bulb- zero- the bulb can never be replaced.






Addressing psychological needs:

From Tablet Magazine:https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/reb-nachman-explains-it-all  Chaya Rivka Zwolinski


Because the Rebbe didn’t shy away from boldly addressing popular modern topics, from sex and drugs to music and food, navigating familial and societal pressures, depression and anxiety, meditation and prayer, and of course, spirituality, birth, and death, Breslov is often cited as the body of Hasidic thought most essential to our times.

The Rebbe also openly addresses other addictions and compulsions, everything from tobacco to self-destructive and de-humanizing sexual attitudes. He explains the power of the imagination and imagery and how they affect emotions and even reality, taking a close look at the potentially negative power of magical thinking. Depression, sadness, feeling that life is futile—Rebbe Nachman also offers insights into the tenor of our heads and hearts and advice on how to develop emotional fortitude in a world that often doesn’t make sense.


On Kafka and Rebbe Nachman Discovering Kafka and Rabbi Nachman

Dan FriedmanNovember 3, 2010 Forward


Why Kafka and Nachman of Bratslav? Interview

R.K. I was struck by two things. One, I was teaching a course on literature and Jewish mysticism at Louisiana State, and I was interested in the idea of considering mystical literature as literature. So “The Zohar” is once described as a romancero, a Spanish picaresque novel with rabbis roaming through the landscape. What happens if you start tracing a line through Jewish mystical literature, and you come to Rabbi Nachman, who’s actually in a certain way a literary figure — the inventor of the Yiddish tale (even though these tales are infused with Jewish mysticism)? Then you cross over the secular line; the next writer up in Kafka, who is clearly a literary writer but whose stories are full of theological content, as Gershom Scholem would say. And in fact, as Scholem indicates, if you want to understand Kabbalah in our time, you’d have to read Rabbi — You’d have to read Franz Kafka.

Which takes us to Kafka, who best summarized our contemporary life as a Cockroach.

Kafka as a Jew https://muse.jhu.edu/article/24490

·         Walter H. Sokel (bio)

 Jewishness and Judaism began to matter very much to him from 1911 on, when Kafka was twenty-eight. From that time on, he began to be intensely occupied with Jewish history, Jewish tradition, Jewish lore, and Jewish culture—an interest which was not only sustained but constantly grew until his death in 1924 at the age of forty. It is significant for his writing that Kafka’s turn to Judaism preceded by less than one year what he called his breakthrough to the work of his maturity, to the kind of writing that established his posthumous fame and for which the adjective kafkaesque has been coined. As I shall try to show, there exists a connection between the peculiar nature of Kafka’s mature writing and his discovery of what he considered to be authentic Judaism, which he regretted bitterly not having known until then.

The Yiddish theater group( c 1911-12) from . . .came to Kafka as a revelation and prepared him for the breakthrough in his writing.

That encounter affected both his life and his work. . . .. He immediately began to study the history of Judaism, read about and in the Talmud and later the Kabbalah; in fact, near the end of his life he called “this whole literature,” by which he meant mainly his own writings, “potentially a new . . . kabbalah,” “an assault on the frontier” (T 553). With a series of teachers he took up the consistent study of Hebrew. He subscribed to the Zionist journal, Selbstwehr or Self-Defense, and he published two of his stories in Der Jude (The Jew), a Zionist journal edited by Martin Buber. Although aloof from any political involvement [End Page 845] in Zionism, Kafka began to toy with the idea of emigrating to Palestine and working on a kibbutz.


On Going impact today:


Na Nach is the name of a subgroup of Breslover Hasidim that follows the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov according to the tradition of Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser (called the Saba, or grandfather, by Na Nachs). The Saba is believed to have received an inspirational note, called the Petek (note), from the long-deceased Rebbe Nachman.[citation needed] Devotees of the group, colloquially called Na Nachs, make themselves quite visible in the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias, and other Israeli cities as they dance atop and around moving vans to techno-Hasidic musical compositions, with the goal of spreading joy to passersby.[1][2][3]. They are identifiable by their large, white, crocheted yarmulkes bearing the name and song from the petek that Rabbi Odesser revealed: Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman.

https://youtu.be/gSoMvDJyp0w ( after 1st 30 seconds)


Our version of Hare Krishna


( A lot of Jews in oriental mysticism: Baba Ram Das( Richard Alpert). I first heard Hare Krishna from the poet Allen Ginsburg)



·         לעולם אל יהא אדם זקן. לא צדיק זקן ולא חסיד זקן. הזקנה מידה מגונה היא, חייב אדם להתחדש תמיד, מתחיל וחוזר ומתחיל

o    L'olam al yehe adam zaken, lo tzadik zaken v'lo hasid zaken. Hazikna mida meguna hi, hayav adam l'hithadesh tamid, mathil v'hozer u'mathil

o    One must never be old, neither an old saint nor an old follower. Being elderly is a vice; a man must always renew, begin and go back and begin anew 

·         'אין יאוש בעולם כלל

o    Ein ye'ush ba'olam klal.

o    There is no despair in the world.


o    “As the situation in the Warsaw Ghetto became more desperate for the Jews, Ringelblum’s archive still records the defiance of religious Jews in the face of Nazi terror. On February 19, 1941, the Oneg Shabbos records the following: In the prayer house of the Pietists from Braclow on Nowolipie Street there is a large sign: “Jews, Never Despair!” The Pietists dance there with the same religious fervor as they did before the war. After prayers one day, a Jew danced there whose daughter had died the day before.”

·         אם אתה מאמין שיכולים לקלקל, תאמין שיכולים לתקן

o    Im ata ma'amin sh'ykholim lekalkel, ta'amin sh'yecholim letaken.

o    If you believe breaking is possible, believe fixing is possible.

·         כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד, והעיקר - לא לפחד כלל.

o    Kol ha'olam kulo gesher tzar me'od, veha'ikar lo le'fached klal.

o    All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be overwhelmed by fear.

o    https://youtu.be/I6bAP1_zNL4 as sung today in Krakow


o    זכור תמיד: השמחה איננה עניין שולי במסעך הרוחני – היא חיונית

o    Z'khor tamid: ha'simha einena 'inyan shuli b'masa'akh ha'ruhani - hi hyunit.

o    Always remember: happiness is not a side matter in your spiritual journey - it is essential.

·         היום אתה חש מרומם. אל תתן לימות האתמול והמחר להשפיל את רוחך

o    Hayom ata hash m'romam. Al titen l'ymot ha'etmol v'hamahar lehashpil at ruhekha.

o    Today you feel uplifted. Do not let yesterday and tomorrow bring you down.

·         נהוג לחשוב שהשכחה הינה חסרון. אני סבור שהיא יתרון. לדעת לשכוח, פירושו להשתחרר מכל תלאות העבר

o    Nahug lahshov sh'hashikh'ha hina hisaron. Ani savur sh'hi yitaron. Lada'at lishko'ah, peyrusho le'hishtahrer m'kol tla'ot ha'avar.

o    It is customary to consider forgetfulness a disadvantage. I believe it is an advantage. Knowing to forget, means loosening the troubles of the past.


·         אני יכול עכשיו לומר כל חכמי ישראל דומין עלי כקליפת השום. - 

o    I can now say: All the sages of Israel are in my estimation like a garlic peel.





It is a great mitzvah to always be happy. (LM2 34)

Mitzvah gedoylah lihyios besimchah tamid.




It is even good to do silly things in order to cheer oneself up. (ibid)


https://youtu.be/3LfNEPIa27k Here how the Breslavers keep happy in the streets-


When a person has a yearning for something and he brings it out into words, a soul is created. This soul flies in the air and reaches another person thereby awakening in him too a yearning. (Ibid)

Behold! Precious is the sigh (called ‘krechtz’) from a Jewish person (LM 8)



You need to have great stubbornness in the service of Hashem (ibid)

This is a great principal in Avodas Hashem – That a person has to begin everyday anew. (LM 261)

When a person falls from his level he should know that it’s heaven-sent, because going down is needed in order to go up, therefore he fell, in order that he arouses himself more to come close to Hashem. Advice for him - Begin anew to enter into service of Hashem as if you have never yet even begun (Ibid)

It is a great thing for a person to still have an evil inclination because then he is able to serve Hashem with the evil inclination itself. That is, to take all of the fire in his heart and channel it towards service of Hashem. For example, to pray with fiery passion of the heart, etc. For, if there is no evil inclination in a person his service cannot be complete. (LM2 49)

A person must know that “Gods glory fills the entire world” (Isiah 6), and “There is no place void of Him” (Tikunei Zohar), and “He fills all worlds and surrounds all worlds” (Zohar)… even in the most defiled places there is godliness, for He gives life to everything as it says, “And you give life to everything” (Nechemia 9). So even if a person is stuck in the lowest of places he cannot excuse himself and say “I cannot serve Hashem here because of all the thickness and materialism that attacks me always,” for even there you can find Him and cling to Him and do complete teshuva, “For it is not far from you” (devarim 30), only that in this place there are many garments.”(LM 33)


A person shouldn’t take upon himself added stringencies, as our Rabbis taught ‘The torah was not given to angels.’ This can make him fall from his service of Hashem. The greatest wisdom of all wisdoms is not to be wise at all, rather to be pure and honest with simplicity. (LM2 44)


You need to know that just as evil arrogance is a very bad character trait, so too a person needs to have holy arrogance. Because it is impossible to come to the true tzaddikim or to draw near to holiness without arrogance as our rabbis taught, “Be bold as a leopard” (LM 22:11) …On this it is said, “a timid person cannot be a learned person.” (LM 271)



When there are harsh judgments on the Jewish people, God forbid, through dancing and clapping ones hands, the judgments are sweetened (LM 10:1)

When one sings the words of prayer and the song resonates with great clarity and purity, he enclothes the shechina (divine presence) with luminous clothing (LM 42)


Know! You need to judge every person favorably, even someone who is completely wicked, you need to search and find any little bit of good. By finding in him a little good and judging him favorably you actually bring him over to the side of merit and you can return him in teshuva (LM 282)

A person also needs to find in himself a little bit of good. Because no matter how low a person is, how can it be that he didn’t do one good thing in his entire life? (ibid)

Every single Jew has a point in them that is uniquely precious. And it is with this point that he bestows upon, enlightens, and arouses the heart of others. We all need to accept this arousal and this unique point from each other. As it says, “And they receive one from another” (Isaiah 3). (LM 34)

Every single Jew has in him a portion of God above. (LM 35)


When a person knows that everything that happens to him is for the best, this is a taste of the world to come. (LM 4)

Know that the primary essence of exile is only our lack of belief. (LM 7)

Gan Eiden and Geihinom are literally in this world. (Ibid 22)


Rebbe Nachman would often tell his students about the great level that he reached in order to get them jealous and inspire them to serve Hashem like he does. One time someone responded to him, “Who can possibly reach the level of the Tzaddkim like yourself, certainly you were all created with really great souls.” Rebbe Nachman answered him in a stringent manner; “This is the main problem with you all, that you think the greatness of the Tzaddikim are due to their high level of soul, that is not true, every single person can reach my level and be exactly like me. It all depends on effort and honest work.” (sichos haran 165).

“Know and believe, if its possible to take one person out of the garbage dump, anyone who holds on to that person will come out as well.” (SH 209)




Rebbe Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev as the inspiration for the Champion of Civil Rights, the Singer Paul Robeson

Session 3  June 20

Rebbe Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev  as the inspiration for the Champion of Civil Rights, the Singer Paul Robeson

 For the recording of thsi presentation, go to:


Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (Levi Yitzchok Derbarmdiger (compassionate in Yiddish) or Rosakov) (1740–1809), also known as the holy Berdichever, and the Kedushas Levi, was a Hasidic master and Jewish leader. He was the rabbi of Ryczywół, Żelechów, Pinsk and Berdychiv, for which he is best known. He was one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, and of his disciple Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsburg, whom he succeeded as rabbi of Ryczywół.[1]

Levi Yitzchok was known as the "defense attorney" for the Jewish people ("Sneiguron Shel Yisroel"), because he would intercede on their behalf before God. Known for his compassion for every Jew, he was one of the most beloved leaders of Eastern European Jewry. He is considered by some to be the founder of Hasidism in central Poland.[2] And known for his fiery service of God.

( Wikipedia)

This nigun chanted by Reb Shlomoh Carlebach is attributed to Rebbe Levi Yitzhak.




Extreme love of the Jewish people, even of the least of us.

On laborers and piety


:** The Jewish wagon drivers of Berdichev felt they had to be ready for work as soon as it became light, so in order to save time, they would wrap tefilin and pray speedily next to their wagons, and at the same time do all the little tasks necessary to prepare the wagons for the road that day. When the Berditchever first saw them doing this, he raised his eyes towards Heaven, and exclaimed, "O Merciful Father, how wonderful are your children, the Jewish people. Even while they work, they pray!"


Even when they mumble, they don’t stumble


Of course, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was not one to fail to try to improve the situation. One day he approached the wagoners as they were completing their prayers and removing their tefilin and tallises. Walking right up to them, he mumbled, 



"WHAT?" they exclaimed in amazement. He repeated:



"Rabbi, please slow down. And a bit louder. We can't understand a word you are saying."


"Aha!" Rabbi Levi Yitzchak pounced. "So how to you expect The Holy One to understand and accept your prayers, the way you race through them?"


"No, Rabbi," responded immediately the most quick-witted one. "It is just like a baby that is first learning to talk. It sounds like nonsense and no one can understand. EXCEPT the baby's mother; she can always understand her child."




Another version


He once saw a Jew adorned with his prayer shawl and tefillin as he was greasing the wheels to his wagon. Someone remarked, “Look at that fool. He dresses in piety while he dirties himself with work.”


Rabbi Levi Yitzchok responded, “Look at that holy person. Even while greasing his wagon he is wearing his prayer shawl and tefillin.”






Even in the midst of drinking and theft


Once, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Reb Levi Yitzchak was heading to shul for Selichos (Jewish penitential prayers commonly recited on the days leading up to the High Holidays and on fast days) when a sudden downpour forced him and his gabbai (personal assistant) to seek shelter under the awning of a tavern. The gabbai peered through the window and saw a group of Jews feasting, drinking, and reveling. Growing impatient, he urged Reb Levi Yitzchak to see for himself how the Jews inside were misbehaving when they should have been in synagogue praying to G-d for forgiveness. Instead of looking, Reb Levi Yitzchak rebuked his gabbai for finding fault with the Children of Israel. Surely, he asserted, they must be reciting blessings over their food and drink; instead of passing judgment on them, Reb Levi Yitzchak proceeded to bless them. The gabbai then peered into the tavern once more and overheard two Jews talking to one another about thefts they had committed. He told this to the Rebbe, yet once more Reb Levi Yitzchak refused to judge them and instead concluded that, indeed, they must be holy Jews since they were confessing their sins to one another before Rosh Hashanah! [from the website: www.berdichev.org]



Prevent anyone who can witness to God against the Jewish people


A Maggid (itinerant preacher) was invited to give a sermon at the shul of Reb Levi Yitzchak. The Rebbe sat there with rapt attention as the Maggid masterfully wove together fascinating parables, spectacular stories and lofty Torah insights, inspiring the masses to grow ever higher in their Avodas Hashem (connection to G-d). Then the Maggid started reproaching the people and listing a whole host of sins and indiscretions that they were committing and for which they needed to repent and change their ways. At this point, the Rebbe stood up and stopped the Maggid from going any further. He explained his reason for doing so as follows: For so many centuries and millennia, the Satan has been trying to prosecute the Jewish people in front of G-d and to point out all their sins in the hope of destroying them. Yet G-d refuses to hear the Satan?s damning testimony and says to him: ?I have already written in My Torah, ?A single witness shall not stand up against any man for any iniquity or for any error, regarding any sin that he may commit; according to two witnesses or according to three witnesses shall a matter be confirmed? (Deuteronomy 19:15), and you want to testify as a single witness against my children?!? And now, this Maggid, who is standing here and testifying the sins of the Jewish people can, G-d forbid, be joined together with the Satan to make two witnesses, so he must be stopped!




As a major Kabbalistic scholar: His major book: Kedushat Levi

On opening of Genesis: https://www.sefaria.org/Kedushat_Levi%2C_Genesis%2C_Bereshit?lang=bi



The first thing G’d embarked on when creating the material universe was to create heaven and earth.”

It is an axiom, general principle, that G’d created the entire universe, and having done so, never withdraws from the universe for even a single moment, [unlike sculptors or painters who, once they have completed a sculpture or painting, move on to something else, having “finished” with their previous “creation.” Ed.] This axiom is true both of what He created in the heavens and what He created in the material, three-dimensional part of the universe. We pay tribute to this in our daily prayers when we say יוצר אור ובורא חושך, “He creates and fashions (present tense) light, and He creates darkness.” When speaking of any accomplishments of G’d’s creatures however, we speak of them in the past tense, i.e.יצר כסא, “he shaped a chair,” or עשה מזרון, “he made a mattress.” G’d’s creative activity is never completed, as the Torah testified in Genesis 2,3 אשר ברא ‏אלוקים לעשות, “which the Lord has created in order to complete it.” This means that G’d is part of every creature He ever created, and once man realizes that he is nothing without G’d Who has created him and Who provides him with all the strength and creative stimuli that he possesses, he will be able to relate to Hashem as an ongoing creative Force in His universe.


Song attributed to him as an expression of the universality of the presence of God even in that which is good or evil.



Dudele Text and comment


Dudele-play on words- “ dudel” is to play a melody on a shepherd’s flute, in other words, a simple melody. Du, in Yiddish( as in German) meaning “ old English Thou, is a reference of affection to whom one is speaking to as opposed to Sie( You) the formal word to a stranger. ( Common in other European languages-Tu and Usted,Tu and Vous).

The Master of the Universe is addressed as a child would address a father or mother. Similarly, in common Yiddish parlance, God is addressed in the very casual “ Tatenyu Sisser”=Sweet Daddy.

I once asked my father why it is that Jews talk in shul. You don’t see it in mainstream Churches or in the Mosques.

We feel at home with God, like a child at home with Daddy. So we talk because we are comfortable, not afraid.


The universality of God

A  Dudele


Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev [1]



Master of the Universe! !רבונו של עולם

Master of the Universe! !רבונו של עולם

Master of the Universe! !רבונו של עולם


Master of the Universe! !רבונו של עולם


Master of the universe, ,רבונו של עולם

I’ll sing a song for you. .כ׳וועל דיר א דודעלע זינגען

you, you, you, you … דו דו דו דו


Where will I find you? ?איה אמצאך

Where will I not find you? ?ואיה לא אמצאך

Where can I find you? ?וווּ קאן איך דיר יא געפינען

Where can I not find you? ?אוּן וווּ קאן איך דיר נישט געפינען

you, you, you, you … דו דו דו דו


Wherever I go: you! !אז וווּ איך גיי – דו

And wherever I stay: you! !אוּן וווּ איך שטיי – דו

Just you, only you, ,רק דו, נאר דו

again you, but you! !ווידער דו, אבער דו

you, you, you, you …  דו דו דו דו


When something’s good: you. !איז עמיצן גוט – דו

When, G-d forbid, it’s bad: ay, you. !חלילה שלעכט – איי, דו

Oy, you, you, you, you, you, you, you … אוי, דו, דו, דו, דו, דו, דו, ,דו


East — you; ,מזרח – דו

West — you; ,מערב – דו

South — you; ,דרום – דו

North — you; !צפון – דו

you, you, you, you … דו, דו, דו, דו

In heaven: you. .שמים – דו

On earth: you. .ארץ – דו

Above: you. .מעלה – דו

Below: you. .מטה – דו

you, you, you, you … דו, דו, דו, דו


Wherever I turn, ,וווּ איך קער מיך

Wherever I go:  וווּ איך ווענד מיך

you, you … דו, דו



(transliterated Yiddish lyrics) —


Riboyno shel oylom (repeated)


Riboyno shel oylom

Ich vil dir a dudele zingen:


Ayeh emtzoekho?

V’ayeh lo emtzoekho?

Vu kon ich dir ya gefinen?

Un vu kan ich dir nisht gefinen?

du, du, du, du


Az vu ich gei – du!

Un vu ich shtei – du!

Rak du, nor du,

vider du, aber du!

du, du, du, du


Az mailoh du, matoh du

Mizroch du, mayrov du,

dorem du, Tzofen du,

Du du, du du, du, du


Iz emitzen gut — du,

choliloh shlecht — oy, du

Oy, du du, du du


Mizroch du, mayrov du,

dorem du, tzofen du,

du, du, du, du


Shamayim, du,

Eretz, du,

Mailoh du,

Matoh du

du du, du du


Vu ich kehr mich,

vu ich vend mich,

du du, du, du [3]


Version of Yitzhak Perlman  on You Tube









Courtesy: Ed Remler ( Note: Similar stiry is told of Jan Peerce performance around the same time)


I came across the following story in an article entitled Observations and Reflections on the History and Meanings of the Kaddish in Judaism magazine, Winter Issue, 2001, by David Blumenthal. It concerns a poem called the Kaddish of Levi Yitzhak The story is stirring in itself, and even more so if you transpose it to today, replace the nations it refer to, with the great nations of today, and replace the Jew in the story with Israel, the Jew of the nations.


Blumenthal begins,referring to the excellent book on Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev (1740-1810), [by Samuel Dresner who] cites the "Kaddish of Levi Yitzhak" which mixes vernacular Yiddish and liturgical Aramaic. Dresner, [....recounts] a particularly stirring rendition of the singing of this Kaddish.


The soaring strains of this song of divine dissent sounded far beyond the narrow confines of Berdichev, echoing in the hearts of Jews scattered throughout poverty-stricken, persecution-ridden communities in Eastern Europe and, in time, even in far-off America and Israel.... Nor was the mysterious power of this song understood only by the jews... Paul Robeson, for example, the noted black singer, sang it following World War II at the great rallies for European Jewry and for the State of Israel during the early years of the young state's struggle for independence and subsistence.


Robeson sang it in 1958 in Moscow at a special concert The hall was filled to overflowing with military and government officials, persons of influence and culture. Among those present were also a large number of Jews. It was well known that Robeson's repertoire contained many Negro folk songs, African freedom songs, and several Jewish songs. Robeson's procedure was to explain the meaning of each song before he sang it. Conscious of the suffering of Russian Jews, he had decided to sing the Berdichever's Kaddish and listed it on his program.


Suddenly he received a note from a member of the sponsoring committee which read: "No one in the audience understands Yiddish. It would, therefore, be out of place to sing any Jewish songs this evening."


Robeson was perplexed. Yiddish had been listed in the last Russian census as the mother tongue of thirty-five percent of the jews, who were well represented in the audience. Granting the assumed ignorance of Yiddish, would the African songs that he would sing in the languages of Ghana and the Congo be better understood?


The Soviet context is important:

He began his program in his usual manner, explaining each song before it was sung. First, he introduced a series of songs from the Congo and Ghana, indicating their anti-colonial character, which reflected the new spirit of the rising nationalism there.


Then he boldly announced, "And now I shall sing an anti-imperialist song for you which you may not have heard in some time. It was written more than one hundred and fifty years ago by a Russian as a protest against the Czar. The name of the author is Levi Yitzhak, and he lived in the city of Berdichev.


So it was that he began to sing Rabbi Levi Yitzhak's Kaddish.



Paul Robeson  rendition, You Tube



Side note:

The reference to Palestine, like the one above to Jesus, is instructive.

What Robeson believed linked Africa to the Soviet Union ethnographically,

blacks to socialism politically, and spirituals to Mussorgsky

musicologically, was the religion of the Bible. Robeson had speculated on

black-Jewish musicological connections as early as 1927, when an

interviewer for the Jewish Tribune, Sulamith Ish-Kishor, claimed to

notice a similarity between his rendition of “Rock Me, Rock Me” and

“Jewish synagogue music.”37


Kishor’s fanciful speculation that Negroes had learned to sing spirituals

by overhearing the Jewish cantorial music of antebellum New Orleans,

Robeson seized the opportunity to dilate upon the influence exerted on

blacks by the Hebrew Bible. “The Bible was the only form of literature

that captive negroes could get at, even those who could read,” he noted.

“You’ll notice,” Robeson continued, “that comparatively few of the

spirituals are based on the New Testament. . . [since] the stories of the

earlier part were closer to [the slaves’] own lives. . . .” Slave Christianity

was Hebraic. The language of the Old Testament, its rhythm and

cadence, thus became incorporated into the cultural inheritance of

African Americans. “( His father was a preacher, well versed in Biblical Hebrew)


Yet Robeson, it should be noted, consistently generalized from his experience of a

secular, leftist Jewish culture by idealizing Jews and Judaism as a whole.

Indeed, according to Marshall, Robeson even performed a number of

Jewish religious customs: “He wore a yarmulke when he studied and

asked me to teach him the Kaddish.”49


In a 1933 interview with the Morgen

Journal-Tageblatt, he indicated that he was shopping around for a

Yiddish opera in which to perform, since, as he now liked to insist, he

felt no affinity with the operatic music of France, Germany, and Italy. “I

do not understand the psychology of these people, their history has no

parallels with the history of my forbearers who were slaves. The Jewish

sigh and tear are close to me. I understand. . . them. . . [and] feel that

these people are closer to the traditions of my race.”54



Likewise, throughout Robeson’s life he felt that Jews had

uniquely stuck by him, even when his own cohort of black leaders later

fed him to the McCarthyite wolves. During a press conference in the

aftermath of the infamous Peekskill, New York, riots of late August

1949, in which members of the mostly Jewish labor union audience had

been attacked by racist and antisemitic thugs, Robeson insisted that

“Negroes owe a debt of gratitude to the Jewish people, who stood there

by the hundreds to defend me and all of us yesterday.”41


(The Peekskill riots were race riots directed against African Americans and Jews attending a civil rights benefit concert.[ He was scheduled to sing at a concert, organized as a benefit for the Civil Rights Congress, was scheduled to take place on August 27 in Lakeland Acres, just north of Peekskill. Before Robeson arrived, a mob of locals attacked concert-goers with baseball bats and rocks. The local police arrived hours later and did little to intervene. Thirteen people were seriously injured, Robeson was lynched in effigy and a cross seen burning on an adjacent hillside. . . . Robeson drove with Rosen and two others to the concert site and saw marauding groups of youngsters, a burning cross on a nearby hill and a jeering crowd throwing rocks and chanting "Dirty Commie" and "Dirty Kikes.")



[Note: Robeson was an ardent fans of the Soviets and it was difficult for him to reconcile his admiration of them with his discovery of plans , such as with  the murder of the Yiddish poet, Mikhoels, that were part of a greater scheme to eliminate Yiddish culture. At the same time, he had suffered under McCarthyism for these views, and was also abandoned by the younger leadership of the Civil Rights movement]


But the inevitable tension between these elements—largely

unacknowledged by Robeson—finally caused the chain to snap. In late

March of 1961, around the time of his reported dramatic performances

of the “Chant” in Soviet Russia, Robeson attempted suicide in his

Moscow hotel room. The reason should not be attributed to either

persecution or politics alone, but rather to a crisis that was somehow

more indefinite and profound. Robeson’s “disillusion,” as Martin

Duberman explained it, “was not with the U.S.S.R. per se, but with the

way the world worked, its refusal to adhere to a historical process that

had seemed predetermined.”85

And in such a circumstance of isolation

and despair, when the seamless progression of folkloric fantasies at last

broke down, who knows if Levi Yitzhak’s “Kaddish” did not even now

provide a measure of consolation, if not as a manifesto, then at least as

a prayer?


( J Karp- The Hasidic Chant of Paul Robeson)



Good morning to You, Lord, Master of the universe,

I, Levi Yitzhak, son of Sarah of Berdichev,

I come to You with a Din Torah from Your people Israel.

What do You want of Your people Israel?

What have You demanded of Your people Israel?

For everywhere I look it says, "Say to the Children of Israel."

And every other verse says, "Speak to the Children of Israel."

And over and over, "Command the Children of Israel."

Father, sweet Father in heaven,

How many nations are there in the world?

[ a tremor passed through the auditorium, scattered sighs and muffled sobs were heard. And when he began to thunder:]

Persians, Babylonians, Edomites.

The Russians, what do they say?

That their Czar is the only ruler.

The Prussians, what do they say?

That their Kaiser is supreme.

And the English, what do they say?

That George the Third is sovereign.

And I, Levi Yitzhak, son of Sarah of Berdichev, say,

"Yisgadal v 'yiskadash shmei raboh-

Magnified and sanctified is Thy Name."

And I, Levi Yitzhak, son of Sarah of Berdichev, say,

"From my stand I will not waver,

And from my place I shall not move

Until there be an end to all this.

Yisgadal v'yiskadash shmei rabok-

Magnified and sanctified is only Thy Name."


Weeping could be heard from parts of the auditorium. Tears flowed freely from dozens of faces. The applause, sporadic at first, reached a crescendo which threatened to shake the walls. The song became a rallying cry among the frightened Jews of Moscow for weeks to come.