In The Fireplace
Oif'n pripichok brent a fayerl.
Un in stub iz heys,
Un der rebe lernt
Gedenkt-zhe, tayere, vos ir lernt do,
Zogt-zhe nokh amol un take nokh amol:
Lernt, kinder, mit groys kheyshek,
Azoy zog ikh aykh on,
Ver s'vet gikher fun aykh kenen ivre,
Der bakumt a fon.
Lernt kinder, hot nit moyre,
yeder onhoyb iz shver
Glicklech der vos hot gelrnt toyre
Tsi darf der mentsh noch mer?
Ir vet kinder, elter vern,
vet ir aleyn farshteyn
vifil in di oyseyes lign trern
un vifil geveyn.
Az ir vet, kinder, dem goles shlepn,
Zolt ir fun di oysyes koyekh shepn,
Kukt in zey arayn!
A flame burns in the fireplace.
The room warms up,
As the teacher drills
The children in
Their A, B, C's.
"Remember dear children,
What you are learning here.
Repeat it again and again:
'Komets-alef' is pronounced 'o'.
Learn children with great passion
So I ask of you
Those of you that know it quickly
Will get a prize.
Learn, children, don't be afraid
Every start is difficult
Happy those who've learned the Torah
What more could a man ask for?
When you grow older, children
Then you'll understand
How many tears and how much weeping
Lie in these letters.
When you grow weary
And burdened with exile,
You will find comfort and strength
Within this Jewish alphabet.
Ken Jaffe was nice enough to point out that Mark Warshavsky (1848 - 1907) was the writer and composer of this song.
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.
'Golus' in the first line, as you may already know, is a yiddisized form of the Hebrew word 'galut', meaning exile; 'diaspora', of course, is an exact equivalent."
You can also hear this song here.
We'd love to post the original lyrics in Hebrew text, if anyone can send it to us, please email me. Thanks! -Lisa
Many thanks to Edna Pomerantz for singing this song for us!
Thanks and Acknowledgements
Many thanks to Edna Pomerantz for contributing the 1st verse of Oif'n Pripichok. My thanks also go out to Michael in Jerusalem for sending me the remaining verses of this song and to Monique Palomares for the midi music. Many thanks also to Steve Herald for helping with the translation and for providing such an interesting and instructive commentary.
Ich dank aych zeyer!