DER YIDDISH-VINKL November 26, 2004

A WEEKLY BRIEFING ON THE MOTHER TONGUE

Published November 26, 2004, issue of November 26, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

On the 35th yahrzeit of Leib Feinberg, the pages of the Forverts devoted to Pearls of Yiddish Poetry featured the adventuresome life and the passionate penitent poetry of this unusual genius. A graduate of Moscow University (1919) he became an officer of the Red Guard. For most of his early life, he was a dedicated Communist, singing the praises of the Stalinist regime. He became a staff writer for the Communist Freiheit. Following the Hitler-Stalin pact, however, he broke from the Communist Party and devoted much of his poetry to the theme of penitence.

What follows is one such poem, transliterated from the Yiddish by Goldie Gold and then followed by an English version by Gus Tyler.

Fargib mir, Got: a dikhter — a bal-tshuve,

Ikh lig far dir a zindiker in shtoyb;

Es hot mayn lid demroshe un menuvl

Gereykhert vayrokh un gezungen loyb.

Mir hobn di proste montiks

In yontef farvandlen gevolt

Nor mir hobn aleyn zikh farplontert

Vi malpes, in rod fun derfolg.

Mir hobn vi troymen mayove

Gekholemt a naye velt

Nor gearbet hobn mir sam-hamoves

Un umkum un til-un-tel.

Mir habn gekemft far frayhayt

Far dem vos iz orem un shvakh

Nor der reter gevorn iz khaye

Koym er hot nor bekumen di makht

Mir hobn gehoybn dos hitl

Far a gets vos gefelsht hot in tsil…

English version:

Forgive me, God, I am a penitent

My life in many sinful ways I spent

My poetry in shameful words did praise

A villain vile who darkened all our days.

We turned the weekdays into holidays

To praise a monster and his wicked ways

We dreamt our deeds would bring a better world

The flag of human freedom we unfurled.

Instead we helped to strengthen slavery

By men whose life was sheerest knavery

For once in power they reversed their goal

Forgive me, God, and help me purge my soul!

In his last will and testament, he wrote: Nisht trog tsu mayn keyver undzer rote fon, nor dem tales — Do not carry a red flag to my grave, but a prayer shawl.

What follows is the text of the will and testament as relates to his ultimate beliefs:

Iz viklt mikh ayn in mayn zeydns tales

In dem zelbern kleyd fun mayn likhtikn shtam

Un lernen mayn tate zol a peyrek mishne

Un tsadoke tseteyln mit a breyter hant.

Un zogn a kadesh bay mayn shtiler levaye,

Vayl mayn zun ligt a kodesh in Birobidzhan

Un ven ikh vel lign a toyter in keyver

Mit farvorfenem kop tsu dem mizrakh gevendt,

Kritst oys oyf mayn posheter, groyer matseyve

Mayn tatens tsvey heylik tseduknte hent,

Un unten — mayn nomen un dem nomen fun tatn

In tsvey poshete shures — un mer nisht keyn vort

Poy — nitmen — a kemfer, vemes fon hot farratn

Iy im, iy zayn gantsn farmishpetn dor.

English version:

Cover me in my granny’s prayer shawl

For that’s the garment of my people all

From mishne let my father something learn

To charity his money he should turn.

And at my grave, a Kaddish he will say:

“In Birobidjan, my son a martyr lay.”

And when I’m dead and quiet in my grave

My head turned east as on a giant wave.

Then on the tombstone let someone engrave

My father’s hands in prayer my soul to save

And underneath my father’s name and mine

Two simple lines that will our lives define.

“Here lies a fighter whose flag did him betray

“Both him and all who shared his ill-starred day!”






Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?








You may also be interested in our English-language newsletters:













We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.