Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oy Vey, Tateh!

Oy vey, Tateh!

When our words fail us we sometimes will hum,
showing our faith through our voices in song.
Perhaps we forget, or the mem'ries aren't strong,
but we offer up praise with a ya b'ba-bum.

Singing these sounds with a trust they become
(on their path to God's ear, be it fleeting or long)
rearranged and transformed from a mess that was wrong
into unrivaled psalms far surpassing their sum.

We use the word tateh as heartfelt we pray
to the almighty "Daddy" who watches and hears.
And then taken by spirit we sing and we sway
as we ya-ba-ba-bum and we try to convey,
past our everyday worries and hunger and fears,
how we savor the blessings that come each new day.




I must say that what little Yiddish I know is only a few phrases and the rough translations of some songs I learned way back in my camp-counselor days. When prompted by Totally Optional Prompts to write a sonnet, and by the Monday Poetry Stretch to write a poem with words from two languages, one particular song came to me.

This song from the Hasidic Jewish tradition begins with the words, "Oy vey, Tateh!" For those who don't know all that the Yiddish expression "oy vey" can mean, I will send you over to Wikipedia. It is "Tateh" I want to introduce you to. This means "Daddy". It is what a little child might use when addressing his father. It is close to the heart.

Yet the song is not something sung to an earthly father. The daddy in the song is God. The Hasidic philosophy includes the idea that prayer should be fervent. It is more important for your feelings, your intent, to be conveyed than for you to "get the words right".

In fact, there are a lot of songs where the words are some variation on "ya-ba-bum" or "bim-bom" or "birri-birri bum." Those are not Yiddish words that mean anything - they are just sounds like tra-la-la or doo-doo-doo. And this song has very few other words, it is mostly ya-ba-bum.

Thanks for reading this mini-essay.



21 comments:

paisley said...

very nicely done.. i am so glad you explained it to me,, i would never have known any of that.....

tumblewords said...

Very nice and thank you for explaining...it's always nice to learn while enjoying!

HL said...

What they said. I think of IB Singer looking through the thesaurus to find the write words, "voyl"

sister AE said...

Thanks, paisley and tumblewords.

Hello, HL. What an image! and thanks.

gautami tripathy said...

Thanks! I learn so much new in here!

I like the sonnet!

love in a sonnet

Jo said...

thanks for the explanation, you did a good job of the sonnet and I love the word tateh, so soft.

sister AE said...

Thanks, gautami! I'll be over to read your post later today.


Hello, Jo. It is, isn't it?

I am not Hasidic myself but some of their songs are charming, and some haunting. The one behind this is in a characteristic minor key and falls into that haunting category.

SweetTalkingGuy said...

Very informative mini-essay. Thanks for posting this.

sister AE said...

Thanks, Andy.

Linda said...

I like the rhythm in this with all those sounds! Lovely sonnet! The explanation is appreciated.

sister AE said...

thanks, Linda

DaisyBug said...

I like this one! And I learned too! YAY! Thanks!

Cloudscome said...

I love this. The true spirit of prayer is just this crying out in joy or supplication. I ma studying sonnets lately too so you hit two of my big interests! Thanks for posting it.

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Nice. Especially nice to see someone successfully using a non-iambic meter.

sbpoet said...

I enjoyed the poem -- especially the sounds -- and the mini-essay, too.

And -- might you consider enabling the ability to post comments with a 'nickname'? I can never remember that open id url; have to look it up every time...

sister AE said...

Thanks, DaisyBug.

Hello, Cloudsome. Thanks, I'm glad you like it.

Thank you, Tiel. I try to make sure my sonnets have rhythm, but iambic meter doesn't come easy to me.

Thank you, sbpoet. And I think I will do that.

Clare said...

Hi Sister AE! Bravo and standing ovations to you! Your sonnet is absolutely wonderful and is filled with spirit and life and hope. I love it and the way it is so musical and rhythmic. And your descriptions at the end of the terms and sounds was great. Very cool!
:)

sister AE said...

Hi, Clare. I'm tickled that you like it so much.

Allyson said...

I always like a sonnet that gives me the opportunity to learn something. :)

sister AE said...

Thanks, Allyson. I'm glad you liked it.

Sora Ryu said...

Thanks for increasing my Yiddish/Hebrew vocab. I was reading Doctorow's "Ragtime" and looked up Tateh :)