Chad Gadya

Chad or Had Gadya means "one little goat" or "one kid" in Hebrew, is a playful Jewish song sung in both Hebrew and Aramaic.

Like many children's songs, it is repetitive, whirling around the same phrases or topics over and over again.

On it's surface many find the song to produce a euphoric silliness - when sung over the Seder meal and after a little wine, it feels fun and childlike. But the songs words offer some deeper and more melancholic meanings, which have been interpreted over and over again by Jewish scholars.

Here is one translation of the lyrics by Chava Alberstein:

My father bought it for just two coins.

The lamb! The lamb! My father bought it for just two coins, as the Haggadah relates.

Along came the cat and ate up the lamb.

The dog choked the cat that ate the lamb, that my father bought, for just two coins.

The lamb! The lamb! Along came the stick, to beat the dog, that choked the

cat, that ate the lamb that my father bought.

That he bought, for just two coins. The lamb! The lamb! Then came a fire and

burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that choked the cat, that ate the lamb, that

my father bought, for just two coins.

The lamb! The lamb! Then water came and quenched the fire, that burn the

stick, that beat the dog, that choked the cat, that eat the lamb, that my father

bought for just two coins.

The lamb! The lamb! Then came an Ox and drank the water, that quenched

the fire, that burn the stick, that beat the dog, that choked the cat, that eat

the lamb, that my father bought for just two coins.

The lamb! The lamb! Along came a butcher and killed the Ox, that drank the

water, that quenched the fire, that burn the stick, that beat the dog, that

choked the cat, that ate the lamb, that my father bought.

Then came the Angel of Death and slew the butcher, who killed the Ox, that

drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the

dog, that choked the cat, that ate the lamb, that my father bought for just two coins.

The lamb! The lamb! Why do you sing, little lamb? Spring isn’t yet here and

Passover neither. Have you changed? I have changed this year.

And every evening, like each evening, I have only asked four questions. But

tonight, I have thought of another question.

How long will this circle of horror last? Tonight, I have thought of another

question.

How long will this circle of horror last? Of persecutor and persecuted, of

executioner and victim.

When will this madness end? What has changed this year? This year, i have

changed. I was a meek lamb. I have become a tiger and a wild wolf.

I was a dove, a gazelle.

Today, I don’t know who I am. My father bought it for just two coins. The lamb!

The lamb! Our father bought it for just two coins. And everything is starting again!

The lyrics of the song make us question the purpose of life, and of acquisition of material things.

Several different interpretations have been proposed for how this song tells a story of a people, and sends a message of victory and of peace.

In one story the song is a re-telling of the argument between Aramean King Nimrod and Abraham. Nimrod tells Abraham of the power of fire, to which Abraham replies that water can overcome fire, clouds produce water, wind expels clouds, and humans' breath is a kind of wind. Therefore to worship nature is to worship oneself. When Nimrod seeks to prove the power of fire to Abraham he tries to burn him, only for Abraham's God to save his life. In Chad Gadya, only the Holy One's Blessing can slay the Angel of Death.

In other tellings, the song is an allegory for the repeated exodus of the Jewish people, while for others it represents the apocalypse of the End of Days, which can only be triumphed over by God.

Finally, it can be understood as an exhortation against the way in which violence begets violence, a warning to remain away from the cycle of revenge which can only produce more harm.

 

Previous Post →