A Yiddish-Italian Purim “Shpil” in Verse

March 1 2018

On the holiday of Purim, which falls today, there is a longstanding tradition of performing a shpil, or humorous play, based on the story of the book of Esther—in which the heroic title character and her cousin Mordecai thwart the wicked Haman’s scheme to slaughter all the Jews of Persia. Curt Leviant has translated into English a mid-to-late-19th-century Purim shpil from northern Italy, itself an Italian translation of an earlier version in Yiddish. The entire play is in verse, a fact that the author emphasizes repeatedly. Thus, the king of Persia:

You heard my name is Ahasuerus.
Pronounce it, please, as Ah-ha-swear-us.
I declare it all the time:
my name impossible to rhyme.

Chorus: One cannot rhyme a name so long,
Not in poem, shpil, or song.

As Leviant notes, an unusually important role is given to Haman’s wife, Zeresh, who gives the following oration after her husband’s plan has been foiled:

You’re a bunch of anti-goyim,
Jew-bilating on your Purim.
Anti-goyness is a crime
of which you’re guilty all the time.
Don’t like the way I’m being treated.
Once this so-called shpil’s completed
I’ll get even, count on me
and members of my family.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Pakn-Treger

More about: Italian Jewry, Poetry, Purim, Religion & Holidays, Yiddish

 

A Lesson from Moshe Dayan for Israel’s Syria Policy

Dec. 11 2019

In the 1950s, Jerusalem tasked Moshe Dayan with combating the Palestinian guerrillas—known as fedayeen—who infiltrated Israel’s borders from Sinai, Gaza, and Jordan to attack soldiers or civilians and destroy crops. When simple retaliation, although tactically effective, proved insufficient to deter further attacks, Dayan developed a more sophisticated long-term strategy of using attrition to Israel’s advantage. Gershon Hacohen argues that the Jewish state can learn much from Dayan’s approach in combating the Iranian presence in Syria—especially since the IDF cannot simply launch an all-out offensive to clear Syria of Iranian forces:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Moshe Dayan, Palestinian terror, Syria