The Earliest Recorded Children’s Song Might Be Found in the Haggadah

April 14 2020

In most versions of the Haggadah, the seder concludes with the Aramaic poem Ḥad Gadya (“One Kid”), which follows a formula found in many children’s songs in many cultures: “there came a cat that ate the baby goat that father bought, . . . then came a dog that bit the cat that ate the baby goat,” and so forth. That a children’s song—if that is indeed what Ḥad gadya is—should be found in what, in many ways, is a child-centered ritual is unsurprising, but much about this poem remains shrouded in mystery. Amit Naor writes:

[S]ome scholars have crowned Ḥad Gadya the earliest [recorded] children’s song . . . specifically written and put into print for the sake of the edification of children.

Although its language appears to be Aramaic, the song is in fact full of grammatical mistakes, and there are Hebrew words embedded in it as well, suggesting that the author wasn’t fluent in Aramaic and that at the time of its writing, Aramaic was no longer a spoken language.

This is also perhaps a clue as to when the song was written. The song’s appearance in the Haggadah dates to the 15th or 16th century, and earlier versions of it may have been written as early as the 14th century. It first appeared in print in the 16th-century Prague Haggadah. An early version, in impeccable Aramaic, has been located in a manuscript which was subsequently added to the prayer book of the Provencal community in France.

It is assumed that the Jews who fled France after the great expulsion of 1306, brought the liturgical poem with them to communities in the region of Ashkenaz (modern day Germany and northern Europe), and from there it found its way into the Haggadah. Only later did the song also reach the liturgy of the Sephardi communities in Spain and the Middle East.

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More about: Children, Haggadah, Poetry

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror