Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Upper West Side

...is a magical mystical wonderland where you bump into friends from high school, friends from college, spouses you didn't know existed of friends from college, babies of friends from high school, friends from Israel, an old shulmate from back in the shtetl, and even a friend or two from elementary school you haven't seen in at least six years...

I was worried that Simkhas Tayra on the UWS would be like college — hordes of stupid drunk people barely keeping their grips on the Torah scrolls they were defiling with their chemical breath — but it most definitely wasn't. It was hordes of happy Jews of all types shul-hopping and skipping and dancing with ruahh ("spirit") and not with reiahh ("smell").

Mythbusters: Simhhat Torah Edition

Contrary to popular belief, Mipi Eil is not from Sefarad or the ‘Eidot Hamizrahh. It has a very clear ‘Eidot Hatzafon pedigree. I now quote from the Artscroll Succos Machzor:
Ascribed to the Maggid of Koznitz, Rabbi Yisrael ben Shabsei Hapstein (1733-1814), one of the earliest chassidic masters in Poland, this piyut follows the aleph-beis. Each of its six stanzas praises God, Moses (Amram's son), the Torah, and its students and supporters. This piyut is one of the few written specifically for the Simchas Torah Hakafos.

In other words:
Mipi Eil was written by some guy from Ashkenaz!

So please, fellow Ashkenazim — realize that when you adopt a Mizrahhi accent and intonation for singing Mipi Eil, while you are being multicultural, you are not being any more authentic!

25 Comments:

Blogger BZ said...

Did I see you at Hadar on Tuesday night? I thought I saw someone who looked like the picture on your blog, but I didn't say anything because I felt weird approaching someone I recognized from the Internet.

10/26/2005 10:16 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Probably! I was there for a while, standing around the side and trying to chat with people i had met in Israel, some of whom i had only actually really met once. I'm sure it would have been a lot more fun if i were 'egal' and/or into mixed dancing :-P .
Next time, don't worry about it and come say hi!

Besides Hadar, other places i appeared over yontef included Lincoln Square, Ramath Orah (shared night hakafot with KOE) and Columbia.

10/26/2005 10:36 PM  
Blogger Lab Rab said...

Glad to hear you had a good time on the UWS. I was told to avoid it because of the craziness. Turns out we had a crazy good time in the Heights too (especially in a halachic sense; see my blog). However, the difference is that we actually got some sleep ... Maybe I'll try out the UWS next year.

REALLY interesting about Mipiel. Wow. I think I'll still have to use my faux mizrachi accent though, just so as people won't be confused why I'm singing in ashkenazis. And let's keep this revelation about the Ashkenazic origins quiet, for the sake of the general public. Mutav Sheyihyu shoggegin ve'al yihyu mezidin.

10/26/2005 11:03 PM  
Blogger Mirty said...

My old stomping grounds... I used to go to Rabbi Riskin's shul (Lincoln Square Synagogue), Shlomo Carlebach's shul (he still led davening there), and sometimes the Yekki shul where they all wore top hats. (Forgot the name.) There was also a shtebl up in Harlem where they served Southern Comfort for Kiddush. Nice to hear that things haven't changed much in so many years.

10/27/2005 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Habib of KiwiJewPundit said...

Of course, Rabbeinu Artscroll could simply be "laundering" the origin of the piyut, so as to make it more acceptable to the more racist elements among Ashkenazim...

"So please, fellow Ashkenazim — realize that when you adopt a Mizrahhi accent and intonation for singing Mipi Eil, while you are being multicultural, you are not being any more authentic!"

Unless you are one of those who believe that Mizrahi accent and intonation (or at least the Yemeni version) are inherently more "authentic" and historic (although R' Lord Jakobovitz begs to differ on this point, and he was a member of the peerage).

10/27/2005 1:01 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Wait a minute-- wasn't it you, Steg, who kept claiming that Mippi Eil was oriental/mediterranean, whenever I used to say that it had been written by a Chasidic Rebbe?

10/27/2005 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Habib of KiwiJewPundit said...

Gavriel:
your use of the loshon "oriental/mediterranean" is good, I think I will adopt as a general term, as it seems to cover most bases. It always seems a bit nuts to me how people refer to Moroccans as "mizrahiim", or to Bukharan Jews as "Sefaradim" (or Italki Jews or non-Ladino Moroccans as "Sefaradim" etc for that matter)

10/27/2005 1:21 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Habib:

Laundering the origins in order to pander to racism? c'mon, Artscroll couldn't be quite *that* evil!

As a linguist, i don't think any contemporary Hebrew accent is more authentic. In general, though, the ‘Eidot Hatzafon preserved more vowel distinctions and the ‘Eidot Hamizrahh more consonant distinctions. And the Yemenites (‘Eidot Hadarom?) preserved more of both; I had a teacher who claimed that they were *the* authentic pronunciation, including jimel which makes no phonological sense. Preserving distinctions is different than preserving actual phonetic values of sounds.

Mar:

Naaaa, no way. I've been telling people about it being Ashkenazic for years!

Habib:

I used to be on a Ladino-speaking listserv, and saw in the archives people complaining about how there's nothing authenticly Sefaradic about Shas and all the Mizrahhi things people call "Sefaradic". :-)

10/27/2005 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Habib of KiwiJewPundit said...

"I had a teacher who claimed that they were *the* authentic pronunciation, including jimel which makes no phonological sense."

Why? Do you think the Mizrahi "rimel" makes more phonological sense?

10/27/2005 2:03 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

"Why? Do you think the Mizrahi "rimel" makes more phonological sense? "

Ghimel, first of all-- perhaps "rimel" would be more accurate if you noted that the "r" in question was pronounced with an Israeli accent (not a Sefaradi rolled "r").

Secondly, the jimel and ghimel are not parallel pronunciations. Ghimel is the way Yemenites and some Mediterraneanites (Mediterraneaners?) pronounce a Gimel rafe (without a daghesh). The Jimel is how some Yemenites pronounce a Gimel that has a daghesh. I imagine that most, if not all, Yemenites agree that Gimel rafe is pronounced /gh/, and that is the only pronunciation I have seen listed for gimel rafe in academic grammars of Biblical Hebrew.

10/27/2005 2:13 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

I once was at a hakafoth service where this black-hatted individual used a different accent and voice for each stanza (Yemenite, Mizrahi, Chassidish, Ashkenazi, Breuer's and God-knows what else) and he adjusted his hat accordingly.

Boy, one sure does love what Simhath Torah does to people.

10/27/2005 2:15 PM  
Blogger Mis-nagid said...

"I once was at a hakafoth service where this black-hatted individual used a different accent and voice for each stanza (Yemenite, Mizrahi, Chassidish, Ashkenazi, Breuer's and God-knows what else) and he adjusted his hat accordingly."

That's freaking hilarious. Genius!

10/27/2005 2:19 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I heard there was an Israeli guy who used to go to my Upstate shul who would lein each alíya on Simhhas Torah according to a different accent and cantillation tradition. No idea if he mixed-and-matched them, though.

10/27/2005 2:22 PM  
Anonymous Habib of KiwiJewPundit said...

Alan:
First--
Of course. But "rimel" is a short-hand, and it serves its purpose, as you know what I mean by it. This leads me to a question -- why did the Ashkenaz reish come to predominate?

Second --
I did not intend to equate "rimel" and "jimel", but to ask whether the "gimel/rimel" distinction was more "phonologically sensible" than the "jimel/rimel" one. I hope this makes sense.

10/27/2005 2:28 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Habib:

Yes, the gimel/ghimel distinction makes more phonological sense because it fits a pattern with the rest of the BGDKP"T letters:
b v
g gh
d dh (like 'the')
k kh
p f
t th (like 'thing')

The 'hard' form is a plosive — a 'stop consonant' where the airflow from your lungs is completely blocked, and the 'soft' form is a fricative at (more or less) the *same point of articulation* — your tongue/lips make the same motion, just instead of closing all the way they come close enough to cause air turbulence.

The same process happens in Spanish with the voiced half of the series: BGD.
beber sounds like 'bever'
ciudad sounds like 'ciudhadh'
agua sounds like 'aghua'

10/27/2005 2:41 PM  
Anonymous Habib of KiwiJewPundit said...

Steg:
Thanks, that does make sense.

Does this imply that "jimel" is a south-Semitic import?

10/27/2005 2:54 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Arabic import, specificly.
Arabic went through a shift of G » J, which is why the Arabic cognate of Hebrew hhag is hajj. The shfit didn't go as far in different places, so you have different Arabic-speaking areas pronouncing the same sound differently: J (dzh) in many places, G in Egypt, Zh in Syria/Lebanon, and if i remember correctly Gy in some parts of Yemen — places where the Yemenite Jews pronounce hard gimel that way.

The chain of development seems to be something like:
G » Gy » J » Zh

10/27/2005 3:47 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

beber sounds like 'bever'

And what's more, in Italian it's even spelled "bever(e)" (>Latin bibere.

10/27/2005 4:13 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

(or Italki Jews or non-Ladino Moroccans as "Sefaradim" etc for that matter)

I include Italkim among the `Eidot Hattzafon.

10/27/2005 4:14 PM  
Blogger Lipman said...

I just saw the discussion and after my comment grew a bit, I cut and pasted it here.

10/30/2005 6:31 AM  
Blogger Kibi said...

Hi - just found your blog.
FWIW, my Dad o'h was from Frankfurt where they were terrible sticklers to only do "their" stuff in shul - and he certainly remembered singing "Mipi Eil".

The only difference was instead of saying "K-Hashem' In the first of each 4 lines they said "kaBorei"
Ain adir kaBorei
Ain boruch keBen Amrom....

11/07/2005 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

steg- where do you teach?

11/15/2005 9:17 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Anonymous:

sorry, i don't post private identifying info like that on the web. my veneer of blogly anonymity may only be | thick, but i like having it.

feel free to email me, though, and we'll talk about it!

11/15/2005 10:55 PM  
Blogger BZ said...

Same question this year -- did I see you hopping to various UWS locations this weekend?

10/15/2006 9:17 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

BZ:

nope.
if you saw someone who looked like me it may have been my brother, i have no idea what he's up to. i was in Upstate New York.

10/15/2006 11:40 PM  

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