Beyond Words

Why doesn’t the rabbi know the deaf man in the shteeble passed away? Why were the East Side Bums talking about the Dodgers in 1965 when they moved to L.A. in 1958? And why was a cow and not a horse an example of good table manners — did the family own a cow back in Krenitz?

Finally, the answers that have been eluding you

Song: “Deaf Man in the Shteeble”

Album: Country Yossi and the Shteeble Hoppers (Vol. 4), Captured

Lyrics: “And suddenly the chazzan

He comes rushing through the door.

He’s wearing his white chazzan’s hat,

He’s never worn before”

Our Question:

Poor chazzan, he’s just lost his deaf father. At such an emotional moment, does he really need all the eyes of the shul on him, and the rabbi asking aloud why he’s late? Why doesn’t the rabbi know his father passed away? Didn’t he attend the levayah? Also, as the chazzan’s in aveilus, we’re wondering how he can wear the new hat he’s never worn before?

Country Yossi responds:

Good questions. When I asked him, he told me that someone tried it on first so it wasn’t really new new. Also, it was his father’s final request that he wear the high white hat with the pom-pom on top when he sings Kol Nidrei. And since you asked, the deaf man, nebach, passed away during the seudah hamafsekes right before Kol Nidrei, so no one knew.


Song: “Babenyu (Krenitz)”

Album: 8th Day (Volume 1), Brooklyn

Lyrics: “But the butcher is so lonely

My bobba’s kettle whistles for me”

Our Question:

We get it that your bobba’s frishe kneidlach are an attraction. We wish we could all go back there. But why on earth is the butcher lonely? And what’s he doing in Bobba’s kitchen?

Marcus brothers respond"

The butcher was in fact very lonely, and felt misunderstood. As a child he’d dreamed of being a famous speaker who would travel from city to city in Poland’s coastal region, each derashah drawing an overflowing crowd. After a series of unfortunate events, he found he was destined to stand behind a deli slicer, delivering his ground-breaking sermons to thin slices of dried salami. The butcher was Bobba’s brother, and he would unwind nightly with a glass of tea and the Yiddish newspaper at Bobba’s kitchen table.


Song: “The Pizza Song”

Album: Uncle Moishy and the Mitzvah Men, Vol.6

Lyrics: “One thing I didn’t see: the broomstick on the floor.

I tripped and now my pizza is all over the store.

But I had no more money to buy another slice.

As I left the store, I waved and said, “Goodbye.”

He said, “You’re really nice. Here’s an extra pie.”

Our Question:

He’s giving him an extra pie because he’s nice? Who leaves a broomstick on the floor of their store? The pizza store is definitely chayav to pay for the slice, as their broomstick tripped him up and sent the first slice flying.

Dovid Nachman Golding (Ding) responds:

The reason the store doesn’t have to pay is because, in fact, the broomstick did not belong to them. It was obviously laid across the floor by the evil Dr. Doomstein from the Marvelous Middos Machine. Technically, Uncle Moishy could have still sued the pizza store, but since the store gave him a whole pie, he dropped the lawsuit and enjoyed the pizza instead.


Song: “The Ninth Man”

Album: Journeys I

Lyrics: “When we were young yeshivah boys, way back in ‘65....

We’d talk about the Yankees, the Dodgers, and the Mets”

Our Question:

Why were the Bums of the East Side schmoozing about the Dodgers in 1965, when the Dodgers picked up and moved from Brooklyn to L.A. in 1958?

Abie Rotenberg responds:

I was a schoolboy in New York then, and some of my classmates were definitely, absolutely, Dodger fans. I would think it was because their fathers retained their loyalty to the Dodgers even after the team moved West.


Song: “The Ninth Man (again)”

Lyrics: “Our catcher went and broke his leg while sliding into third ...

Rebbi went, picked up the bat, faced the pitcher with a smile”

Our Question:

If the rebbi took over for the kid who slid into third (and broke his leg), he should have taken him over on third base. Why is he batting next?

Abie Rotenberg responds:

Who says that “Rebbi went, picked up a bat” occurred immediately after the accident? Perhaps Rebbi pinch ran, played catcher (or somewhere else on the field), and only later picked up a bat and “faced the pitcher with a smile”? (I know it’s a dochek teretz, but it was only a kasha oif a maiseh to begin with.)


Song: “The Band”

Album: Journeys Volume IV

Lyrics: “There once was a man named Yiddel

Who loved to play the fiddle .....

But Moshiach said “rak rega, only Yiddel mit zein gantza chevra
Will come and play on this holiday.”

Our Question:

Why didn’t Yiddel and his unmusical friends find a way to help Yidden with something they were actually good at? Do we all have to play music? Couldn’t they have shlepped the chairs, or brought the iced lemonade?

Abie Rotenberg responds:

You know, it’s really tough being a songwriter these days. Maybe it was because they loved music so much that they just could not think of a better way to bring joy and simchah to others. Being completely tone-deaf, they didn’t realize how bad they were and – despite being rejected time and again –they kept on trying. This desire was so strong it made an impression in Shamayim and they were gifted with a miracle when Mashiach came.


Album: Marvelous Middos Machine Volume 3

Our Question

Using the incredible time machine, Shnooky goes back to 1968, where he meets Dr. Middos at a wedding. In the background of the celebrations, the tune of Shmelky’s Niggun can be heard playing. But Shmelky’s Niggun only hit the shelves in 1971, on Ohr Chodosh Volume 1.

Abie Rotenberg responds:

At the end of the story, it turns out to all have been a dream. And anything can happen in a dream. (Besides, it’s a time machine. You know how those buttons are always getting mixed up.)


Song: “Beep Beep”

Album: Country Yossi and the Shteeble Hoppers (Vol. 3), Still on the Loose

Lyrics: “I started getting nervous

As he kept on tooting his horn,

I’ll show him this misnaged’s car

Is not a car to scorn...

He held on to his shtreimel

And yelled out loud and slow,

“Anshuldig, kent ir mir zuggen,

Vi fort men ken Monroe?”

Our Question

You, who’ve been shteeble-hopping for years, are a misnagid? I’ve never heard of a misnagdishe shteeble. And by the way, any specific reason he’s wearing a shtreimel? Is it Motzaei Shabbos, Friday, or Chol Hamoed? Or is he on his way to his own sheva brachos?

Country Yossi responds

Actually, it’s all four. This is Boro Park, and everything can happen (at once). But actually, when he opened his window his hittel and yarmulke blew off, so he quickly put on the new shtreimel he just bought and held on tight.


Song: “Un A Messer”

Album: 8th Day, Lucky

Lyrics: Un a messer est a ki (A cow eats without a knife) my father used to say to me

Un a messer est a ki a mentch you gotta be

Our Question:

Love this salient observation — maybe every cheder yingel should learn it by heart. So it was your father, and not your mother, who was teaching you table manners? And why was a cow the example — why not a horse? Did the family own a cow back in Krenitz?

Marcus brothers respond:

You’re right, a horse would have been a little more exciting. But this is Yiddish idiom, not English. Also, when it comes to rhymes you often find yourself at a disadvantage. This is really a question for our father, though.


Song: “Seven Little Kids”

Album: Country Yossi and the Shteeble Hoppers (Vol. 3), Still on the Loose

Lyrics: “And this is what my biggest kid said:

(You better hurry Dad 1-2-3)

Moshe Chaim lost his kippah

Asher Zelig spilled his drink

And Malky says you better find a restroom quick,

Yitz dropped his ice cream

And Rifky needs a tissue

And Shaindy thinks she’s gonna be sick.”

Our Question:

Why are you not revealing the name of your biggest kid, when everyone else got to become famous? Is he a teenager who has threatened to move out if you do, or...  is it because… his name is Zlateh?

Country Yossi responds:

Yep, it was Zlateh. But that was so traumatic that he had it legally changed to Moishe Shmeel... and he’s unreal!


Song: “The Challah Lady”

Album: Yitzy Erps, Yanky and Shabbos

Lyrics: “There’s a wealthy lady / who lives in my neighborhood

She has a cook to stock every shelf

But Wednesday night she yells “Hooray”

And shoos the cooks away

Because she wants to bake the challah herself…

... She kneads, kneads, kneads her challah dough…”

Our Question:

Why did the Challah Lady have to put up her dough specifically on Wednesday night, especially as it caused so much upheaval in her life?

Mrs. Yocheved Reich (Sorscher) responds:

Her kids were running circles around her and she forgot which day it was. Luckily, it’s never too early to get ready for Shabbos, and Wednesday is the new “twist” on Thursday.


Song: “Every Yid’s a Big Tzaddik”

Production: Thank You Hashem (TYH Nation)

Lyrics: “From his keppeleh to his feeseleh Noach was a big tzaddik”

Our Question

Didn’t Noach have two feesalach? Or do you hold that the lion left him with only one?

Blumstein Brothers respond

The Nikolsburg Rebbe wrote these lyrics and has been teaching it to his pre1A class for over 30 years. The Rebbe looks at all Yidden like malachim, which are described as having one leg…


Song: “Ya’alili”

Album: 8th Day, Chasing Prophecy

Lyrics: “Shetihay l’mazal shetihay,

Im yirtzeh Hashem bai dir shetihay”

Our Question:

The song is very clear in expressing the linguistic divide between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. How did this line get mixed up, with shetihay getting stuck in on the end of Im yirtzeh Hashem bai dir? Can you iron things out?

Marcus brothers respond:

You can call it a linguistic divide if you want, but “Ya’alili” was actually a great unifier. How many of our Sephardi and Ashkenazi brothers joined to watch, sing, and laugh? We’re going to answer this with two words in English: poetic license — and let Purim’s message of Jewish unity allow us year-long license to bring people together through music!


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 902)

Deaf Man in the Shteeble
Country Yossi