Home » Insights & Inspirations » A Kinder Gentler Chad Gadya

A Kinder Gentler Chad Gadya

 

Since I was a child, Chad Gadya has been one of my favorite parts of the Passover Seder. Its catchy melody and its underlying message always resonated with me.

Singing the song was such fun as we outdid each other to remember the words and sing them as quickly as possible until we came to the refrain, Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya, My father bought for two zuzim, Chad Gadya, Chad, Gadya.

The people of Israel were the Chad Gadya, Aramaic for the innocent little goat, devoured successively by one power after another. The ultimate hope of course is that one day the Eternal one would destroy “the Angel of Death” and the human propensity for conquest and violence. Israel would live in peace and harmony with her neighbors, and all would be right with the world.

For those unfamiliar with it the lyrics are:

Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya, (An Only Kid, An Only Kid)

Refrain: (At the beginning of the song and after every stanza):

 My father bought for two zuzim (a small amount of money) Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya!

Then came the cat and ate the Kid …

Then came the dog and bit the cat that ate the kid …

Then came the stick and beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid …

Then came the fire and burnt the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid …

Then came the water and quenched the fire that burnt the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid …

Then came the ox and drank the water that quenched the fire that burnt the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid …

Then came the butcher and slaughtered the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire that burnt the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid …

Then came the Angel of Death and slew the butcher that slaughtered the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire that burnt the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid …

Then came the Holy One blessed be God and destroyed the Angel of Death that slew the butcher that slaughtered the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire that burnt the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid

My father bought for two zuzim Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya!

A few years ago Vickie and I hosted a Seder in San Francisco for our son and daughter and their families that consisted of four children five and under. Everything was going smoothly until I got a call from my son Leo, who said, “Dad we have a problem. Liz (our daughter-in-law) doesn’t like Chad Gadya.

“What’s not to like about Chad Gadya,” I asked?

“She says it’s too violent,” he answered.

“But it’s a wonderful metaphor” I replied, “for the history of our people. Let me talk to her.”

Surely, I thought I could make Liz see the light. “That song and that melody,” I told her,” have been cornerstones of our Seders for all of our children’s lives.”

“I have no problem with the melody,” she said, “but those lyrics are so violent. I am just not comfortable exposing my children to them.”

So, I sat down to write kinder, gentler lyrics to Chad Gadya. And that Passover we sang:

 

Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya

 Refrain: (at the beginning of the song and after every verse)

My father bought for two zuzim

Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya

 Then came the cat and nuzzled the kid …

 

Then came the dog and licked the cat that nuzzled the kid …

Then came the stick that was fetched by the dog that licked the cat that nuzzled the kid …

Then came the fire and warmed the stick that was fetched by the dog that licked the cat that nuzzled the kid …

Then came the water and quenched the fire that warmed the stick that was fetched by the dog that licked the cat that nuzzled the kid …

Then came the ox and drank the water that quenched the fire that warmed the stick that was fetched by the dog that licked the cat that nuzzled the kid …

Then came the butcher and fed the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire that warmed the stick that was fetched by the dog that licked the cat that nuzzled the kid …

Then came the Angel of Light and smiled at the butcher that fed the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire that warmed the stick that was fetched by the dog that licked the cat that nuzzled the kid …

Then came the Holy and Eternal One and blessed the Angel of Light that smiled at the butcher that fed the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire that warmed the stick that was fetched by the dog that licked the cat that nuzzled the kid

My father bought for two zuzim

Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya

 If I had only written these lyrics to make Liz happy, Dayenu, “It would have been enough” to make me glad I wrote them. But it turned out that the rest of my family liked them too.

And so now we have the option to replace the metaphor for the violent struggles of our people and the hope that one day God will make everything right with a kinder gentler hope: that one day all of humanity will realize the banality of war and bloodshed, that nations and individuals will learn to live together in mutual harmony, respect and affirmation. It is a good note on which to end the Seder.

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “A Kinder Gentler Chad Gadya

  1. In the Jewish Welfare Board haggadah , originally published during WWII, each animal or element represented an entity which was involved with Jewish life. There was the Egyptian cat, Babylonian dog, . Persian stick, Greek fire, Roman water, and Talmudic angel subject to the will of The Boss.

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  2. Thanks Fred, I acknowledge at the beginning of my essay that each of the animals represent a conquering power. I don’t want to lose those original points of reference either. But I sort of like the gentler version too.

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  3. Remember the 10th plague where the Hebrews needed to be involved, as they were passive for the first 9. In the 10th plague, they killed the lamb to put the blood on the door posts of their homes so that the angel of death would Passover those homes to kill the first born sons of the Egyptians. Also, the lamb was an important symbol to the Egyptians as cows are to those in India, so killing a lamb would be an insult.
    I don’t know about sweetening Jewish history, for Purim do we celebrate the Persians as great partiers, for Chanukah we have already downplayed the military victory by putting in the oil story, will we next read about he Holocaust that the Nazis gently nudged the Jews as they willing walked into the gas chambers?

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  4. At this point, why don’t we tell the Muslims that we will go back to the way Jewish life was in pre-1492 Spain, when the Jews lived in relative peacefulness there under Muslim domination. Okay Muslims, Israel is yours, it was all a mistake, we will live in peace under your rule, Israel is now null and void, forget the 1947 UN ruling or let’s be like Yochanan ben Zakkai, who told the Roman Empire that we will be good little Jewish boys and girls, all we want is our little school and we will not bother you.

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  5. Another thought, it is time for all immigrant to return to their original countries and give the USA back to those Native Americans who were already here, and let them fight their battles that the new immigrants disrupted.

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