חַד גדיָא — אַ ציגעלע
In honor of Peysekh, we’re celebrating one of the holiday’s most famous traditions: Khad Gadyo, the Aramaic-language cumulative song about the purchase of one little goat and all the trouble that ensues. Below, we present an illustrated Khad Gadyo, taken from Lithuanian-born artist Ben Shahn’s 1965 Haggadah.
While you scroll through Shahn’s illustrations, listen to a Yiddish version of the song, or the legendary Moshe Oysher’s take on the traditional Aramaic.
The text of Khad Gadyo bears a strong resemblance to other European cumulative folksongs, including the medieval German song “Der Herr der Schickt den Jokel aus” (The Lord Sent Little Jack Down). At right you can listen to Michael Alpert sing a close Yiddish variant of this song, which has no goat but rather a stubborn boy named Yekele who God sends down to pick pears. Despite the lack of goat, many families sing some version of this Yiddish song at their seders.
The motif of a goat – specifically a “vays klor tsigele” (a bright white goat), which was said to represent a Jew – is common in Yiddish literature and foklore, as heard in the classic song “Rozhinkes mit mandlen” as well as stories like the ones below.