Shlomo Jelikhovsky

Shlomo Jelichovski
by Yitzkhok Katzenelson

Translated by Josef Leftwich in his book “The Golden
Peacock, A Worldwide Treasury of Yiddish Poetry”,
pages 519 to 523, Barnes and Company, New York
City, 1961.

Sing, earth and heaven,, sing God, sing Jews,
Sing all below and above, sing,
Sing all worlds, sing the name Shlomo Jelichovski.
He ennobled man and the earth, he ennobled everything.

Rise, Homer, great blind singer,
And David, son of Jesse, too,
Take your harps, and play a song of praise
To Shlomo Jelichovski, the Zdunska Vola Jew.

Zdunska Vola is astir, there is a bustle,
It is the eve of Shevuoth, the feast of the Giving of the Law.
The Ghetto has been opened to non-Jews all around.
Even the Germans are preparing to celebrate this day of awe.

They have flung wide open the gates of the Ghetto.
There is going to be something grand
For the sightseers who come.
In the market place ten gibbets stand.

The Jews have been chased out of their homes
into the market place.
The Germans have come into the fenced-off Ghetto-town.
They are reading from a list ten names,
The names of ten hostages, chosen and marked down.

Shlomo Jelichovski!-the name rings out,
The name of this Jew, in every German ear,
And one of the ten lifts his head, in answer.
This is the man! You cannot mistake him for any other here!

Shlomo Jelichovski of Zdunska Vola!
It is the name of a hero! Like one of the
heroes of old!
A heroic Jew, whose face shines with courage,
Self-sacrificing, defiant, bold.

Shlomo Jelichovski! It sounds like the beginning
of a song,
Like the opening words of a Psalm, a song of praise!
Here he is, standing ready at the gibbet,
As though he were the Cantor at the Synagogue dais.

Shlomo Jelichovski, the Jew, with everything about him Jewish!
Through the Zdunska Vola market place this Jewish name goes ringing!
Give him a cup of wine, for he is making Kiddush,
He is singing the Sanctification, at death’s gate he is singing!

He is not singing alone! Together with him
All Israel is singing, every Jew in the world sings!
From his throat sing all the Jewish generations!
And over his head beat seraphim wings!

No! He was wrong! Nobody else is singing!
Even these Jews at the gibbet are dumb.
“Why are you silent! Lift up your voices,
Lift up your heads, come, sing with me, come!

‘”Why are you sad, why are you disheartened?
Why do you stand here so lost, in despair?
Summon up courage! Strengthen your faith!
There must be no melancholy here!

“‘It is Erev Shevuoth, Jews! Tomorrow
We shall receive our holy old Torah again!
Let us rejoice, we who will not live to see it,
We more than all others, before we are slain!

“Let us rejoice! To, die thus is a privilege!
We should be proud they chose us to be hung
For Kiddush Hashem, for the Sanctification!
Lift up your voices, Jews! Let’s have a song!”

Then he raised his noble head to heaven,
High above the Germans, ignoring them,
And in the market place of Zdunska Vola,
He sang the song of Jerusalem!

“When I remember, O God, how every city
Rises on its hill in state,
And how our holy city
Lies desolate!

“My heart faints,
And my eyes grow dim.
Yet however they prosper with their lies,
To God alone we turn our eyes!’

So he sang, with his head held high,
This Jerusalem psalm.
And to the Jews in the market place of Zdunska Vola
His voice was balm.

They lifted up their heads.
Their hearts grew strong.
And God Himself smiled happily
When He heard Shlomo Jelichovski’s song.

“This is a man after My heart,” Said God.”
When the world began,
I had him in My mind,
When I created man.”

Sing, Shlomo Jelichovski, sing!
As you sing, you grow!
All the Jews, of Zdunska Vola
Envy you now.

They wish they had been chosen,
Like these ten to hang,
To have the privilege of being martyrs,
Like this man who at death’s door sang.

A German wild beast with a face like lard,
Walks up to Shlomo Jelichovski with measured tread,
And as he is singing his song of Jerusalem,
Hits him over the head.

But Shlomo Jelichovski sings on.
He does not feel the blow.
His eyes are turned to heaven.
He does not see this beast below.

He sings on, and the other nine hostages sing
Ecstatically, on only their singing intent,
Among them an apostate, and a former Bundist.
“Forgive us, God,” they pray, penitent.

Now the hangman has dropped the nooses
Over the ten necks.
And they stand firm like ten strong pillars,
Like rocks.

“‘Rejoice!” cries Shlomo Jelichovski, “Be glad, Jews!
It is Erev Shevuoth, and we are going to die,
We are going, singing, to God,
Dancing up to the sky!”

He flung out his arms in exaltation.
And so did the nine other Jews.
And as they stood there with arms and, eyes uplifted,
The German hangman drew round each the noose.

Sing, earth and heaven, sing God, sing Jews,
Sing all below and above, sing,
Sing all worlds, sing the name Shlomo Jelichovski.
He ennobled man and the earth, he ennobled everything.

So he sang, with his head held high,
This Jerusalem psalm.
And to the Jews in the market place of Zduska Vola
His voice was a balm.

They lifted up their heads
Their hearts grew strong.
And God smiled happily
When He heard Shlomo Jelichovski’s Song.

“This is a man after My heart”, said God.
“When the world began,
I had him in My mind,
When I created man.”

Sing, Shlomo Jelichovski, sing!
As you sing, you grow!
All the Jews, of Zduska Vola
Envy you now.

They wish they had been chosen,
Like these ten to hang,
To have the privilege of being martyrs,
Like this man who at death’s door sang.

A German wild beast with a face like lard,
Walks up to Shlomo Jelichovski with measured tread,
And as he is singing his song of Jerusalem,
Hits him over the head.

But Shlomo Jelichovski sings on.
He does not feel the blow.
His eyes are turned to heaven.
He does not see this beast below.

He sings on, and the other nine hostages sing
Ecstatically, on only their singing intent,
Among them an apostate, and a former Bundist
“Forgive us, God”, they pray, penitent

Now the hangman has dropped his nooses
Over the ten necks.
And the stand firm like ten strong pillars,
Like rocks.

Sing to him a song of praise,
Sing to him a, high song under the sun,
For such a man as Shlomo Jelichovski,
Do you know like him anyone?

Sing his praise, land and sea
Forest, river, hill,
God Himself sings his praise.
He has done God’s will.

Sun and moon and stars all sing.
The light sings his praises-whose?
The praise of Shlomo Jelichovski,
The hero of the Jews.

He never destroyed a town,
This heroic Jew.
He never bombed defenseless folk,
No sword from its scabbard drew.

Sing to him, this hero of a poor small town,
Who went singing to God,
The hero of Zdunska Vola,
Where the ten gibbets stood.

css.php