The Vilna Gaon’s Lullaby and the Shidduch

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by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

There is a theory that dates back long ago, that the origin of the word, “lullaby” comes from the Yiddish – “Lilith Abi – Lilith Go Away.” Adam HaRishon’s first wife, Lilith, was attached to Adam before Hashem separated them. She later became a shaid, a demon, who damages (see Shabbos 151b). Regardless of the etymological origin, there is an old Yiddish lullaby that contains the words, “Sleep, sleep, my girl, and I shall find you a suitable chosson (groom).“

The following inspiring story regarding the Vilna Gaon is found in the biographical work entitled, “HaGaon” on page 49.

In the 1740’s the Vilna Gaon took upon himself a period of voluntary exile. Once, he stayed in a home where there was a baby girl who was crying in the middle of the night. The Vilna Gaon picked up the baby girl, and yes, sang her the soothing old Yiddish lullaby in order to get her to go back to sleep.

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Years passed. When the girl was of marriageable age, the Vilna Gaon sent a young man to her parent’s home with a letter signed by the Vilna Gaon himself. It said:
“Years ago, your daughter was crying and I picker her up, soothing her with the old Yiddish lullaby which ended with the words. “and I shall find you a suitable chosson (groom).“
The young man who is bearing this letter is just such a suitable groom. I am not saying that they should marry, but I have fulfilled what I had said in that lullaby.”

The couple did get married, and the story was repeated by none other than Rav Chaim Soloveitchik to others. Such was the Vilna Gaon’s remarkable degree of everyday emes – speaking truth always!

The author is in touch with one of the top Yiddish song experts at Hebrew University to help identify the actual lullaby that the Vilna Gaon sang.  Stay tuned!

The author writes a weekly parsha sheet for the Sefas Tamim Foundation.  If you would like to subscribe please email the author at [email protected]

ALSO:  The Sefas Tamim Foundation has produced a special 30 minute video entitled, “Emes and Tisha B’Av” – to be played at Shuls across the country on Tisha B’Av.  It features such speakers as Rav ELya Brudny Shlita, Rav Yaakov Feitman Shlita, Rav Pesach Krohn Shlita, Rav Noach Oelbaum Shlita.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


8 COMMENTS

  1. Talking about lullabies, the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out the importance of training children and even infants to love the Torah even before they can actually understand, and he brings an example from the common lullaby that mothers would sing to their children with the words “תורה די בעסטע סחורה”.

    [The Rebbe also mentions the Rashba (מדרש הרשב”א ח”א ס”ט) about the importance of the traditions from Jewish mothers.]

    (תורת מנחם – התוועדויות כ”ק אדמו”ר מליובאוויטש תשמ”ג ח”ג ע’ 1217)

  2. “Lilis Abi”?! In what language does “Abi” mean “away”? Not Yiddish! And in Yiddish the sof at the end of “Lilis” would be quite noticeable and would not disappear in any word derived from it!

    Besides, the word “lullaby” is attested in English long before any English speaker ever heard a word of Yiddish.

  3. @Milhouse, good questions.
    Wikipedia: The term ‘lullaby’ derives from the Middle English lullen (“to lull”) and by[e] (in the sense of “near”); it was first recorded circa 1560. A folk etymology derives lullaby from “Lilith-Abi” (Hebrew for “Lilith, begone”).

  4. The holy Ohr Hachaim says that on לא טוב לאדם להיות לבדו that Adam and Chava where created conjoined twins with two heads as one which Hashem separated in order to learn from her standing opposite him.

  5. “A folk etymology derives lullaby from “Lilith-Abi” (Hebrew for “Lilith, begone”).”
    so its not yiddish, its from the goyim who first civilized and colonized Europe – Canaanim who spoke Hebrew and had these similar spiritual backgrounds

  6. There was an Israeli broadcast a few years ago hosting an historian who mentioned he had reason to believe that the folk song ‘She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain’ was actually a kabbalas Shabbos tune sang by Jewish pioneers traveling in the American Old West. There are currently several versions of the lyrics, some reflect this idea more than others.

  7. The folk song ‘She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain’ was actually a kabbalas Shabbos tune sang by Jewish pioneers – ‘she’ll be ridin’ six white horses’ are about the six working days of the week. This is one reference.