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One hundred years ago, in far away Koenigsberg, Prussia, a baby-girl was born. At that moment nobody knew that her words would be read to thousands of kids at bed time or at story time, that she would touch many souls with her beautiful poems, that hundred years later, young composers will write music to her lyrics, that her words would be read and sung by youngsters and adults, that she would become a legend.
Her name was Le`a Goldberg. When the First World War broke out, three-year-old Le`a had to escape with her parents to Russia, where they spent a year in hard conditions. When the family travelled back to Kaunas in 1919, a Lithuanian border patrol stopped them and accused her father of being a "Bolshevik spy.” They tortured him for ten days and when he was released, he was so traumatized that he was unable to function normally. He eventually left his family and never came back. Le`a and her mother became very close and lived together until death set them apart.
Le`a Goldberg learned Hebrew at her Hebrew-speaking Jewish elementary school and chose to write her personal diaries in the Hebrew language (even though she was fluent in various European languages). When she was 15 years old she wrote in her diary: “לִכְתֹּב לֹא עִבְרִית - אַחַת הִיא בִּשְׁבִילִי, כְּאִלּוּ לֹא לִכְתֹּב לְגַמְרֵי” (Not writing in Hebrew is as if I don’t write at all). She wrote everything, from poems to personal notes only in Hebrew. Goldberg earned a doctorate in Semitic studies from the Berlin University in 1933.
In 1935 Goldberg moved to Israel and settled in Tel Aviv, where she joined a group of Zionist Hebrew poets of Eastern-European origin known by the name Yakhdav (יַחְדָּו , together) led by Avraham Shlonsky.
In Tel Aviv Goldberg worked as a high-school teacher and later on she became the head of the Department of Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Le`a Goldberg never stopped writing: she wrote poetry, drama, and children's literature, she wrote plays and she translated numerous books into Hebrew including Tolstoy's epic novel War and Peace and Chekhov’s Stories.
Le`a Goldberg never married - her heart was broken with unfulfilled love (as expressed in many of her poems). She lived with her mother all her life. Goldberg who was a heavy smoker died in 1970 of lung cancer.
It was a difficult task to choose a representative sample of her work for this newsletter – so many writings (and even drawings), so many genres, so beautiful. Hopefully, you will get some taste of her beautiful work and search for more. Goldberg’s children books and songs can be a wonderful way to enhance your Hebrew studies while experiencing wonderful Hebrew literature.
You can listen to Esther Ofarim singing this lovely springy lullaby and watch the hyacinth sprouting here.
Hebrew Song: Magic Hat
Lyrics: Lea Goldberg
Music: Marina Maximilian Blumin
מִלִּים: לֵאָה גּוֹלְדְבֶּרְג
לַחַן: מָרִינָה מַקְסִימִיליַאן בְּלומִין
All the days, all the days
I dream about a magic hat.
A little hat, feathery adorned,
That brings about all I wish for.
Kol hayamim, kol hayamim
Xolemet ani al kova ksamim.
Kova katan, mekushat notsa,
Ha’ose kol ma she’ani rotsa.
כָּל הַיָּמִים, כָּל הַיָּמִים
חוֹלֶמֶת אֲנִי עַל כּוֹבַע קְסָמִים.
כּוֹבַע קָטָן, מְקֻשַּׁט נוֹצָה,
הָעוֹשֶׂה כָּל מַה שֶּׁאֲנִי רוֹצָה.
You can hear the young musician Marina Maximilian Blumin singing this song in the 2008 Children’s Song Festival here.
Hebrew Song: Prayer
Lyrics: Lea Goldberg
Music: Drora Havkin
מִלִּים: לֵאָה גּוֹלְדְבֶּרְג
לַחַן: דְּרוֹרָה חַבְקִין
Teach me my God, bless and pray
About the secret of a withering leaf
About the shine of a ripe fruit
About this liberty
To see, to feel, to breath
To know, to hope, to fail
Lamdeny elohay barex vehitpalel
Al sod ale kamel
Al noga pri bashel
Al haxerut hazot
Lir’ot, laxush, linshom
Lada’at, leyaxel, lehikashel
לַמְּדֵנִי אֱלֹהַי בָּרֵךְ וְהִתְפַּלֵּל
עַל סוֹד עָלֶה קָמֵל
עַל נֹגַהּ פְּרִי בָּשֵׁל
עַל הַחֵרוּת הַזֹּאת
לִרְאוֹת, לָחוּשׁ, לִנְשֹׁם
לָדַעַת, לְיַחֵל, לְהִכָּשֵׁל
Teach my lips blessing and praise
As your time is renewed by morning and by night
Lest my day will be like the days before
Lest my day will become a habit
Lamed et siftotay braxa veshir halel
Behitxadesh zmanxa im boker ve’im leyl
Leval yihiye yomi hayom kitmol shilshom
Leval yihiye alay yomi hergel
לָמֵד אֶת שִׂפְתוֹתַי בְּרָכָה וְשִׁיר הַלֵּל
בְּהִתְחַדֵּשׁ זְמַנְּךָ עִם בֹּקֶר וְעִם לֵיל
לְבַל יִהְיֶה יוֹמִי הַיּוֹם כִּתְמוֹל שִׁלְשׁוֹם
לְבַל יִהְיֶה עָלַי יוֹמִי הֶרְגֵּל
You can listen to Yardena Arazi singing this song hereor listen to a different and beautiful rendition by Dalit Maayan here.
Leah (Lea, Le'a)
One of the "four mothers" of the Jewish people. Leah and her younger sister Rachel were the two wives of Jacob.
"And Laban had two daughters, the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed, but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured." Genesis 29, 16-17.
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