Yesh Lanu Tayish

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Hebrew: יש לנו תיש, "We Have a Goat". Alternative name: Yesh. Children's partner dance in contra dance proper formation, dating probably from the 1940s. Variously attributed to Raya Spivak, Gurit Kadman, or just "folk".

More interesting is the song. The lyrics were written by Yitzchak Alterman—father of influential Israeli poet, playwright, and journalist Nathan Alterman—as an aid for children's Hebrew instruction. The five stanzas were used to teach the distinction between "tayish" (male goat, first three stanzas), "ez" (female goat, fourth stanza), and "g'di" (kid, fifth stanza). The song appears in Alterman's book Parable Games: Songs, Games, and Plays for Kindergartens and Schools, published in Vilna in 1913 and again in Warsaw in 1922, along with Alterman's instructions for a dance (not the current one).

The lyrics were sung to several different folk tunes. The tune commonly used for the dance today includes a refrain between the stanzas that is often sung just "la la la" but sometimes with words: "בַּמַּקֵּל, בַּסַּרְגֵּל, מַה שֶּׁבָּא לַיָּד", that is, "with a stick, with a ruler, with whatever comes to hand". How did these lines, which don't appear in Alterman's poem, become attached to the song?

The generally accepted explanation is that a parody version of Alterman's lyrics was created sometime after the song became popular in Israel. Some say that it was part of a Purim spiel[1], some say a 1930s graduation party for kindergarten teachers[2] others credit simply "the innocent children of Israel"[3]. The stanza of the parody is:

יֵשׁ לָנוּ רַבִּי
לָרַבִּי יֵשׁ זָקָן
וְלוֹ אַרְבַּעה תַּלְמִידִים
וְהוּא מַכֶּה אוֹתָם

"We have a rebbe, the rebbe has a beard, and he has four students, and he beats them..." followed by the two lines about stick and ruler. Those last two lines then spread widely because Alterman's lyrics don't supply words for the la-la-la refrain in the usual tune.[4]

In most recordings there is an eight-beat intro each time through. The participants take hands across and say "Yesh" five or six times (silent on beats two, four, and maybe eight). But often "va" is substituted on beat six, giving "Yesh; yesh; yesh-va-yesh"[5].


  2. (this link has other stories too)
  4. A commenter at Nathan Alterman's site is indignant about the insult to Alterman by attributing to him this sentiment of rabbinical violence.
  5. For an example, see the instructional video at Rokdim.

External Links

Full text (in Hebrew) as published in Alterman's 1913 book

Yitzchak Alterman at Wikipedia (in Hebrew)

Yesh Lanu Tayish at

Video at Rokdim