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.
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, others credit "the innocent children of Israel". 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.
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".
- A commenter at Nathan Alterman's site is indignant about the insult to Alterman by attributing to him this sentiment of rabbinical violence.
- For an example, see the instructional video at Rokdim.
Full text (in Hebrew) from Alterman's 1913 book, including his instructions for a dance (not the current one)
Yitzchak Alterman at Wikipedia (in Hebrew)