February 22, 2023

When It Rains

By Gordon Lockwood

Gordon Lockwood, Once Upon a Time the Fire Burned Brighter recording session

When It Rains” was performed both by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman and by her daughter, the acclaimed poet and songwriter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. The song dramatizes the conflict between generations over the choice of a marriage partner. In the fraught language of the song, a mother’s intervention keeping young lovers apart is imagined in mythological terms. The beloved is forbidden, and the mother, attempting to wrest the couple apart, is described as a klipe, a term from the Kabbalistic tradition for the husks of impurity that prevent divine holiness from being revealed. This song has become a staple of Yiddish song pedagogy, and exists in other cover versions, including a wonderful recording by Eleonore Weill and Jake Shulman-Ment.


When It Rains
by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

When it rains,
The stones get wet.
And when a girl plays at love,
Her cheeks turn pale.

What are you doing to me, mother?
You appear before me like a demon.
I’m going to run away with him to another land
And get married.

Without an arranged match, says her mother amid sighs of pain,
Will you really marry?
Whether things go well for you, or things go bad for you,
I will no longer recognize you as my child.

When it rains,
The stones get wet.
And when a girl plays at love,
Her cheeks turn pale.

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, 1972
Photograph from The Yiddish Song of the Week

אַז אין דרױסן גײט אַ רעגן

אַז אין דרױסן גײט אַ רעגן
.װערן די שטײנדעלעך נאַס
און אַז אַ מײדעלע שפּילט אַ ליבע
.װערן אירע בעקעלעך בלאַס

?װאָס דרײסט דיך מאַמע פֿאַר מײַענע אױגן
.דרײסט דיך נאָר װי אַ קליפּה
כ׳װעל מיט אים אַװעקפֿאָרן אין אַ אַנדערע מדינה
.און כ׳װעל מיט אים שטעלן אַ חופּה

,אָן אַ שדכן אױ װײ איז דער מאַמען
?װעט איר זיך בײדע נעמען
,סײַ עס זאָל דיר גוט גײן, סײַ עס זאָל דיר שלעכט גײן
פֿאַר קײן קינד װיל איך דיך מער נישט קענען

אַז אין דרױסן גײט אַ רעגן
.װערן די שטײנדעלעך נאַס
און אַז אַ מײדעלע שפּילט אַ ליבע
.װערן אירע בעקעלעך בלאַס


Jeremiah Lockwood is a scholar and musician working in the fields of Jewish studies, performance studies, and ethnomusicology. He is the founder of the band The Sway Machinery and is currently a Yale Institute of Sacred Music Fellow. His work engages with issues arising from peering into the archive and imagining the power of “lost” forms of expression to articulate keenly felt needs in the present.

Ricky Gordon is a drummer, percussionist, composer, actor, and social activist. He has performed and recorded with a host of musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Carolina Slim, Public Enemy, Hubert Sumlin, Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Allman Brothers Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and The Fraternal Order of the Society Blues. Some of Gordon’s acting credits include HBO’s Treme and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, Mo’ Better Blues, and School Daze. He recently worked on the Jon Batiste production American Symphony, which premiered at Carnegie Hall.