This Hassidic song describes how a secular song of foreign provenance evolved into one with a religious Hassidic concept of the Divine Presence and the Diaspora. According to Menakhem Kipnis, who published the song in 1925, the Rabbi Isaac Taub of Kaliv, Hungary, was strolling in the fields when he heard a shepherd singing a song “Ruzha, ruzha, yak ti daleka!” (Rose, Rose, how far away you are). The rabbi altered the words to make the song expressive of longing for the Divine Presence.
In his column “Shprakhvinkl” in the Jewish Forward (August 30, 1976) Wolf Younin brought the Hungarian original together with a Yiddish-Hebrew version: “Erdo, erdo de magas vagy,/ Rozsam, rozsam de mesze vagy/ Ha az erdot levaghatnam/ Tied volnek edes babam/ Ha az erdot levaghatnam/ Tied volnek edes babam.” /”Gales, gales, vi greys bistu/ Shkhine, shkhine, vi vayt bistu/ llu min hagolis hoytsienu/ Hoinu shninu yakhad oz.” Menasha Unger wrote a story about the song entitled “How the Rabbi of Kalev Freed a Song” where he has an additional stanza. On September 27, 1976 Masch a Benya Matz cited a version that Zalman Shazar, former president of Israel, sang: “Vaid, vald, vi greys bistu,/ Kale, kale vi vayt bistu,/ Az der vald volt vern avekgenumen,/ Volt ikh mit der kale
Rose, how far away you are.
Forest, how big you are.
If the rose were not so far away,
The forest would not be so big.
Holy spirit, how far away you are.
Exile, how long you are.
If the holy spirit were not so far away,
The exile would not be so long.
Royz, royz, vi vayt bistu,
Vaid, vald, vi groys bistu.
Volt di royz nisht azoy vayt geven,
Volt der vald nisht azoy groys geven.
Shkhine, shkhine, vi vayt bistu.
Goles, goles, vi lang bistu.
Volt di shkhine nisht azoy vayt geven,
Volt der goles nisht azoy lang geven.
רױז, רױז, װי װײַט ביסטו?
װאַלד, װאַלד, װי גרױס ביסטו.
װאָלט די רױז נישט אַזױ װײַט געװען,
װאָלט דער װאַלד נישט אַזױ גרױס געװען.
שכינה, שכינה, װי װײַט ביסטו,
גלות, גלות, װי לאַנג ביסטו.
װאָלט די שכינה נישט אַזױ װײַט געװען,
װאָלט דער גלות נישט אַזױ לאַנג געװען.
Song Title: Royz, Royz, Vi Vayt Bistu
The Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song anthology comprises songs that were either never printed before or appeared in rare and inaccessible publications — sometimes in different versions and without proper sources. Most of the songs in this book were submitted by readers of Chana and Yosl’s column “Perl fun der yidisher poezye” (Pearls of Yiddish Poetry) in the Yiddish newspaper Der Forverts (The Forward), initiated in October, 1970. Over 25 years, thousands of songs were collected in correspondence and on cassettes from readers throughout the world, and they represent a veritable national Yiddish song archive. Chana Mlotek, in her introduction, writes, “In the course of years the inquiries, contributions and enthusiasm of these readers have kept our own interest unflagging and have reinforced our dedication to this effort. And in recent years our participants have also been augmented by new readers from the former Soviet Russia, who receive our newspaper there or from newly-arrived immigrants in this country and Israel.”