Irreverent Yiddish Song: “I want to be a Rebbe”

Irreverent Yiddish Song: “I want to be a Rebbe”

 

 

Here is a song that I love because it’s irreverent and it mocks the luxurious lifestyles of the Hasidic elite. Oftentimes outsiders, scholars, and the media depict Hasidic leaders as all-powerful beings to whom Hasidim are mindlessly and slavishly subservient. This way of framing things always rubs me the wrong way, because it fails to account for how much more complicated and human the situation is. Rabbis don’t have power without being elevated to it by active disciples; i.e., there is always a bottom-up power structure interplaying with that of the bottom-up powers of the Rebbes. Hasidim are also a lot more diverse and cynical and jaded about rabbis, and a lot of rituals of subservience cannot be taken at face value. So this song lays that cynicism out in the open.

 

Chorus: Everyone wants to be a great Rebbe

to look down from their pedestal at the bumbling fools —

Hey, yeah, I want to be a Rebbe!

 

I’m done running to all the Rebbe’s ceremonial tishen,

To sway on the bleachers without air-condition,

To push and sweat,

Just to see how the Rebbe eats…

 

I’m tired of pleading

with the Rebbe’s doorman

to be allowed inside

for a blessing for grandma;

“The rebbe is busy,

the president is now our guest.”

 

Yeah, we all want to sit with the classy people,

at the northern tables,

with satisfied bellies.

where the whiskey flows…

the money comes easy…

with nice white beards…

we’re staying young!

 

Chorus: Everyone wants to be a great Rebbe

to look down from their pedestal at the bumbling fools —

Hey, yeah, I want to be a Rebbe!

 

I want a hooked-up Cadillac,

with the latest upgrades —

leather seats,

custom made!

And a few cherry lights,

are also fine by me.

 

I want a personal servant

and three errand boys

to clear my path —

to scuttle the nuisances.

And if called for,

they’ll bring me a tray of beer.

 

I want a nice house

with at least three levels.

with a few elevators,

to save me on walking.

A balcony to watch over my backyard

and make sure everything is cool.

 

I want to unlock charity boxes

without setting off alarms.

I want a private ritual bath

that is always warm,

and a jacuzzi that’s right next

to my indoor pool.

 

Yeah, we all want to sit with the classy people,

at the northern tables,

with satisfied bellies…

they’ll need my opinions…

my great brilliance,

the young boys will look at my pictures

in great awe!

 

Chorus: Everyone wants to be a great Rebbe

to look down from their pedestal at the bumbling fools —

Hey, yeah, I want to be a Rebbe!

Hey, hey, hey,

I want to be a Rebbe!

 

I want to be able to fly

without a passport,

drive on the highway

with a police escort —

Our caravan will make

at least a hundred miles per hour.

 

I want to arrive

to a fancy guesthouse,

surrounded by signs and lights

and hundreds of followers

who will sing “Welcome” songs!

 

I want a thick fur coat

if I get cold,

and a silver walking stick

if I get old

and a closet filled with rabbinic robes

made of pure silk!

 

I want to sit and accept,

donations and contributions,

when they talk about me,

they should list a hundred titles.

And if I needed to hear other people

spill their marital troubles,

then that also wouldn’t hurt…

 

Yeah, we all want to laugh at the world,

to hand out cake to our followers,

and to make good money.

They’ll need my opinions…

my great brilliance

the young boys will look at my pictures

in great awe!

[what a large turnout!]

 

Chorus: Everyone wants to be a great Rebbe

to look down from their pedestal at the bumbling fools —

Hey, yeah, I want to be a Rebbe!

Hey, hey, hey…

I want to be a Rebbe!

 

(Song by Shauly Grossman)

Related:

Bagleiten: a Satmar Tradition

Satmar’s eyesore: 540 Bedord Avenue

 

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