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Daily Lyric: RABBIS RABBIS RABBIS

Updated: Jan 14

Rabbis, rabbis, rabbis

They ain’t what they used to be

And when they’re getting on my case

Lord, they got the best of me

The music I like playing

Or what I listen to at home

It doesn’t matter what it is

But they just won’t leave me alone


I guess it takes a man with smicha

To tell me that I just have got to stop—

“You better stop!”

He’s getting more and more annoyed

I think I’m getting paranoid

I feel my stomach’s gonna drop …

When I hear that holy word!


So-called daas torah

Some more marbles on the loose

This is all scheisa de-moicha!

And it’s cooking up my goose

Fences around fences

And still more fences too

No room for any thinking

Just more turning of the screw


I thought that learning makes you see the light

But it turns out that their eyes have all gone blind—

They lead the blind!

If you think that it’s utopia

It’s not, it’s claustrophobia

So get out a bit and use your mind …

When you hear that holy word!


Rabbis rabbis rabbis!

What are they trying to prove?!

Rabbis rabbis rabbis!

You know they got me on the move!

Well, I hear the latest news and I’m stunned and amazed

Just how far they go with their chumrah craze

Who’s the poor shnook to receive a reprimand

What’s the latest enjoyment to be sanctioned and banned

But the thing that really makes me weep

Is the way the rank and file just follows like sheep

Too scared to go against the grain

And abdicating the use of their G-d–given brains


And what they've left of our religion

Is not what I remember as a boy—

They stole its joy!

And I think of my yeshiva days

When their business was to mold my ways

When I wouldn’t follow their mores

I knew that they were gonna say …

GOY, GOY, MACH’SHEMOI, KI LE-OILOM CHASDOI!

(You hear what he called me?!)

GOY, GOY, MACH’SHEMOI, KI LE-OILOM CHASDOI!!

(He called me a—)

GOY, GOY, MACH’SHEMOI, KI LE-OILOM CHASDOI!!!

(That’s what he thinks I am!)

GOY, GOY, MACH’SHEMOI, KI LE-OILOM CHASDOI!!!!


Wash my brain with torah

Purify my soul

Dry it with gemara

Fill up every hole

Mamesh not beseder

This is driving me insane

I can’t take all these pronouncements

And all this mussar in my brain


You’d think there is a solution:

Just to pick myself up and fly right out—

“Heshy, get out!” [slurp!]

But I’m stuck in here helplessly

The ‘shtussim’ roll on endlessly

And all my ‘zchussim’ are in doubt …

Then I hear that holy word!

RABBIS RABBIS RABBIS!

RABBIS RABBIS RABBIS!

RABBIS RABBIS RABBIS!

RABBIS RABBIS RABBIS!

Rabbis rabbis rabbis!

What are they trying to prove?!

Rabbis rabbis rabbis!

You know they’ll always disapprove!

Rabbis rabbis rabbis!

The tension’s getting higher;

Is he just a rabbi …

OR IS HE THE MESSIAH?!?!!!


Rabbis rabbis rabbis!

(Acting like they’re therapists!)

Rabbis rabbis rabbis!

(Shechting our relationships!)

Rabbis rabbis rabbis!

(Shechting our creativity!)

Rabbis rabbis rabbis!

(Shechting our individuality!)


OY! OY! OY! OY! OY! OY! OY! OY!

OY! OY! OY! OY! OY! OY! OY! OY!


©2023 The Hesh Inc.

Rabbis, rabbis, rabbis. Original AI art by The Hesh Inc.
Rabbis, rabbis, rabbis / they ain’t what they used to be.

This song started its life in late 1983, after I returned to Israel from my post–high school summer vacation in the USA. I had some time to think and ruminate about the bullshit that I had to deal with for so many years at the hands of the Orthodox Jewish clergy and teaching apparatus before my mandatory education was over, and I had a lot to say about it. All the anger and frustration bubbled to the top and was made manifest in the lyrics I had originally written for the song, in which I made many references to the actual rabbis who had caused me this grief, and assorted things that they said. The experience of writing these lyrics was, as one can can imagine, powerful and cathartic.


The music was loud, hard, and fast, borrowing elements from songs as disparate as Tommy Tutone's "867-5309 (Jenny)," the J. Geils Band's "Rage in the Cage," and Bruce Springsteen's "Rosalita," played at breakneck Ramones tempo. In fact, the only thing keeping me from categorizing it as 'punk rock' was the fact that the song was, and is, in typical Heshy fashion, a sprawling epic, not a two-minutes-and-you're-done tornado. I banged it out on the piano many times and even rehearsed it with my musical partner Izzy Kieffer with an eye toward including it in our set list, but alas, it was left out and was never performed before a live audience or recorded, mostly because we chickened out of challenging the establishment and risking all sorts of opprobrium that could translate into very real consequences for ourselves and our families. So much for being rock'n'roll rebels.


Some forty years after its initial composition, in 2023, I rewrote the lyrics, removing most of the references to specific individuals and quotes—the exception being the "GOY, GOY" break before the third verse; that actually happened and stuck with me for all these years—and writing instead about issues plaguing the community that I was nominally a part of and its supposed leaders. I tried cutting the music down to "punk rock" size but I couldn't do it; I only removed what had been a long space for a guitar solo but otherwise left it the same. What I plan to do with it at this point, I don't know ... I am less concerned about consequences, but at the same time, I do realize that not all rabbis are like the ones portrayed in the song; it's just that I seemed to have tripped over the wrong ones through the years. At the very least, I want to record it for posterity, but eventual release is an open question at this point.


 

Glossary

chumrah = stringent interpretation of religious law, intended to be accepted voluntarily by individuals but often followed lockstep by communities as the norm (Hebrew, Aramaic)

daas torah = opinion on nonreligious matter unduly rendered as rabbinical ruling with the force of religious law (Hebrew)

gemara = the larger part of the Talmud (Aramaic)

goy = gentile; often pejorative (Hebrew, Yiddish)

ki le-oilom chasdoi = "may His mercy endure forever," in Psalms 118, 136 (Hebrew)

mach'shemoi = corruption of yemach shemo, may G-d blot out an evildoer's name (Yiddish, Hebrew)

mamesh not beseder = really not proper, out of order (Yeshivish)

mussar = ethics or preaching thereof (Hebrew)

scheisa de-moicha = excrement of the brain (Yiddish/Aramaic mashup)

shecht = slaughter (Yiddish, from Hebrew)

shtussim = nonsense (improper Hebrew)

smicha = rabbinic ordination (Hebrew)

zchussim = merits (improper Hebrew)

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