Itzik Manger was perhaps the most beloved of Yiddish poets in the years of the great ascendancy of Yiddish as a spoken language of millions. Born in 1901 in Czernowitz (then Austro-Hungarian, later Romanian, now in Ukraine) he died in Gedera in 1969. From 1921 he began to win the hearts of Jewish readers for his unusual power of uniting the ancient and modern, fantasy and realism, satire and cultural criticism in playful, clever, often both funny and sad poems about Jews against their traditional and religious background and lore. He loved the literature from the Bible and hated injustice and hypocrisy.Thus Manger could write a ballad about the impoverished ones of modern society, and of biblical characters, mostly real, some imagined, from Adam and Eve, through a rhymed play based on the Purim megilla, and on to the pain and tragic loss of his homes, friends and family in his birthplace, Czernowitz. The Jews of Czernowitz spoke German as well as Yiddish, and the city has been called the last bastion of the Austro- Hungarian Empire, which fell in 1918. His spiritual home was in Warsaw, which, before 1939, was a great center of Yiddish literature, press, theater and film. He escaped from Warsaw to Paris and then to London, but the Holocaust shook his essence and being.One of my favorites, which one day I hope to translate (not being satisfied with what I could find) is – just imagine – a golden peacock shuttling love-letters written in red ink between the great French 12th-century talmudist Rabbenu Tam, and the Queen of Turkey. Another is that of the little boy who wants to fly like the birds on a bowed-down tree, but his mother loads him with so much clothing against the winter cold that he can no longer fly away. His messages were clear, unstated and beautiful. Both of the poems selected, as well as many of Manger’s other works and those of other Yiddish poets, were set to music and became beloved songs.After wandering through France and England, Manger came to Israel, as he wrote, “with one shirt and one pair of shoes.” “A tailor’s apprentice” he called himself, a man who, as one critic said, wrote “with ink, with his heart’s blood and with wine.”When I saw him at a soiree for him in the home of prime minister Levi Eshkol in the early 1960s he was emaciated, smoked heavily, and his eyes showed pain and wisdom and humor and a sense of “can I, the tailor-lad, really be in the home of the head of the Jewish state?”I have translated a few poems as closely as possible to the original, which has an easy iambic rhythm and a powerful visual impact. The poems from the Pentateuch (how unlike the simple Yiddish name Khumesh Lider) combine past and present with love for his characters, an especially those who either are very happy or very hurt, but who all feel deeply. The writer is author of a number of books, his latest being the novel A Tale of Two Avrahams.Akaydas Itzik – The sacrifice of Isaac Itzik Manger This poem evokes Manger’s pain – our pain – at the “cities, villages and graves.” His argument is with God in the name of his “zaydeh,” the long-lived Jewish people. I have not translated “Akaydeh” (akeda in modern Hebrew), the “binding of Isaac,” which has entered Western literature as the “sacrifice of Isaac.”Rock me, rock me, you blind fate, While I dream with open eyes, And see a large and silver bird As over the seas it flies. What the bird is bringing me Only One God in Heaven can know...Maybe grandfather’s kiddush cup With sweet Israeli wine aflow.But who has mentioned grandpa’s name? At that moment comes my Zaydeh.The wagon-driver from our old town: “Itzik. It’s time again for the Akaydeh.”And his eyes burn into mine Like two great stars at harvest His beard is wild and whipped by windAnd only seven great tears dress it.By the hand Zaydeh takes me in charge Over cities and villages and graves The cities are small, the villages large As we fly over them and the graves.Then Zaydeh says, “Itzik recall Back then, under the knife, When the Angel told me to stop, He gave us back your life.Now the Old God regrets it.Demands the sacrifice then denied.Well I’ve lived so many times And so often have I died...Enough! An end! I don’t want Your favor! Don’t think we’ll come acreeping.Itzik, it’s good your mother is dead At least she forgoes the weeping.”By the hand Zaydeh takes me in charge Over cities and villages and graves The cities are small, the villages large As we fly over them and the graves.Adam is jealous Itzik Manger Trills a yellow canary On a tree in paradise Between song and dream, Adam opens up his eyes.A red sun-beam quivers Across the grass damp with dew, And running chasing to catch it Is a hare, and a squirrel too.Adam smiles. Beside him Lies Eve his wife, his blest, Grass and green leaves cover Her young beauteous breast.He looks at her and thinks, (He stares at her with delight):“Good that I can see by day; And it is dark only at night.”He rises and begins to walk, And sounds thrill and troll, And every sound and every trill Find echoes in his soul.But listen! Deep down in the vale A streamlet twists and crawls.A streamlet – and of a sudden Deep sadness on Adam falls.In the streamlet he had seen An Adam just like him to a “T” What does this water-Adam want, Who is he, who can he be? He runs back. Will he find them Entwined lewd and bold? Eva stands and in her hand A cuckoo-bird she holds.She asks: “O cuckoo-bird tell meIs true beauty really mine? Has my husband really found True allure in my face’s shine? And Adam stands and hears her...And he doesn’t understand why He wants to fall, face on earth And deep in the grass – to cry.