Chad Gadya

admin April 4th, 2011

Chad Gadya

Pesach (Passover) is coming, and so is more than one kid goat at our farm,  as the famous Jewish seder song says (which you can hear above sung very traditionally).  ”Chad Gadya” means “One Kid Goat” and it is a kind of Jewish “Old Lady who Swallowed the Fly” song in some ways, but with other meanings as well.  As the story goes,  Father buys a kid goat for two zuzim (for the Pesach seder) but the goat is eaten by cat, the cat is chased by a dog, etc… until finally…

Along came the Holy One of Blessings, and slew the Angel of Death, who slew the ritual slaughterer, who slaughtered the ox , which drank the water,  which put out the fire, which burnt the stick, which hit the dog, which bit the cat, which ate the kid which Father bought for two zuzim. Chad gadya, chad gadya! One only kid, one only kid!

Bast and Arava are due to kid anytime now, and we’re checking our supplies and watching our girls carefully.  We know from experience that the does can handle things themselves, and our job is mostly to hang about and watch and be around just in case of problems.  The beauty of the Nigerian Dwarves is that they kid very easily - we’ve only once had to assist a birth, with Arava last year, because she jumped a fence and got pregnant at five months (they can breed earlier than 7 months but shouldn’t) and she was little and her daughter was huge.  This year Arava is in gorgeous shape and I don’t anticipate (knock wood, cross fingers, etc…) any trouble.  Just can’t wait to see the littles!

There is something about the arrival of baby goats around seder time that brings me back to the pastoralist past - the story of the Israelite’s emergence from Egypt with their flocks, and their refusal to go without them, to the last song at the seder table, Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya is a reminder that my faith emerged from people bound tightly to flocks of sheep and goats.  As Brad Kessel points out in _Goat Song_ (great book, btw), the history is bound into our language, into a very alphabet, which carries the record of the shepherd’s staff in the Lamed/L, and the horned animal in our A/Aleph.

This season is supposed to be one of new life - the first harvest of grain (barley) in ancient Israel marked the casting out of all of last year’s chametz (leavened food) and its replacement with fresh.  We clean out too - although it is much harder for stationary people with big houses than wandering pastoralists with tents - but we do our best.  Everything else is so much easier for us, due to our fossil fueled bounty it seems silly to complain about the Pesach cleaning.

As we wait for the babies, anticipating - how many?  How many does?  What shall we name them?  The names are coming from Greek Mythology for our spring kids this year - shall we name one Amalthea?  If we get nine does, could we name them after the muses?  The debates rage among the children.

We wait for the buds to unfurl, we plan for the growing garden that is too soggy and mucky to plant.  We wait for the births we know are coming - chicks in their eggs, rabbits in their mother’s womb, sheep waiting to birth in my neighbor’s barn, and most of all, for that first kid goat, chad gadya, chad gadya, it sounds like a blessing, a benediction in the original Aramaic.  It is a blessing when it is born in your barn.

An older woman from my synagogue won one kid goat this year.  Her little wether will come to live at our farm on Wednesday and join the to-come crop of baby goats boinging around the farm.  She visits him weekly on the farm where he was born and said to me “I never knew how wonderful they were!”  It is, in fact, a blessing.

It hasn’t quite greened up here yet, but I’m hoping - many things are about to begin.  There’s this short pause before the rush of new life, while things build up and unfold - unfold like the legs of a newborn kid that shakily comes to stand and reach for the milk of life.  Unfolds like the blessings of spring, the bursting forth of renewal and the things that come back again anew.


12 Responses to “Chad Gadya”

  1. Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife says:

    I’m a little jealous of the new life you experience on your farm. We’re supposed to be getting a broody hen with eggs this month, but the farmer hasn’t been too consistent or easy to reach.

    I love the themes you pick for naming the goats. Greek mythology should prove an excellent resource for names. So many great ones. I especially like Arachne, Jocasta, and Andromache (maybe a good one for an especially feisty doeling; it means “fights like a man”). Niobe has a nice sound, but not so great an association, maybe, for a doe you want to breed. Actually, truth be told, maybe there aren’t so many names from Greek mythology with wholly good associations for offspring.

  2. admin says:

    Well, yes, that’s true ;-) . If we have triplet does, Simon wants to name them Alecto, Magaera and Tisiphone… I’m a little afraid.

    Fingers crossed for a broody hen! Or I could send one home with Tom sometime!


  3. dixiebelle says:

    Good luck with the birthing this year… I cannot wait to see photos of the baby goats!!

  4. MEA says:

    One of thing things that I find most hope-giving in the world is that in Spring, when the natural world is most depleted of energy and the reserves are low, it’s the time that new life emerges, trusting that (for some at least) there will be sustinince.

  5. Apple Jack Creek says:

    It is also a blessing to read the words of a writer as gifted as you.
    I want to write as beautifully as you do! :)

  6. Michelle says:

    My Californian rabbits are named with Old Norse names (I know that astonishes you…) and the doe who kindled successfully during the blizzard in January is now called “Verdandi.” The three fates/three sisters are called Uld, Skald, and Verdandi; old, story, and future. She is now the fate of the future here at Blessed Acre.

    Thanks for the cultural education regarding Chad Gadya! And I hope you start to green up soon… I’ve just noticed today that the grass in the back is starting to look green again - wherever it’s not mud, that is :)

  7. admin says:

    Actually, my father used to claim that if he’d known he was going to have three daughters he would have named us Uld, Verdande and Skuld. Or Regan, Goneril and Cordelia (my answer to that was that I could have lived with Regan if that meant my sister Rachael had to be named “Goneril” ;-) ). And I was supposed to be Ariadne - my mother vetoed on the grounds of “Ariadne Astyk” - but personally I think it was cooler than Sharon.


  8. MEA says:

    It’s not to late to change your name… Ariadne is cool.
    I alway wanted to be called Antigone.

  9. jan says:

    Oh I love new baby goats. Our NG’s finished kidding on Saturday. From the three we have seven and 4 are does! Since this is my first NG kidding I named them what ever came to me when they were born.
    Enjoy your spring babies.

  10. Reb Deb says:

    I’ll call you Ariadne if you like! Great name! Ditto Antigone. I don’t suppose you could have figured out a way to take a Greek name as part of your Jewish name …

    There’s a story about Chad Gadya … It’s not natural for a cat to hunt and eat a goat — even kids are already as big as the cat (except maybe for Nigerians and huge cats). So there’s something wrong with that behavior. So … the dog is right for punishing the cat. The stick is wrong for disciplining the dog, but the fire is right for burning the stick. The water is wrong, though, for putting out the fire. The ox is right, the shochet (butcher) is wrong, the Angel of Death is right, and … ??? God is wrong?????

    All this goes away if you acknowledge that our version is obviously corrupted over time. It’s really a song about a mouse. Mice are natural prey of cats. There’s nothing wrong with a cat hunting and eating a mouse. So the dog is wrong for disciplining the cat, the stick is right, the fire is wrong, the water is right, the ox is wrong, the shochet is right and the Angel of Death is wrong, and — thank goodness! — God is right.

  11. Reb Deb says:

    And I obviously need to work a little harder on my HTML tags…

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