Texts & Translation

וְהָיָה הָעולָם

New Creation

Ber Kotlerman

Translation by Jessica Kirzane


Trans­la­tor’s note: On Octo­ber 7, as the scope of the heinous ter­ror­ist attack in Israel was becom­ing appar­ent, we — like so many oth­ers — found our­selves doom­scrolling, search­ing for news, for com­mu­ni­ty with whom to share our hor­ror, anger, and fear, and ulti­mate­ly for hope. As edi­tors of this jour­nal, on the top of our minds was also the ques­tion of what we could bring to our read­ers that might be help­ful and rel­e­vant and speak to the con­cerns that are sure­ly on the fore­front of their minds in these dark days. It was a tall order to ask of our social media feeds.

We found some­thing that spoke to our needs in Ber Kotler­man’s poem. The grand vision of hope in this poem cap­tures the themes of Sim­chat Torah, when the Torah read­ing cal­en­dar has us begin­ning anew at Breyshis, and uses them to com­fort and embold­en us to believe that it is pos­si­ble to move toward a future of peace, even in a time of war. I trans­lat­ed the poem — and we pushed it quick­ly through our edi­to­r­i­al process — so our read­ers could share in this hope at a time when it is essential.

Ber Kotler­man is a Yid­dish author and Pro­fes­sor of Yid­dish stud­ies at Bar Ilan Uni­ver­si­ty, Israel. This poem was his first reac­tion to reports of vic­tims of Hamas crimes in south­ern Israel. He recit­ed it for the first time at a work­shop on con­tem­po­rary Yid­dish poet­ry orga­nized in Vien­na joint­ly by the Bar-Ilan Cen­ter for Yid­dish Stud­ies, the Oxford School of Rare Jew­ish Lan­guages and the Insti­tute of Jew­ish Stud­ies at the Jagiel­lon­ian Uni­ver­si­ty in Krakow, on Octo­ber 9. The title of the poem in the orig­i­nal is a quote from the Shachar­it morn­ing prayer: [The Blessed One, who spoke] and the world came into being.

Ber Kotler­man reads his orig­i­nal Yid­dish poem, וְהָיָה הָעולָם”.

Jes­si­ca Kirzane reads her trans­la­tion of New Cre­ation” by Ber Kotlerman.

וְהָיָה הָעולָם

עס פּראַוועט סודות מיט מײַן לאַנד בײַנאַכט דער מולד,
אַז ערגעץ בײַ דער אַלוועלטס מזרח־ראַנד
אין חושך ניאַנטשעט אַ פֿאַרהילטע צאַרטע האַנט
אַ נײַגעבוירן ליכט אין הינערפּלעט פֿאַרחלומט.
די גרויסע אַלוועלט וואַרט אין סאַמעט־ווייכן דרימל
ביז ס'ווערט איר זוים מיט מאָרגנרויט באַפֿאַרבט,
ביז ס'ווערט איר יש פֿאַרקערפּערט און פֿאַרהאַרבט
און אָפּגעטיילט פֿון ס'נײַ די ערד ווערט פֿונעם הימל.
אַ שפּראָץ אויף טאָג און - וְהָיָה הָעולָם,
און קיין שום כּוח אין דער וועלט ניטאָ,
וואָס קאָן אָפּשאַפֿן די־אָ העלע שעה
פֿון האָפֿענונג, פֿון אמת און פֿון גלויבן.

מוצאי שמחת תורה תשפ"ד

New Creation

At night, the moon whispers to my land
that somewhere at the eastern edge of all,
in the dark, a hidden gentle arm enfolds
a newborn light in a dazed slumber.

The great universe waits in a soft,
velvet dream until its edge
glows in sunrise-scarlet,

until its substance takes form
and hardens and the earth divides
from the heavens once again.
Day breaks and–a new creation.

In this world there is no power
that could suppress that shining hour
of hope, of truth, of faith.

Motsei Simchat Torah, 5784

Kotlerman, Ber. “New Creation.” In geveb, October 2023: Trans. Jessica Kirzane. https://ingeveb.org/texts-and-translations/new-creation.
Kotlerman, Ber. “New Creation.” Translated by Jessica Kirzane. In geveb (October 2023): Accessed Apr 20, 2024.


Ber Kotlerman

Ber Kotlerman is Professor at the Department of Literature of the Jewish People and Director of the Rena Costa Center for Yiddish Studies, Bar Ilan University, Israel. He also holds the Sznajderman Chair in Yiddish Culture and Hasidism. He is the author of a number of monographs in the field of Yiddish culture. Among his literary awards are the Canadian Dr. Hirsch and Deborah Rosenfeld Award for Yiddish and Hebrew Literature and the American Jewish Press Association's Simon Rockower Award.


Jessica Kirzane

Jessica Kirzane is the assistant instructional professor of Yiddish at the University of Chicago. She holds a PhD in Yiddish Studies from Columbia University. Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief of In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies.