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Kuando el rey Nimrod (When Nimrod was King), a song relating the story of Avraham & the Furnace (ca. 1890)

Source (Ladino) Translation (English)

Kuando el rey Nimrod al campo salia
mirava en el cielo y en la estrelleria
vido una luz santa en la juderia
que havia de naser Avraham Avinu.
When King Nimrod went out to the countryside
He was looking at heaven and at the stars
He saw a holy light in the Jewish quarter
[A sign] that Avraham, our father, was about to be born.

(Avraham Avinu, Padre querido
Padre bendicho, luz de Yisra’el) (×2).
Luego a las comadres encomendava
que toda mujer que prenyada quedara
si paria un hijo, al punto la matara
que havia de naser Avraham Avinu.
(Avraham Avinu, beloved father
Blessed father, light of Yisra’el) (×2).
Then he told the midwives
That every woman who was still pregnant
If she gave birth to a male child at once he will be killed
because Avraham our father was about to be born.

La mujer de Teraḥ quedó prenyada
y de dia en dia él le preguntava (or demandava)
“¿De qué teneix la cara tan demudada?”
Ella ya savia el bien que tenia.
Teraḥ’s wife was pregnant
and each day he would ask her
“Why do you look so pale?”
She already knew the blessing that she had.

En fin de nueve mezes parir queria
iva caminando por campos y vinyas,
a su marido tal ni le descubria
topó una meara, alli lo pariria
At the end of nine months she wanted to give birth,
She walked through fields and vineyards
She didn’t tell her husband anything,
She found a cave; there, she would give birth.

En aquella hora el nasido avlava:
“Anda vos, la mi madre, de la meara,
yo ya topo quien m’alechará,
Malakh de cielo me accompanyará
porque so criado del Dio bendicho.”
At that time the newborn spoke:
“Walk away from the cave, my mother
I have already found someone who will take me away.
An angel from heaven will accompany me
Because I am a child of the blessed God.”

En fin de veinte dias lo fue a visitar,
lo vido d’enfrente, mancevo saltar,
mirando al cielo y bien atinar,
para conocer el Dio de la verdad.
After twenty days she went to visit him.
She saw in front of her a young man leaping,
Looking at the sky and (looking carefully/noticing everything),
In order to know the God of Truth.

“Madre, la mi madre, que buscaix aqui?
Un hijo preciado parí yo aquí.
Vine a buscarlo, si se topa aqui,
si está bivo me consolaré yo.”
“Mother, my mother, what are you looking for here?”
“I gave birth to a precious son here.
I came to look for him here, if he is still here.
If he is alive I will be consoled.”

“Madre, la mi madre, que avlaix?
Un hijo preciado, como lo dexaix?
A fin de veinte dias, como lo vizitaix?
¡Yo so vuestro hijo preciado!”
“Mother, my mother, what are you saying?
How could you leave your precious son?
After twenty days how is it that you’re visiting him?
I am your precious son!

Mirad la mi madre, que el Dío es uno,
él crio los cielos uno per uno.
Dizedle a Nimrod que perdio su tino
porque no quiere creer en el Verdadero.
“Look, mother: God is one,
He created the heavens one by one.
Tell Nimrod that he has lost his mind
Because he does not want to believe in the True One.”

Lo alcanzó a saver el rey Nimrod esto,
“¡dixo que lo traigan aina y presto
antes que desreinen a todo el resto
y dexen a mi ya crean en el Verdadero!”
The knowledge [of Avraham’s birth] reached King Nimrod.
“Bring him here immediately
Before everyone else rebels
And say to me they already believe in the True One!”

Ya me lo truxeron con grande albon
y el travó de la silla un buen travon.
“¿Di, raxa—por que te tienes tu por Dío?
¿Por que no quieres creer en el Verdadero?”
They brought him in great humility.
He strongly seized the throne.
“Tell me, evil one: why do you think you are God?”
Why do you not wish to believe in the True One?”

“¡Acendiendo un horno, bien acendido,
echadlo presto qu’es entendido!
Llevadlo con trabucos, qu’es agudo,
si d’aqui el Dío lo escapa, es el Verdadero.”
“Light a fiery furnace,
Throw in the one who has learned immediately!
Protect yourself from him because he is sharp.
If God allows him to escape from here, then He is the Real One.”

Echandolo al horno, iva caminando,
con los malakhim iva paseando,
y todos los lenyos fruto ivan dando;
d’aqui conocemos al Dío verdadero.
Thrown into the furnace, he walked
With the angels he wandered.
All the firewood gave forth fruit,
And that is how we know the true God.

Grande zekhut tiene el senyor Avraham,
que por él conocemos el Dío de la verdad.
Grande zekhut tiene el senyor parido,
que afirma la mitsvá de Avraham Avinu.
Great merit has honorable Avraham
Because of him we recognize the true God.
Great merit has the father of the newborn
Who fulfills the commandment of Avraham our father (circumcision).

Saludemos agora al senyor parido,
que le sea besiman-tov este nacido,
qu’Eliahu ha-Navi mos sea aparecido,
y daremos loores al Verdadero.
We greet now the father of the newborn
We wish this newborn has been born under a siman tov.
Because Eliyah ha-Navi appeared to us
And we will give praises to the True One.

Saludemos agora al compadre [sandak] y tambien al mohel
que por su Zekhut mos venga
el Goel y Rahma a todo Yisra’el,
cierto loaremos al Verdadero.
We greet now the sandek and also the mohel,
Because of his merit
the Redeemer and Merciful One will come to all Yisra’el,
Sure of this, we will praise the True One.

“Kuando el rey Nimrod” (קואנדו אל ריי נמרוד, “When Nimrod was king”) is a Sephardic folk song, sung in Ladino. The song has its roots in a piyyut called “La vocación de Abraham.” Several versions have been found dating from the 18th century, written by anonymous authors in the former Ottoman Empire. The song, with its original much longer lyrics and its makam rhythm, would become popular in the Sephardic communities of the Mediterranean basin. Around the year 1890, an anonymous author from Tangiers, Morocco wrote the version of the song copied here, shortening its lyrics and composing a new melody in the Phrygian dominant scale also referred to as Freygish, Fraigish, or Hijaz.

The earliest recorded version of the story of Avraham’s survival from a fire resulting from his iconoclasm is attested in the Sefer haYovelim 12:12-15.

We are looking for other variations of Kuando el rey Nimrod and “La vocación de Abraham.” If you can provide a reference to one or more, please do — and thank you.

The English translation here follows the translation Honi Sanders and I published in the birkon for his wedding, Siman l’Vanim (Dimus Parrhesia Press 2019). –Aharon Varady

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