Reb Zushe's Song

by Ricky Riot

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about

This is based on a story I heard from my teacher Rabbi Art Green, about a historical figure named Reb Meshulam Zushe of Anipoli, 1718-1800. He was a "holy fool"-type character, and a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch. He was a tzaddik; a completely selfless person who has an exceptional connection with G!d, whose prayers and blessings possess special powers. He was known for being extremely faithful and believing that all is for the good, and one of his main mitzvos was pidiyon shevuyim, or redemption of the captives. During this time, Jews in Poland were frequently jailed under false accusations and subject to torture and murder, as well as massacres in their neighborhoods. Hasidic tales varied slightly, and were told to people according to what they needed to hear at that time.* I am telling this story to remind us all to begin at home, to live our values in our daily interactions, not just in our wallets, to make sure that our actions are consistent with our beliefs. And remember the larger picture as well. Our government is responsible for torture in military prisons. In this country, incarceration is still a systemic problem that disproportionately affects people of color. These issues are not that far from each other. May all captives be redeemed quickly and in our day amen.

*For the sake of relevance, that is a generic and simplified description. Read Martin Buber for more info on Hasidic tales, and R. Art Green for more on Hasidism, which is NOT to be confused for the more modern "ultra Orthodox" movements that we now call Hasidism. Hasidism was not the only movement that existed at this time, and I am happy to talk to you more about Jewish movement history, or more stories about Reb Zusha.

lyrics

Reb Zushye walked through the streets of Anipoli
A jar of coins in his hand
Shouting our brothers were taken by the police
And it’s their ransom they demand

And I’m collecting for the captives’ redemption 2x
All I can offer you are my blessings for protection
I am collecting for the captives’ redemption
Yai dai dai

He came upon an inn owned by a fellow Jew
He said, brother, may I have a word with you?
If we can’t fulfill the whole Torah, we must do our share
Do you have any money to spare?

The innkeeper said, you holy Hasid
Wait here while I find my wallet
It won’t be much but you’ve got a noble cause
G!d save us from foreign kings and their laws

As he walked out, Reb Zushye noticed
A bird in a cage in the corner
She shouted, is it me you were looking for
Can’t we also be kings and foreigners

He hears his brother’s footsteps descending
Returning with his donation
Reb Zushye prepares to do his defending
And face this man’s aggravation

The innkeeper’s face nearly exploded
And turned eighteen different shades of red
I go out of my way to find money to pay
But you’ve come here to mock me instead

The first punch, Reb Zushye saw it coming
He held his fists over his face
He picked up his jar, and into the streets he went running
Away from this despicable place

credits

released August 4, 2015
Lyrics, music, piano, vocals, and recording by Ricky Riot

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about

Ricky Riot Boston, Massachusetts

Ricky Riot (who is actually going by Itai these days) played in the former band Schmekel. (transjews.bedlogic.net), the world's only all-trans schtick-rock band. Now, he writes about overthrowing capitalism and the patriarchy. Look out for the budding project Klezmermaid, recordings coming soon! ... more

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