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Ḥad Gadya


ḤAD GADYA (Aram. חַד גַּדְיָא; "An Only Kid"), initial phrase and name of a popular Aramaic song chanted at the conclusion of the Passover *seder. Composed of ten stanzas, the verse runs as follows: A father bought a kid for two zuzim; a cat came and ate the kid; a dog then bit the cat; the dog was beaten by a stick; the stick was burned by fire; water quenched the fire; an ox drank the water; a shoḥet slaughtered the ox; the shoḥet was killed by the Angel of Death who in punishment was destroyed by God. Each stanza repeats the previous verses closing with the refrain: "ḥad gadya, ḥad gadya." Jewish commentators have invested "Ḥad Gadya" with a hidden allegorical meaning in which the kid symbolizes the oppressed Jewish people. It was bought by the father (God) for two coins (Moses and Aaron). The devouring cat stands for Assyria; the dog is Babylon; the stick represents Persia; the fire Macedonia; the water is Rome; the ox, the Saracens; the shoḥet, the Crusaders; and the Angel of Death, the Turks who in those days ruled Palestine. The end of the song expresses the hope for messianic redemption: God destroys the foreign rulers of the Holy Land and vindicates Israel, "the only kid." Other commentators have tried to interpret "Ḥad Gadya" as an allegorization of the *Joseph legend or of the relationship between body and soul as reflected in Jewish mysticism. The best-known Jewish interpretations of "Ḥad Gadya" are (1) Kerem Ein Gedi, by Judah b. Mordecai Horowitz (Koenigsberg, 1764); (2) a commentary by Jonathan *Eybeschuetz (Neubauer Cat Bodl. 1 (1886), no. 2246); (3) two commentaries by the Gaon of Vilna (e.g., in the Haggadah Migdal Eder, Vilna, 1923); (4) and a commentary by R. Moses *Sofer (ibid.). Most scholars agree, however, that the song was borrowed from a German folk song of the Hobelbanklied type ("Der Herr der schickt den Jokel aus") which, in turn, is based on an old French nursery song. Joseph *Jacobs (in notes to his English Fairy Tales, London, 1893) points to the analogy of "Ḥad Gadya" with Don Quixote and with certain Persian and Indian poems. The riddle of the motif and meaning of "Ḥad Gadya" was also dealt with by Christian writers, notably by Hermann von der Hardt, in his Ḥad Gadia Historia Universalis Judaeorum in aenigmate (Helmstadt, n.d.) and also by J.C. *Wagenseil, and by J.C.G. *Bodenschatz. The song seems to have originated in the 16th century and appears for the first time in a Haggadah printed in Prague (1590). It was never part of the Sephardi and the Yemenite rituals. It was incorporated into the *Haggadah (like the other concluding songs; see "Eḥad Mi *Yode'a") for the amusement of the children so that they might not fall asleep before the end of the seder.


Kohler, in: zgdj, 3 (1889), 234–6; D. Goldschmidt, Haggadah shel Pesaḥ, Mekoroteha ve-Toledoteha (1960), 96–98; M. Kasher, Haggadah Shelemah (1961), 190f.; A.M. Habermann, in: Maḥanayim, 55 (1961), 140–3; D. Sadan, ibid., 144–50; For detailed bibl. see Kohut, in: je, 6 (1904), 128, and Davidson, Oẓar, 2 (1929), 224 no. 39.

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