Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Origin of the Mis-Attribution of Got fun Avrohom to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev


The Prayer Got fun Avrohom is a prayer in Yiddish traditionally said on Motzae Shabbat for good luck and is attributed to R. Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev. The prayer predates him by centuries though and is found in early Ashkenaz Prayerbooks, for example in the 1723 Amsterdam ברכת המזון כמנהג אשכנז ופולין.


An early version of Got fun Avrohom in the Amsterdam 1723 Birkon
1727 Frankfurt Birkon also with Got fun Avrohom


The mis-attribution is a result of a book titled Shene Hameorot published in Kishinev in 1896. At the end of the book, the editor of the book writes how he found an old "trusted" manuscript in which it was written that this prayer was authored by R. Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev and he is certain that one who says the prayer 3 times prior to Havdalah is guaranteed to succeed. 

The editor apparently was not aware that the prayer was around for centuries, but his attribution to R. Levi Yitzchak stuck and from shortly after we see many other books attributing to him the prayer as well. Despite the error, the prayer has since been published in numerous Prayerbooks and Zemirot vols with the error in attribution as well. 

Title Page of Shene Hameorot, 1896 Kishinev

At end of book where the prayer is brought down

Below is Yad Shalom printed in 1910 in Piotrikov, quoting the Shene Hameorot and spreading the mis-attribution



6 comments:

  1. The prayer is old enough that it spread and became entrenched in Sepharadic lands as well. The famous Ladino 'El Dio Alto' seems to be another variation of the prayer.

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  2. Can you provide a citation to one of the early Ashkenazi siddurim with the prayer? Otherwise this post is yet another "trusted" source...
    Thank you!

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    1. One source I found is the 1723 Amsterdam ברכת המזון כמנהג אשכנז ופולין
      it appears on דף כה עמוד ב. It appears in various versions in many other such books of the period as well. I'll try to upload a scan of the page when I get a chance.

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  3. Who wants to say a Teffila from German Jewry, A rebbe can write teffilos but Yekkis?

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  4. When you read these sources carefully, you'll see none of them attributing the actual composition of this prayer to RLY of B. All they attribute to him is his guarantee of extra-beneficent powers to this prayer. They also, perhaps, intend to be a record of the precise version of wording recited by RLY. See also here a descendant of RLY relating a family tradition wherein RLY taught a spiritual reason behind reciting the - seemingly already known during RLY times - prayer in Yiddish at the end of Shabbos.
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?sits=1&req=3935&st=%u05D2%u05D0%u05D8%20%u05E4%u05D5%u05DF%20%u05D0%u05D1%u05E8%u05D4%u05DD

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    1. I think that the original sources are as you stated, attributing the Segulah but not the authorship of the prayer to R. Levi Yitzchak. But I scanned 3 different Zemirot books in my home, and all 3 attribute it to him, writing תפלה שכתב רבי לוי יצחק...
      a quick internet search also brought up loads of results of articles quoting him as the original author. See here for a few examples
      http://www.berdichev.org/the_berdichever_rabbil.html
      "He also wrote a special prayer which is recited on Motzei Shabbos. He said that it is a great segula for financial success to recite this prayer 3 times in a row before Havdala. "

      http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/445057/jewish/Gott-Fun-Avrohom.htm
      "Composed by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev
      in the Yiddish tongue'

      Here are some more
      http://www.rabbiweisz.com/ask-the-rabbi/ask-the-rabbi-3-the-prayer-got-fun-avrohom/

      http://www.hashkafah.com/index.php?/topic/48263-gutt-fun-avraham/

      It looks like even though the original sources may have been correct and careful in their wording, it has since been misunderstood and has been attributed to him.

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