Soon we will once again hear the story of Mordechai, who was taken for a ride on the King’s horse, led by the infamous Haman. That was a Persian horse, but did you ever hear about a Yiddisher faird?” So now you are laughing: a Jewish horse? What’s that!?
Many of the Yiddish misehs (tales) of the Old Country, by Sholom Aleichem, were about Tevya der milchiger (Tevya the dairy man), later written into a play entitled Fiddler on the Roof. Tevya delivered dairy products to the folks in his Russian village. One day the anti-Semitic government officials decided to expel the Yidden from their shtetl (town) as was the custom in many sections of Europe. Prior to leaving, Tevya goes to the barn and thanks his faird for pulling his dairy wagon for so many years. Of course, he speaks to his horse in Yiddish.
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Fairdlach (more than one faird) were not always looked upon with favor by our people as they reminded us of being slaves in Egypt. After being chased out of the country because of the makkos (plagues) on the Egyptians, we were once again pursued by our former slavemasters, whose chariots were pulled by – yes – fairdlach! You know the rest of the story, right? Oyb nisht (if not), here is what happened: The fairdlach and their charioteers had ah meesen soff (an ugly ending), taking up permanent residence at the bottom of the sea! Zoll azoy zine fahr unzehr sonim (may it occur to our enemies)!
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In the Holy Torah, kings are warned not to own too many fairdlach. Fahrvoss (why)? you may ask. Go ask a gelerenter (knowledgeable) Yid. The Torah also mentions Bilam’s talking donkey, who objected to his owner’s whippings. Nu, you may say, an aizel (donkey) is not a horse. True. But many centuries later, Walter Brooks wrote a miseh about a talking horse which was turned into a TV series called Mr. Ed. (Some of you may remember its theme song, “A Horse Is a Horse, of Course, of Course.”)
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After many centuries, our disdain for horses changed, and horses entered the vernacular. Upon reviewing an old Yiddish dictionary, I saw many faird words and expressions. Here are a few: ah ferdisher gelechter, high laughter, like a horse’s whinny; a fairdisher ponim, a horse-like expression; aire est vee ah faird, he eats like a horse; aire tracht vee ah faird, he thinks like a horse; aire loift vee ah faird, he runs like a horse; and aire is ah groyseh faird, he is a big horse (not exactly a compliment!).
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Nu, you may say, we don’t live in a vacuum. What about expressions used by the English-speaking masses around us? Here’s a little story composed of horse phrases:
John, a stable manager, had good horse sense, but he failed in regard to one of his employees. He was desperate for someone to clean the stalls, when Henry appeared. Henry had a great resume and came with his own tools. So, not looking a gift horse in the mouth, he hired Henry, who indeed worked like a horse. Unfortunately, one day, John noticed Henry and another stable boy, Bill, running around the track. Bill ran like a horse and was winning the race. But John put a stop to it, shouting, “Stop horsing around and get back to work!” He was inclined to fire Henry and Bill but thought to himself, “It’s best not to change horses in the middle of the stream.” His stable business was declining, but he comforted himself in the knowledge that the other stables were not doing well either. “I guess every horse thinks its own pack is the heaviest,” he thought as he rode into the twilight.
American folklore has thousands of cowboy and Indian stories and movies involving horses. Who doesn’t recall the geshrey (yell) of the Lone Ranger: “Hiyo, Silver, away!”? Remember Roy Rogers and his faird Trigger, or Gene Autry singing “Back in the saddle again…” as he mounted his faird Champion, or Hop-a-long Cassidy talking to his faird, Topper? Food for thought or for a good school essay!
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Once upon a time, we lived near Pimlico Race Course. We looked out the window and noticed people rushing to the fairdlach races with an enthusiastic gait, returning to their cars several hours later dragging their feet. In recent years, walking around after the horse races can be unsafe. A few years ago, as I walked to shul for Mincha, a drunk driver tossed a beer can out of the car and shouted an anti-Semitic slur. Nu, he probably lost his hoyzehn (pants) at the races. So who was to blame? Yidden, of course…
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It is written that Moshiach ben Dovid will arrive on a donkey (a relative of the faird). Nu, our Muslim “cousins” couldn’t mentally digest such a happening, so they rewrote the script with a character named Mahdi riding on a white faird. For them, a donkey pahst nisht (was not fitting). Mahdi will then proceed to slaughter all of us. Nu, go have peace with our “cousins”!
In an old TV program called To Tell the Truth (anyone remember?), the object was for a panel to guess which of the three contestants were authentic and which was lying. The closing question was, “Will the real person stand up?” One of the contestants stood up, and the audience went wild. Nu, when the real Moshiach arrives, he will not have to go through any contest! We will know him immediately. What we pray for is for Moshiach ben Dovid to arrive bimhayraw beyawmaynu (quickly in our days)!