Di bobe mitn eynikl

[Grandmother and Grandchild]


Act I. A room in the house of Bontsye, a 70-year-old Jewish woman, at the end of the Sabbath. Tuvye Shmaye, the matchmaker, is preparing to go to Sadigora to find a boy from a rabbinic family for Bontsye’s 18-year-old granddaughter, Odele, whom she has been raising since Odele’s mother died prematurely. He leaves, and Odele enters to see her grandmother plucking feathers for Odele’s marriage bedding. Odele reminds her how much she dislikes hearing about marriage, which prompts Bontsye’s song describing how she dreamt that she died and went to heaven. There she witnessed punishments meted out to acculturated Jews, such as having their heads and feet cut off and being thrown into a river, turning it bloody. Odele suggests that Bontsye’s dream is only a projection of her waking thoughts; it all comes from having chopped potatoes for borscht. Odele’s German teacher, Ignatz arrives, and they woo each other in German. Odele deliberately mistranslates for her grandmother, who is sitting nearby, turning language about courtship into professions of piety. Her grandmother goes to kiss her, but accidentally kisses the teacher. An appalled Bontsye starts spitting--straight into the beard of Tuvye Shmaye, who has just returned. When he announces that he has found a match for Odele, she faints.

Act II. A large room divided in half. Odele, on one side of the room, complains about her grandmother’s selfishness. To console herself, she reads a letter from Ignatz. Meanwhile, Bontsye enters on the other side of the room and reads the Tsene-rene aloud. Bontsye hears Odele sighing on the other side of the wall, and goes to comfort her. Each problem Odele describes meets with a superstitious explanation, including spirit possession. When Odele confesses that she is in love with Ignatz, Bontsye is horrified. A few moments later, Ignatz arrives to take Odele away. Bontsye hears her leaving, returns to find her gone, and falls powerless to the ground.

Act III. Bontsye lies in her sickbed, a glass of water and the Tsene-rene on the table next to her. She worries about meeting her deceased daughter in heaven, and having to account for the fact that Odele has run off. She regrets having been so strict, and now says that if her granddaughter would only come back, she would let her marry according to her own wishes. Then we hear a heavenly voice tell Bontsye that “Because you have sinned in this world, you will not be able to see the Land of Israel during your lifetime, nor will you see your granddaughter again. But an hour before your death, you will see a vision: first the Land of Israel, and then, Odele and her husband.” She dozes off, and a wall opens up to reveal Reb Meyer Bal Nes’ grave. The picture then changes to an image of Odele and Ignatz in wedding clothes. With the little strength she has left, Bontsye cries out, “Odele!” and dies.


Written by




Three Acts

Character Types

Date Published

First Performance