This “terrible story in four bad dreams” was performed at the Kumkum Theatre in Tel Aviv in September, 1927. The text has been translated and notes provided by Fernando Peñalosa. The most accessible copy of the original Hebrew text is “Hadibuk baKumkum, Ma’ase nora be’arba’a halomot re’im me’et Avigdor Meiri,” pp. 309-314 in Dorit Yerushalmi and Shimon Levy, eds. Al na tegarshuni. 2009.
Hanan: Stands to one side, rocks back and forth, and then stands motionless.
Three Batlanim: (Sing.) — Why oh why have our theaters fallen ten cubits into the ground? A fall requires a rise in order for the Palestinian Theatre to succeed and be the Jewish theatre in Palestine.
One of them: Did you hear the anecdote?
All: Let’s hear it! Let’s hear it!
One: They tell about Rabbi Shmelke from Yehupetz, who used to ride on a wonder horse, whose feet were made of cedar wood, his belly was made of burnished copper, his neck — like an ivory tower and his head like 500 in cash — and all of him was pure gold!
All: Oh, oh, oh! Pure gold. (They laugh.)
The Messenger; That is incorrect. The horse was Balaam’s ass!
One: Have you heard about the whip? (Laughs.) Rabbi Zanula — had a whip. A simple leather whip of pure gold. (Laughs.)
The Messenger: That is incorrect. It was not a whip, but a staff.
All: They are astonished at this and all laugh.
One: (Stands up, approaches him and argues with him.) All right, all right, they know, they know; this was just by way of an example; the horse was not a horse, the head was not a head, the belly was not a belly, the whip was not a whip; but why?
The Messenger: And Gnessin was not Gnessin, but Stanislavsky.
Hanan: (Shocked upon hearing Stanislavsky’s name, he approaches them.) What are you saying? Stanislavsky? What’s Stanislavsky’s first name?
One: His name is Mikhal Hananovitz Stanislavksy.
Hanan: Mikh-al Hanan-nov-vitz (Reflects.)
The Batlanim: Well, enough! This play is too long. The audience is bored. Let’s go have a little brandy.
One of them: Do you know that Reb Sender is having a wedding?
The second one: What? A wedding? Who is having a wedding? Who?
The Messenger: Gnessin is marrying Stanislavksy to Vakhtangov! (Leaves.)
All: Aaah! If that is so, come and drink a little brandy! (They leave singing joyfully.)
Hanan: Mikhal Hanan-no-vitz. Hanan-novitz (Counts his fingers and then his buttons.) Ha-no-vitz — Hanan — Isn’t that my name! So I didn’t study my role for half a year in vain! It was not in vain! I will be a great artist! I will speak in clear language! I will speak with pathos! I will shout in a loud voice! I will play the love role, the bon vivant on the stage. Hanan! I love Leah in The Dybbuk! Where is Leah? Why doesn’t Leah appear in Act I? Why does Gnessin not allow me to have a rendezvous with her in Act I, as they did in all the theaters? Leah! Leah! Ah, you are fair, my beloved! Thus will I declaim! With a song! I have a wonderful voice! You are fair, my beloved! Your eyes are like doves! Oy, to act!
The Messenger: (Enters and looks at him.)
Hanan: I have won! I will act like Hananovitz! Ah, you are fair, my beloved! Your ... …
The Messenger: (Interrupts him.) You are imitating Finkel!1 (Leaves..)
Two Batlanim: (Enter joyfully, and sit speaking to each other and to themselves.)
A Moaning Woman: (Enters.) Oy! Oy! Oy! Lord of the Universe! For twenty years I have been acting on the stage — and I have had no success! Lord of the Universe! Give me luck, and I will succeed this time in the new Palestinian Theatre! Oy! Oy! Oy! (Leaves.)
The Messenger: (Enters) A woman is having difficulty giving birth to a role and a man is having difficulty giving birth to a theatre. The woman will give birth to a director and there will be a theatre in Palestine.
The Batlanim: Oh! Oh! Oh! These are simple matters and there is no man who sees and knows. (They go out talking.)
Hanan: Your hair is like a flock of ewes — Your locks are like the Tower of David. Ah, you are fair, my—
The Messenger: As I said, you are imitating Finkel!
Hanan: (Faints and dies.)
The Messenger: (Covers him.) A small role. At least you will not talk nonsense for the rest of the act.
The Batlanim: (Enter and dance behind the dead Hanan.)
The one: (Stumbles over the body.) Oy! Dead! Hanan is dead! Who will be the groom?
The Messenger: That’s a secret. March! Begone!
In the rear stand three white dead people. A grave:
“Here lies the dybbuk. May his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life!”
Two Batlanim: (Look at the grave.)
First Batlan: Who is buried here?
Second Batlan: The dybbuk is buried here. This is not his only grave. He has graves all over the world. In Germany, France, America, Russia and also in Sweden and Norway.
First Batlan: And who buried him so many times?
Second Batlan: The translators and the directors. But he always comes back to life. This is a very great punishment. And now they are going to bury him also in the Land of Israel for the second time. (They leave.)
Beggars: (Storm in and dance the Charleston.)
Beadle: (Comes in and throws them bouquets.) Here are some pistachios for you. Reb Sender sends them to you from the wedding! (Disappears.)
The Beggars: (Snatch the pistachios, crack them open and spit out the shells.)
First Beggar: They eat like pigs and they give us pistachios.
Second Beggar: May their names and memories be erased!They will not manage to get the bride married! The dybbuk will enter her! You will see: the dybbuk will enter her! (They laugh.)
The Beggars: (Dance around her, push her, poke at her eyes, rip her clothes, pull at her braids, throw bouquets in her face and stick out their tongues threateningly.
Leah: You dance the Charleston but you do not know how to dance. Why did you not learn from my legend in the Ohel Theatre?
The Beggars: (Break into wild laughter.)
The Messenger: (Enters, the beggars are frightened of him and run outside.)
Leah: (Approaches the grave with pathos.) Here is the grave. There must be a dead person buried in it.
The Messenger: (Goes over to Leah and frightens her. ) Ahem! (Leaves and goes through another door.)
Leah: (Frightened, she approaches her grandmother shouting.) Dear Grandma! Dear Grandma!
Grandmother: (Enters, caresses her and they approach the grave.)
Leah: Who lies here in this grave?
Grandmother: Nobody, Leahle, nobody. Do not look at the grave. Come.
Leah: I want to know who lies here in the grave.
The Messenger: The dybbuk. There was a trial of the dybbuk; although the defender Zalman Rubashov and Berl Katznelson2 acquitted him, he definitely died. (Stands to the side.)
Grandmother: Come Leahle, let’s go to the cemetery; after Hanna Rovina acts you can be buried alive, Leahle. Come on.
Leah: Is it also possible to invite our guest? Where is he? Grandma, where is our guest Uri Kesari?3 Where is he?
Grandmother: He’s there also. The monthly magazine Hamakhar buried him. But you don’t have to invite him. People write criticism without having seen the play. It is not necessary. The criticism was written about us even before the performance.
Leah: I want to invite Hanan. Gnessin did not allow me to have a rendezvous in the first act.
Grandmother: All right. Invite him. Come. (They leave. The Messenger stands in their way. The grandmother is frightened, spits on him. Ptui! May all my evil dreams befall you!
The Groom and the Tutor (Enter.)
The Tutor: Stand up straight. Like this. Button your pants. Don’t be an idiot. Stand like this when you give your speech. You learned the diction as well as the phonetics. Instead of shva you will pronounce tsere. That’s the original pronunciation. And then you’ll eat. You’ll eat a lot. Don’t be hungry like at home. Reb Sender is a rich man. You’ll eat. A lot.
The Groom: Rabbi, I’m afraid [m’fakhed].
The Tutor: Not afraid [m’fakhed], but afraid [mefakhed]. Don’t be afraid, you idiot.
The Groom: I’m afraid [mefekhed]. The maiden is a strange maiden. I am afraid of the maiden.
The Messenger: The maiden is not a maiden. It’s just a fable!
The Groom and the Tutor: (Leave.)
Leah and the Grandmother: (Come crying.)
Grandmother: (Pulls Leah onto a chair.) Sit, Leahle, sit. You are very weak. (Caressing her joyfully.) Afterward, when the dybbuk enters you — you will be strong, strong like a man! (Kisses her.)
The Groom: Enters with his tutor, afraid to approach the bride.)
The Tutor: Well, don’t be a dummy! Well, approach the bride! She will not bite you! (Pushes him.)
The Groom: (Recoils, trying to flee.)
The Tutor: (Grasps him by the side of his garment.) Dummy! What are you afraid of? The dybbuk hasn’t entered her yet! (Pulls him.) Come! Here’s the kerchief, cover her!
The Groom: (Takes the large red kerchief and tries to cover her legs.)
Leah: (Jumps up frightened.) Oh! Get out of here, you batlan! Idiot! Afraid of a young woman! Not like a groom! Oy, Hanan! You are fair, my beloved — your eyes are like doves!
The Messenger: The dybbuk has also entered the bride. The rebbe will expel him and t hen tomorrow they will put him on again. There is no advice!
The Messenger: (Comes in and out without saying anything.)
Hasidim: (Stand waiting for the rebbe and sing.) Bam, bam, bam.
Hasid: The rebbe, may he live, is coming.
The Messenger: (Enters, stand stands and speaks.) We have to call the rebbe. It’s already late and it’s boring.
The Rebbe: (Enters, sits down.) The holiest of all lands is the Land of Israel, the holiest of all the cities is Tel Aviv, the holiest of all the theaters is the Palestinian Theatre, and the greatest talent in the Palestinian Theatre is Hina Rozovskaya.4 The genius rabbi, Rabbi Max Reinhardt knew how to stage God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch.5 The pious Rabbi Tairov6 knew how to stage Belshazzar — and the terrible, great, genius Rabbi (with music) and the terrible — oh, oh, oh, Stanislavksy, oh, oh, oh—
All: Oh, oh , oh — and his student the genius rabbi, Rabbi Gnessin — oh, oh!
(A cry from outside) O-oh!
The Rebbe: What is this?
The Beadle: This, Rebbe, is the dybbuk Hanan who has entered the entire world: the theaters, the public, the directors, and now it has entered Leah.
The Rebbe: I know.
The Beadle: How does the Rebbe know?
The Rebbe: Fool. You just said so. Well, everyone leave.
All: (Leave, except for the beadle and the Messenger.)
The Rebbe: Who is this messenger who is like Kutai.7
Beadle: He is, Rebbe, Nikolayevsky Soldat, Rebbe, Leonid Andreyev’s character “Someone in Gray called He”8
Rebbe: I know. (Beadle leaves.)
Sender: (Enters crying.) Rebbe, holy Rebbe! Once more the dybbuk. I am a simple Jew, one of the community. Rebbe, the dybbuk has already despised us. Rebbe, expel him! Rebbe!
Rebbe: Who am I and what am I? The dybbuk has entered all of us, my son. Who am I and what am I? I am just an innocent tzaddik, I am of great importance, I am nothing, I am only the head of all the children of the Exile and nothing more. Who am I and what am I?
Sender: Rebbe! The dybbuk is eating us all! Rebbe! The Palestinian Theatre company stands behind him, Rebbe! Protect its right to him, Rebbe!
Rebbe: Do you agree, artists?
Hasidim: (Enter in a panic and raise their hands.) We — agree — to expel — the — dybbuk — and to perform — other — dramas — the rest is yours — the rest is yours — the rest is yours! (Long silence.)
Messenger: Hanan is already prepared behind the screen, we can begin.
Rebbe: I’ll speak to the dybbuk and he’ll enter!
Sender: (Shouts.) Dybbuk, enter!
Dybbuk: (From outside.) I’ve already entered! (Hanan shouts this from outside.)
Leah: (Enters.) Oy!
Rebbe: Who are you, dybbuk?
Hanan: I am one of those who seeks new paths in the art of the theatre.
Rebbe: That is incorrect. That’s what the Levite does; you have to perform with simplicity and realism. And so: I order you to come down from the stage! Did you hear?
Hanan: No! I want to act!
Sender: (Sounds Tekiah.)
Hanan: You can sound Tekiah at me! I will not leave! This a good, short role!
Sender: (Sounds Shevarim.)
Hanan: You can sound Shevarim at me! I will not leave!
Rebbe: Bring candles. But no electricity. Electricity is expensive in Tel Aviv. It’s really terrible.
A voice: (From behind the stages.) Turn down the light! The Rebbe is just! Less light!
Beadle: (Leaves to bring candles and distributes them.) Products of the land! Products of the land!
Hasidim: (Walk around and around singing with the candles.) Please, rescue us from poverty; please, nothing has succeeded at the box office. Please, Palestinian Theatre company, answer us in our hour of need!
Hanan: Rebbe! I’ll leave! But give me a different role.
Rebbe: I’ll give you a good, short, role: you will play Daniel!
Hanan: Daniel? Oy! I don’t want to! King of the Schnorrers!9 Oy! I don’t want to!
Rebbe: Fool! Not Daniel the director! But Daniel in Belshazzar.10 A great Tekiah!
Beadle: (Sounds Tekiah.)
Hanan: (Comes out from behind onto the stage.) Leah! I still love you.
Hanan: Ah, you are fair, my beloved —
Hasidim: Mazal tov! Mazal tov!
Leah: Your eyes are like doves! (Kisses Hanan.)
Hasidim: Mazal tov! A blessed mazal tov! (Break vessels.)
Hanan: Oy! I forgot! I mustn’t appear on the stage! I died in Act I. (Flees.)
Leah: Ah, you are fair, my beloved. — Your eyes are like doves — I am prepared to die for you out of love! (Falls dead.)
Messenger: (Covers her with Davar and Haaretz newspapers.) The criticism will be good. Blessed be the Righteous Judge!
1. Shimon Finkel, b. 1905, prominent Habima actor, recipient of the Israel Prize.
2. Zalman Rubashov (1889-1974), writer, member of the defense team at the mock trial of The Dybbuk in Tel Aviv in 1926, and recipient of the Israel Prize. He was Israel’s third president with the surname Shazar. Berl Katzenelson (1887-1944), Zionist labor leader, one of the founders of Histadrut, the General Confederation of Workers of Israel.
3. Uri Kesari, journalist who in a 1931 article in the newspaper Doar Hayom claimed to have introduced the use of the word tzabar (‘prickly pear cactus’) to refer to native-born Israelis (sabras.)
4. Hina Rosovskaya (1908-1996), Israeli theatre and film actress.
5. Sholem Asch (1880-1957), Jewish-American novelist, dramatist, and essayist, born in Poland. His play God of Vengeance, takes place in a brothel and features a lesbian relationship. When it was performed on Broadway in 1923, a grand jury indicted the producer and performers, who were convicted of producing an immoral play. See Binyomin Weiner, “Judging Vengeance,” Pakn Treger, no. 23, pp. 10-15, Winter 1996. Max Reinhardt (1873-1943), Jewish-American theatre and film director and actor born in Austria.
6. Aleksandr Tairov (1885-1950), prominent Russian theatre director.
7. Arie Kutai, Habima actor.
8. A character in Andreyev’s well-known play The Life of Man (1920), upon whom An-sky’s Messenger is modeled, according to some.
9. King of the Schnorrers, by the Anglo-Jewish novelist and playwright Israel Zangwill, was produced by The Art Theatre in late 1920s Mandate Palestine under the direction of J. M. Daniel.
10. Belshazzar, by French playwright Henie Roche, was produced in Hebrew by the Palestinian Theatre under the direction of Menahem Gnessin, premiering on June 15, 1924. The play deals with the story of the Prophet Daniel at the court of Belshazzar, last king of Babylon.