"Kuando el Rey Nimrod" (also sometimes spelled, "Quando el Rey Nimrod" or, in modern Spanish spelling, "Cuando el Rey Nimrod", literally meaning "When King Nimrod"), also known as "Avraham Avinu" ("Abraham, Our Father") is a Sephardic Jewish folk song in the Ladino language. It was probably composed in medieval Spain. Following the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 CE, it was carried to countries around the Mediterranean, it became popular with Sephardic communities in Greece, Turkey and Morocco and, consequently developped in slightly different forms in those countries. It tells a story of the birth of the Biblical figure, Abraham, although the events described in it bear little relation to the events of Abraham's life, as they are related in the Torah.
Lyrics and English translation
"Kuando el Rey Nimrod" recounts that one evening King Nimrod looked up to the sky and saw a star over the area of the town where the Jews lived. He knew that it was a sign that Abraham was going to be born and ordered that all new-born Jewish children be killed. Terach's wife knew that she was pregnant and that her child would be the leader of the Jewish people. She gave birth to him in secret and was then forced to abandon him, however Abraham survived because he was protected by G-d.
The following are the lyrics in the Ladino language of one version of the song and an English translation.
Ladino language lyrics
- Kuando el Rey Nimrod al kampo salia
- mirava en el syelo i en la estreyeria
- vido una luz santa en la Djuderia
- Ke avia de naser Avraham Avinu.
- Avraham Avinu, Padre kerido
- Padre bendicho, luz de Yisrael
- Avraham Avinu, Padre kerido,
- Padre bendicho, luz de Yisrael
- Luego a la komadres enkomendava
- ke toda mujer ke prenyada kedase
- si no pariera al punto, la matasse
- ke avia de naser Avraham Avinu.
- La mujer de Terah kedo prenyada
- i de diya el le demandava,
- "De ke teneish la kara tan demudada?"
- Eya ya sabia el bien ke tenia.
- En fin de mueve meses parir keria
- iva kaminando por kampos i vinyas
- a su marido tal ni le dishkuvria,
- topo una meara i ayi la parira.
- En ekeya ora el nasido favlava
- "Andavos mi madre, de la meara
- yo ya topo kien me alejasse
- mandara del syelo ken me akompanyara
- porke so kriado de El D-- Baruh."
- Saludemas agora el kompadre
- i tambien el mohel
- ke por su Zehut nos venga
- el Goel i Rihama a todo Yisrael,
- sierto loaremos al Verdadero, al Verdadero de Yisrael.
- When King Nimrod went out into the fields
- He looked up to the sky and amongst the stars
- He saw a holy light over the Jewish Quarter
- He knew that Abraham our father was to be born.
- Abraham our father, dear father,
- Blessed father, light of Israel.
- Abraham our father, blessed father,
- Light of Israel
- Then to the midwives he commanded
- That every pregnant woman
- Who didn't give birth straight away, should have the child killed
- Because Abraham the father was to be born.
- Terach's wife was pregnant
- And every day he asked her,
- "Why do you look so sad?"
- She already knew what she had to do.
- After nine months she needed to give birth,
- She walked through the fields and vineyards,
- Where even her husband wouldn't find her,
- She found a manger and there she gave birth.
- At that moment the newborn spoke,
- "Go from the manger, my mother,
- I will find someone who will take me away
- Heaven will send someone to accompany me
- Because I am the servant of the Blessed G-d.
- Let us salute the friend
- And the one who performed circumcission
- Through whose worthiness all Israel came to merciful G-d,
- We surely praise theTrue One, the True G-d of Israel.
Differences from the account in the Tanakh
The account given of Abraham's birth in "Kuando el Rey Nimrod" has little basis in the Tanakh. According to Genesis, Abraham was the first Jew and the ancestor of all who followed. For that reason, he is referred to in the song as padre and the Hebrew derived phrase, Avraham Avinu, both meaning "father". However, the song has Abraham being anachronistically born in la Djuderia, the Jewish Quarter, which would make Abraham's parents and the children who Nimrod condemned to death Jews also.
The story has some similarities to the story of Moses , as related in Exodus, in which the Pharaoh orders the mass murder of Hebrew children, Moses is given birth to in secret, his mother is forced to abandon him but, through G-d's protection, he survives unscathed. Therefore, Nimrod in the song takes on some characteristics of another Biblical king, one of the Pharaohs from Exodus.
"Kuando el Rey Nimrod" is in essence a song about a persecuted Jewish community and their hope for a better future, a theme that would clearly resonate with those who heard it when it was first composed in medieval Spain.
Obvious similarities exist between the narrative in Kuando el Rey Nimrod and the Christian nativity story, in which the villain, King Herod, is informed of a star which signifies the birth of someone who he perceives as a threat and orders a mass infanticide. There may also be a Muslim influence in the song, in that Abraham is referred to as el kompadre or "the friend", a translation of Ibrahim-al-Khalil, the name of Abraham in Arabic.
The dispersal of Sephardi Jews around Europe and North Africa, and ultimately around the world, following their expulsion from Spain in 1492 CE, lead to the creation of different dialects of the Ladino language. Consequently, Sephardi communities in different countries came to sing "Kuando el Rey Nimrod" with slightly different lyrics. The versions sung in Turkey and Greece today are not identical to those sung in Morocco.
"Kuando el Rey Nimrod" has been performed and recorded by both Sephardi and Ashkenazi musicians as well as by non-Jewish musicians as a piece of world music. The Sephardi Jewish Turkish musical group, Sefarad, recorded a version of "Kuando el Rey Nimrod" called "Bodrum" (the name of a resort town on Turkey's Mediterranean coast) with Turkish language lyrics that are unrelated to those of the original.