(This song is a Hasidic “classic.” It expresses Rabbi Levi Yitzhak’s experience of the intimate nearness of G-d. It’s our experience, too, whether we know it or not.
I’m posting this to help make it more accessible.)


A  Dudele
Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev [1]

Master of the Universe! !רבונו של עולם
Master of the Universe! !רבונו של עולם

Master of the Universe! !רבונו של עולם

Master of the Universe! !רבונו של עולם

Master of the universe, ,רבונו של עולם
I’ll sing a song for you. .כ׳וועל דיר א דודעלע זינגען
you, you, you, you … דו דו דו דו

Where will I find you? ?איה אמצאך 
Where will I not find you? ?ואיה לא אמצאך
Where can I find you? ?וווּ קאן איך דיר יא געפינען
Where can I not find you? ?אוּן וווּ קאן איך דיר נישט געפינען
you, you, you, you … דו דו דו דו

Wherever I go: you! !אז וווּ איך גיי – דו
And wherever I stay: you! !אוּן וווּ איך שטיי – דו
Just you, only you, ,רק דו, נאר דו 
again you, but you! !ווידער דו, אבער דו
you, you, you, you …  דו דו דו דו 

When something’s good: you. !איז עמיצן גוט – דו
When, G-d forbid, it’s bad: ay, you. !חלילה שלעכט – איי, דו
Oy, you, you, you, you, you, you, you … אוי, דו, דו, דו, דו, דו, דו, ,דו 

East — you; ,מזרח – דו
West — you; ,מערב – דו
South — you; ,דרום – דו
North — you; !צפון – דו
you, you, you, you … דו, דו, דו, דו
In heaven: you. .שמים – דו
On earth: you. .ארץ – דו
Above: you. .מעלה – דו
Below: you. .מטה – דו
you, you, you, you … דו, דו, דו, דו

Wherever I turn, ,וווּ איך קער מיך
Wherever I go:   וווּ איך ווענד מיך 
you, you … דו, דו

(transliterated Yiddish lyrics) —

Riboyno shel oylom (repeated)

Riboyno shel oylom
Ich vil dir a dudele zingen:

Ayeh emtzoekho?
V’ayeh lo emtzoekho?
Vu kon ich dir ya gefinen?
Un vu kan ich dir nisht gefinen?
du, du, du, du

Az vu ich gei – du!
Un vu ich shtei – du!
Rak du, nor du,
vider du, aber du!
du, du, du, du

Az mailoh du, matoh du
Mizroch du, mayrov du,
dorem du, Tzofen du,
Du du, du du, du, du

Iz emitzen gut — du,
choliloh shlecht — oy, du
Oy, du du, du du

Mizroch du, mayrov du,
dorem du, tzofen du,
du, du, du, du

Shamayim, du,
Eretz, du,
Mailoh du,
Matoh du
du du, du du

Vu ich kehr mich,
vu ich vend mich,
du du, du, du [3]


According to some comments I’ve seen online, it was Rabbi Levi Yitzhak’s custom to sing this at Havdalah — the ceremony concluding Shabbat. [4]
If so, it puts the words in a slightly different context, as if he was extending the holy feeling of G-d’s nearness on Shabbat into all other times and places.
A good article on the song also connects the message of “A Dudele” with parshah Nitzavim, which will be read this year on 9/20/14. [4]
It’s also been mentioned as having been sung by Rabbi Levi Yitzhak when serving as hazan (or ba’al t’filah) on Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur:
“According to tradition, [Rabbi Levi Yitzhak’s] three famous works — ‘A Dudele,’ ‘Ribono Shel Olam,’ and ‘Kaddish’ — were recited by him when he acted as hazan [or ba’al t’filah] on Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur.” [5]
This actually makes more sense, as the theme of “A Dudele” — God’s Presence in all places, at all times, and in all events — is far more connected with that of RH/YK than with Havdalah.
The Rebbe’s title is a play on the word “du” — the familiar form of “you.” He associates it with “doodling” — i.e. a melody and lyric structure that has no strict form of its own but “doodles” around. It might have been composed spontaneously, or by combining several thoughts and feelings the Rebbe had had previously. Rabbi Aharon Werthaim [5] says that it actually had another author, but that Rabbi Levi Yitzhak popularized it.
I could also see this being sung at Sukkot, as the waving of the lulav in multiple directions also suggests G-d being “East, West, North, South, Up, Down,” etc.
I used a lower-case “Y” for each “you,” rather than the more formal “You,” to emulate in English the Rebbe’s use of the familiar form, “du,” when speaking to G-d.
I also changed any “Du” into “du,” even where it begins a sentence. Same idea.
I heard this sung some years ago and recently listened to multiple online versions.
Given the melody I heard, it didn’t strike me as an easy song to sing, which isn’t what one would expect from a Hasidic source.
Looking at the notation (Idelsohn, p. 422), it should actually be fairly easy to sing without “bel canto-ing” it.
Also, it’s sung very “operatically” in all recordings, which I think is a mistake.
It should be sung very meditatively, with quiet joy, and by any individual.
The opening 3 repetitions of “Riboyno shel Oylem” should each be slower and quieter than the preceding one; not dramatically “shouted.” After all — the song is about G-d being intimately near. Why shout?
One could use this as an affirmation, or a text for contemplation, even without the melody.
One might even create his/her own melody.
Strangest of all are some of the recordings of this song that are strictly instrumental — ignoring the words altogether (but capturing some of the feeling)!
Jane Peppler correctly points out that the song would most likely be traditionally sung a cappella (unaccompanied), rather than with any or many instruments. [6]
Nathan Ausubel included it in his anthology of Jewish “folklore,” [7] although I wouldn’t call it “folk…” because the author is known.
His version was borrowed from A.Z. Idelsohn’s [8], who also wrote a short musical commentary on the piece.
A musical commentary is welcome and useful, but the words should be the focus. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak is sharing his own “hitbodedut” — a private conversation with G-d.
It can be a model for our own.
Neither Idelsohn nor Ausubel included the Yiddish words in the Yiddish/Hebrew alphabet, only in transliteration. Could not find it online at all.
Finally found it in the booklet that comes with a CD by Pinchas Zuckerman and Cantor Meir Helfgott.
There are slight variations in some of the transliterations that I saw including the addition of a verse, “I’ll play [shpiel] a dudele for you,” to echo the original “I’ll sing [zingen]…” This was to accommodate those instrumental-only versions, I guess. I deleted it, as it makes no real sense, given the purpose and traditional unaccompanied performance of this piece.
At first, I included only the text/notes in this post.
Later, I added my H” design. I thought it suggested a sh’vi’ti, icon or yantra as a focus of the meditation that the words are expressing.
Or, it might suggest remembering G-d’s Presence as the Rebbe’s underlying meditation.
Or, think of the H” as the presence of G-d in the aron and the words as the thoughts of the Rebbe or another person standing before it.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levi_Yitzchok_of_Berditchev
[2] I first found the translation at: http://www.jewishspirituality.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/A_Dudele.pdf. Comparing it with the Yiddish lyrics I found on the Zuckerman/Helfgott CD, I found that they did not match perfectly. I went with the CD lyrics, as they were the only version I found using the alef-bet. It would be important to find an authoritative version.
[3] I first found a transliteration at http://zemerl.com/cgi-bin/show.pl?title=A+Dudele, but had to edit it to conform to the Yiddish/alef-bet version I found in the above CD booklet.
[4] http://www.rabbiweisz.com/divrei-torah/dvarim/nitzavim-slow-down-stop-and-think/
[5] Verthaim, Aharon; Law and Custom in Hasidism; Ktav Publishing House, © 1992; p. 154-5
Ausubel, Nathan; A Treasure of Jewish Folklore; Crown Publishers, © 1948; p. 721
[8] Idelsohn, A.Z.; Jewish Music in Its Historical Development; © 1929 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, © 1956 by A.Z. Idelsohn, first Schocken edition 1967;
Idelsohn’s musical commentary begins on p. 420 and concludes on p. 431; transcription on p. 422

1/20/17 — This post has been viewed 1180 times to date, since I first put it up. It’s interesting that of all my posts, this is the most viewed. This is particularly gratifying because one of my goals with this blog has been to provide educational materials. From the number of views, I’d guess that this post is serving that purpose.