Monday, December 21, 2009

Yankel Am Ha'aretz

Back in 1985, the first Journeys album was released, marking a new era in Jewish music. Following in the successes of the Megama Duo, Abie Rotenberg embarked on a relatively new path in Kiruv, composing original compositions using English lyrics which convey the warmth and beauty of Jewish life.

Five years later, Journeys released their second album which featured the classic hit “Yankel”. As we close out 2009, Middos Productions has produced an hour long film built on this song, which will be the focus of this post.

Yankel Am Ha’aretz, written and directed by the talented Yoel Waxler, is a powerful story of hope. This is a movie that can be appreciated at all age levels.

While this low budget DVD does not rival professionally produced full length films, It is a huge leap in that direction. It opens up with a panoramic view of NYC’s skyline, bathed in lights. The haunting melody of “Yankel” plays in the background, as the sweet voice of Country Yossi adds an extra dimension to an already fabulous video.

The photography is superb. In one scene we are able to catch the sun’s rays as they pass through the windows on one side of the plane and out the other. Another scene shows the Kosel filling up and emptying out in speed-motion. All in all, the photography in Eretz Yisroel is amazing, it makes one feel as if he is really there, attending Yeshiva with Yankel.

The melodies are all beautiful and interspersed throughout the film at the most opportune moments. Abie’s Luley Soiroscha and the classic Kad Yasvin Yisroel as well as several guitar scenes add much to the viewing pleasure.

As for critique:

Several times the real name of Hashem is spoken in shul.

The boys who bother Yankel are not reprimanded for their behavior.

Yankel’s beard looks very fake.

The viewer is not explained as to how Yankel overcomes his pyrophobia.

Even though this story takes place in Brooklyn “about a dozen years ago", they miraculously have the Hebrew ArtScroll Chumash which was only published first in 2004.

Bottom Line: Run to your local store and buy it. It is something that the entire family can enjoy. You will want to watch it more than once.


  1. "Artscroll chumash"

    whaddya know - a modern day anachronism. the only one who would appreciate that is fred from the mainline blog.

  2. Well said. you're right about watching it again and again. I spoke to Berel at mostly he said it's flying off the shelves. It's a job well done. Re: the dozen years ago I understand that the story begins then but the main part is recent recent...

  3. Ahem, SG, but the question is better than the answer. The 12 years according to you start when? And why are the shul-goers speaking out the name of god? And how does Yankel overcome his fear of fire? But in any event, it was beautifully done, a heroic effort of what is an obvious outgrowth of the youtube generation.

  4. Does anyone know which shul this was filmed in?

  5. Ahem Volf, I'm not sure, but re: Shul goers - isn't that what shul goers do?

  6. The question is why the shul-goers are using Hashem's real name when the davening is not real.

  7. Part I

    In a little town somewhere in Europe
    Just about a hundred years ago
    Lived a simple man his name was Yankel
    Oh, and this is how his story goes

    Yankel couldn't learn a blott Gemora
    Why, he barely knew to read and write!
    Deep in his heart he loved to do the Mitzvos
    But SoMeHoW he never seemed to get things right

    He didn't know his brachos couldn't say Shema by heart
    He'd Doven Shmoneh Esray With his feet spread wide apart
    Everyone would laugh and snicker when he passed them by in Shul
    Here comes Yankel Am Haaretz, could there be a bigger fool?

    All the children would make fun of Yankel
    Teasing him as if were a child
    But he never lost his temper
    On his face there always was a smile

    Now the Rabbi tried to learn with Yankel
    So the young man would know how to cope
    In one ear and out the other
    The Rabbi gave up, there simply was no hope

    His Ivris was atrocious, the place he'd always lose
    He'd show up on Yom Kippur wearing shiny polished shoes
    Everyone would laugh and snicker when he passed them by in Shul
    Here comes Yankel Am Haaretz, could there be a bigger fool?

  8. Part II

    Stubborn Yankel he just kept on trying
    They all told him it's a hopeless cause
    But he kept saying, One day I'll know how to
    Learn the Torah and keep it's laws

    Now, one night the Rabbi fell asleep in Shul
    Only to wake up when he heard a sigh
    It was Yankel by the Aron Kodesh
    There were teardrops running from his eyes

    He was saying, Master of the world, I know you hear my prayer
    And I accept my fate in life, your judgement's always fair
    Yet, one thing I must ask of You, Where else am I to turn?
    Could I not serve you so much more, if I knew how to learn?

    The rabbi sent Yankel to learn in Yeshiva
    They all thought he'd lost his sanity
    He'll be back within a week for certain
    All the Rabbi said was: Wait and see!

    Yankel's now a famous scholar, It just took a few short years
    For the gates of heaven never close, they never close for tears
    And everybody stands to shake his hand when he passes by in Shul
    Here comes Yankel Talmid Chochom


  10. The use of Hashem's name was used only in the context of Torah pesukim - verses. And saving it on a digital recording is no problem, even if we were to dispose of it, because it has no substance


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