I am in possession of this mysterious painting with Hebrew characters, but I do not know what words mean. I suspect that they may provide a clue to what is being represented in each of the painted panels, which I cannot figure out on my own.

One of my friends mentioned that the one in the lower left is "charity", but was unable to answer the rest of the painting.

What is the meaning of this painting?

unknown painting

  • 2
    the lower left does not read any Hebrew word for charity that I know. In fact, the various letters don't seem to spell any relevant words as far as I can tell.
    – rosends
    May 6, 2013 at 1:01
  • 10
    The sheep is saying "baa". I can't even tell what the top rightmost letter is supposed to be. I would guess that this was not written by one familiar with Hebrew
    – yoel
    May 6, 2013 at 1:08
  • 3
    What does this have to do with Judaism?
    – Double AA
    May 6, 2013 at 1:09
  • 2
    @DoubleAA Consider the discussion here.
    – WAF
    May 6, 2013 at 1:11
  • 3
    @double aa, presumably zzatkin was led to believe that this is a piece of Jewish-themed art, and he came here to find out what the "Hebrew text" says, and thereby what the art represents.
    – Seth J
    May 6, 2013 at 1:15

3 Answers 3


OK, I may have enough of an idea to offer an answer.

  • I think the panel in the upper right is supposed to say כינור שפילט, like "harpist" or something in Yiddish.
  • The upper middle seems to say something about a harp.
  • The upper left says מאנדלן, Yiddish for almonds.
  • I think the lower right might be א ליד, "a song."
  • The lower middle says "baa..."
  • I don't know what the lower left says.
  • 1
    The only thing I can think of for the bottom left is a misspelling of "טרונק". Seems to fit with the picture as well.
    – HodofHod
    May 6, 2013 at 16:33
  • 1
    I think the top right panel says "kinor shpielt" - he plays the harp.
    – user4523
    Jan 28, 2014 at 15:09
  • I believe that the lower left refers to a type of middle-eastern drum, known as a tarbec, or tarabuka, among other things. May 11, 2016 at 2:52

Well, this has been fun.

This was definitely painted by someone who was not fully Hebrew-literate, and not used to writing the letters. He may have been trying to make a Jewish- or Biblical-looking painting without knowing anything. However, it is not correct that these are random letters or that it is all nonsense. It is likely that he got the words from books.

I do not speak any Hebrew. I hope these observations will be a start for someone who does:

"Mandln" (Yiddish, "almonds") is the word on the top left. But it is written with a stylistic mistake, the non-final nun. However, some Yiddish sources write in this style, so if he were copying from an early Soviet newspaper, it would make sense.

I have concluded that in the second and third tiles (top-middle and top-right, respectively), he is trying to write "סמר"--ostensibly a name--both times. Both those tiles seem to contain primitive two-word sentences in Yiddish with the form Subject (סמר)--Verb. My best guess is that the intended meanings are "Samar sits" and "Samar plays [music]," although neither is written correctly for those meanings, and there are other possibilities.

These sentences remind me vaguely of a Yiddish version of "Simon says" in which sentences take the form "-- למך" (="Lemekh (the subject) [does something])"; you insert the first-person-singular, present-tense verb of your choice in the sentence in order to issue commands to the group. However, there's probably little chance that the artist had this in mind.

Bottom right --I think he is either trying to write "א ליד" ("a song," Yiddish) or "א לב" ("a lion," Yiddish, as in the picture), or conceivably the name "A. Leib," as in Aryeh Leib (=least likely IMO).

"באא" -- bottom center -- Occom's razor suggests it is "baa," but could also be a contraction/abbreviation of b'Avraham Avinu or (more likely?) "באלף אלף".

"תרבק" -- bottom left -- This is (almost) "קברות" (kevers, graves) written backwards.

Worth(?) further inquiry...

  • What else in the picture is written backwards?
  • What do the single letters mean?
  • Could anything be meaningful in terms of gematria?
  • Do these words have any kabbalistic or mystical relevance?

Lower left says "תרנק" which is probably the way old Yiddish wrote "טרינק" which means "drink". You can see he's drinking.

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