Footnoted song lyrics

River So Wide (Footnoted)

A song in Sarah’s voice, by Girls in Trouble/Alicia Jo Rabins

I went down to the river so wide
Satan1 was standing on the other side
He said to me, look and see2
I saw you with our only child
With a knife in your hand and your eyes so wild
On the mountaintop3, and then the vision stopped

My love, my love, what have you done
And where have you taken my only son
Some terrible place where I can’t see his face
All these years I’ve been a faithful wife
And I gave you a child so late in my life4
My time was done, when I bore you a son

So take me home
And put me to bed
Cause the sun is in the sky
But it’s dark inside my head

And I don’t care
If I never do wake up
If I can’t be
With the one I love

Well I went down to the river so wide
Satan was standing on the other side
He said to me, Look and see
But hush little baby, don’t you cry
Cause I’ll be waiting on the other side
You won’t be alone, I’ll make it feel like home5

1 This song is based on the following midrash: “As Abraham returned from Mount Moriah [where the Binding of Isaac took place]…what did Satan do? He went and said to Sarah, “Did you hear what happened in the world?” She said, “No.” He said to her, “Abraham took Isaac his son and slaughtered him and sacrificed him on the altar as an offering.” Sarah began to cry and wailed three screams, like three shofar blasts…And her soul burst from her and she died.” (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 31)

2 Some context about the Jewish version of Satan in the Talmud and Midrash: “Satan is the incarnation of all evil, and his thoughts and activities are devoted to the destruction of man; so that Satan, the impulse to evil (‘yetzer ha-ra’), and the angel of death are one and the same personality. He descends from heaven and leads astray, then ascends and brings accusations against mankind…he takes away the soul, or, in other words, he slays.” Source: The Jewish Encyclopedia

3 God commands Abraham to take his son Isaac to a mountaintop in the land of Moriah, to sacrifice him as a burnt offering to God. Genesis 22:9-10: … Abraham built an altar there; he laid out the wood; he bound his son Isaac; he laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10And Abraham picked up the knife to slay his son.

4 According to the Torah, Sarah was old and no longer physically supposed to be able to bear children when she miraculously conceived and bore Isaac. Genesis 10:11: Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years; Sarah had stopped having the periods of women. Genesis 21:2: Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age.

5 In my twist on this midrash, I imagine Sarah not simply dying of grief - instead, she consciously decides to meet Isaac in the afterlife, “on the other side,” so he “won’t be alone.”

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Footnoted song lyrics." (Viewed on August 7, 2020) <>.


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