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[Pages 95-98]

Shabbes and Yomtov

Translated by Judy Grossman

Chaya-Tzipe Slep (Chatzkel)

Batia Aviel: We would wash our hands (netilat yadayim) and say blessing before every meal.

On the first day of the month my mother would remind us to say “Halb Hallel”, half of the “Hallel[1] blessing…

On the Sabbath, in the winter, we would say “Barchi nafshi” (Bless my soul), and in the summer we would recite “Pirkei Avot” (Ethics of the Fathers).

Yosef Yavnai:

Sabbath Boundary – Before setting out on our traditional Sabbath walk to the forest, which was outside the Sabbath boundary, we would tie our handkerchiefs around our wrists, since it is forbidden to carry articles on the Sabbath…

Havdala[2] – On Saturday, at dusk, when we yet did not turn on a light, and even before Havdala, we would sit with our mother and father and sing a very impressive song, a sort of “hymn to the soul”, which moved me then too, and I remember the words and melody: “I will thank the Lord, who searches our heart.”

My father had apparently brought the song from the yeshiva, and I don't know whether it was also sung in other homes.

When I held the Havdala candle in my hand, my mother would say: “Higher, higher, so that you will have a tall bride!”…

“Yamim” (days) – A yeshiva student who had come to our shtetl to study with Rabbi Shaul, who was a scholar and expert in the Talmud, had a regular day every week to eat at our table. Such a yeshive bocher was nicknamed “ochel yamim”.

Gmar Masechet (End of the Tractate) – I remember the ceremony and drinking at the Gmar Masechet on the morning of Passover Eve. This day is the day of the Fast of the Firstborn. As I am the firstborn, I was happy to partake of this mitzvah, which exempted me from fasting…

Bar Mitzvah – The emphasis was on the laying teffilin (putting on of phylacteries) and saying the haftara[3]. The worshippers in the synagogue were offered lekech (sponge cake), and certainly not ostentatious refreshments. In honor of my bar mitzvah, my aunt Friedl sewed a bag for my tallis and tefillin (prayer shawl and phylacteries). I think it had the letters indicating the Hebrew year embroidered on it. From my haftara I remember the words “ kav lekav, tzav letzav'” (command to command - Yishayahu 28, 10) …

“Laying tefillin” apparently attracted me as a child. I frequently pestered the beadle's assistant, Leib-Itze, whom I also remember well. He used to sell sacred books, and I would ask him to let me look at the prayer books in which there was a picture of a boy laying tefillin. I liked the picture and loved to look at it…

Kabbalist poem

by paytan (liturgical poet)

Shemaya Cosson

Rivka Shteinman: We sent each other greetings for the New Year. I clearly recall when the New Year's card from Avraham Slep in Eretz Yisrael to his parents in the Diaspora arrived in the shtetl.

It's hard to describe the excitement caused by the letters from Eretz Yisrael. They would be passed from hand to hand and people didn't tire of looking at them. When a letter arrived from my sister Rachel, people would immediately gather in our yard to hear what she had written. People hungered for every bit of news.

Postcards from Dusiat and Eretz Yisrael

Avraham Slep

 

Micha Slep

 

Yaacov-Hillel and Ella Schwartz

Rivka Levitt:

Sukkot – At the entrance to our house there was a place for the sukkah[4]. Before the holiday we only needed to bring the thatch and place it on the roof. We didn't receive any breakfast until we blessed the lulav[5]. I remember that we used to smell the ethrog[6], which was in a beautiful silver box and wrapped in soft linen.

Hanukah – The Hanukah lamp was placed on the window sill, and I remember that they made certain that the candles did not light up the house, as is stated: “And they must not be used, but only seen.” We would play with the dreidl[7], and win the pot according to the letter on which it landed:

N – nisht (nothing)
G – gor (everything)
H - helft (half the pot)
S - stell (raise by amount in the pot)

The pot consisted of candy, nuts, and perhaps even coins.

Tu Bishvat (fifteenth day of the month of Shvat).

The symbol of that day was the carob. Dates? I think that I ate dates for the first time in Eretz Yisrael. We related to this holiday as the New Year of the Trees in Eretz Yisrael, and I would pray for them.

Malka Gilinsky: The carobs reached us from Eretz Yisrael

Batia Aviel: In honor of Purim I would grind up a large amount of poppy seeds for oznei HamanHomen Tash[8]. My mother kept baking more and more “ears”, and they quickly disappeared even before they cooled off, as there were seven children at home…

Esther Pomus: My father would read “Megillath Esther” (The Scroll of Esther) in the synagogue, and after returning home he read it again to the women. In honor of this evening, we decorated the house especially with white tablecloths and flowers, as the neighbors would also come to listen to my father.

 

Rasya-Rasl Glick daughter of Riva-Hinda and Yisrael-Velvel (right), Sarka Melamed “The Fortune-Teller” and her sister Rivka whose handwriting on the back of the picture reads:
“Before my leaving Dusiat, June 25, 1932

Yitzchak Orez: In the forest there was a fortune-teller, a gentile who succeeded in guessing the future of at least of one of us

 

Shayke Glick:

A Drink for Passover

We already began preparing the drinks for Passover before Purim.

We usually prepared raisin wine. But there was another drink - mead. And what was special about it? It wasn't made with yeast. Yeast at Passover? Absolutely forbidden! That is why they used hops, which caused fermentation, and the drink was fit for a king…

The Gentiles, who are known as lovers of wine, were happy to be offered this drink. During peaceful times, every Jew had a Gentile whom he would serve mead and matzos.

Matzos for Passover

The preparations began at Purim…

In the home of Yudel Slep, Motele's father, there was a spacious room containing a brick oven in which they baked matzos for Passover. Yudel used to bake matzos and sell them. However, you could rent space in his oven, and then he would just take care of the flour and wood for the oven. Families would get together to carry out the baking, and thus I see the “bakery” in my mind's eye: the oven at the side, the long table covered with white tin (lest the dough begin to sour), the rolling pin and the instrument for pricking holes in the dough.

A woman would stand and quickly knead the dough, and girls who sat around the table each received one portion of dough, and as quick as a wink they rounded and rolled out the dough, and one of the boys would bring the “round sheets” to the baker, who quickly placed them in the oven, and in two minutes, perhaps less, round, warm and tasty matzos came out of it. There was a lot of tension in the room. “Quickly! Quickly! So the dough doesn't sour …

Rivka Levitt: The “King of the Matzos” was Zuske Levitt.

He would hurry to put the dough in the oven, lest it sour, and would hurry to take it out, lest it burn… We, the young children, volunteered to help him roll out the dough and to prick holes. I remember that we were afraid to breath a word because he set about so intensely at his work.

I recall taking down the dishes, the Passover dishes, from the attic. For Passover we used the prettiest dishes, and to me they were dishes fit for royalty. The glass sparkled like crystal, the cutlery was polished to a shine, and on the table were seven tablecloths, one on top of the other, for fear that there might be the residue of hametz - leavened bread or any food not kosher for Pesach…

For the Bdikat Hametz - the symbolic search for the last crumbs of leavened bread - my mother would place some breadcrumbs in different places in the house. The house was dark, and my father, with two feathers in his hand, would go from place to place by candlelight, searching and gathering the crumbs into a wooden spoon. The next morning they burned the leavened food.

The absolute greatest joy was when everyone got new clothes. We would go outside and show them off. And we were still playing with nuts even when we were eighteen years old!

Malka Gilinsky: After Passover came Lag Ba'Omer[9]. We would go out to the forest with our teachers and counselors, and play with bows and arrows, and we would sing: “To the forest, to the forest…”

Rivka Levitt: And on Shavuot the house was decorated with greenery, and so was the synagogue.

Micha Barron: And we would also decorate with shvieslach (paper cuttings). The traditional foods on this holiday were cheese blintzes, cold vegetable soup, sour cream, and hard-boiled eggs. But never meat!

Rasya Tal: And on Tisha b'Av[10] we would throw a kind of thorn on each other's heads. In order to get rid of them we had to cut off our hair. But how could we put a razor on our heads on Tisha b'Av , when shaving and cutting one's hair is forbidden? And so, this was always an occasion of tears and screams, as is customary on Tisha b'Av

Footnotes

  1. Hallel – Psalms 113-118, recited on New Moon and festivals, Half Hallel – with the omission of half of Psalms 115 and 116. Return

  2. The ceremony and blessing that separates the Sabbath from the rest of the week. Return

  3. A passage from the prophets recited by the bar mitzvah boy in the synagogue. Return

  4. Temporary dwelling for the Sukkot holiday (Feast of Tabernacles), in which religious people eat all their meals, and some even sleep. It is meant to symbolize the temporary dwellings in which the Israelites lived while wandering in the desert. Return

  5. Three symbolic plants bound together: one palm, two willow and three myrtle branches. Return

  6. A citron, an aromatic lemon. Return

  7. Spinning top with four Hebrew letters on it, the first letter of each of the words Nes Gadol Haya Sham (A great miracle took place there). Return

  8. A triangular filled cookie, meant to represent Haman's ears. Return

  9. Lag Ba'Omer is the thirty-third day in the fifty days from Passover to Shavuot (Pentecost). It is a half-holiday, as some of the religious restrictions of this period (such as no marriages during this time) are relaxed for this one day. Tradition states that it was also a day on which the Jews fought the Romans, and so children play with bows and arrows and light bonfires. Return

  10. The ninth day of the month of Av is a fast day in memory of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Return

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