Even though there are very few documents regarding this, many of us remember this custom in our communities. Since the dirges are not preserved in literature, such a document, with text and the tune, is very dear to us when saved from the abyss of oblivion. This document was the first that came to us from Moshe Bik, the composer and conductor of a known choir. He himself wrote down the text and tune of the dirge from the mount of his aunt, Rachel the weeper. The following is what M. Bik writes about his aunt the eulogizer.
She was the wife of my uncle, Yosef Velvel Teitelbaum, my mother's brother. She and her husband owned the bathhouse of the community of Orheyev. Most of the work was done by her, but the appellation was for him: Reb Velvel Beder (ed. note: Reb Velvel the Bath Man). She was called Rachel Dei Baveinerin (Rachel the Weeper). She would not miss any funeral in the city. She would come; bang her head against the wall, cover her face with both hands, and break out with the well-known lament: Such a young tree. She would repeat her dirge countless times, until her face got white and she fainted. After she regained her spirit and opened her eyes, she would resume her lament. The women near her would accompany her with great weeping and wailing. Her lamenting was for a purpose, and of course, she also fed the sense of humor of the town. For example they told: It once happened that Rachel was standing, preparing fish for the Sabbath, when all of a sudden, she found out about a funeral. She dropped everything and stood by the coffin. She started, Such a young tree, and she immediately realized that the deceased was 90 years old. From that time on, whenever someone in town died at an old age, they would joke and say, Such a young tree. Rachel, who was childless, took upon herself the burden of support and tuition for several orphans. She would send gifts to orphans and to ordinary poor people. She would send firewood in the winter to the houses of the poor, along with a warm cereal of grits in the evening. When I went to the Land of Israel, she asked me to go to the grave of Rachel our mother and pray on behalf of the Jewish daughters who were getting older and were not married, that they should merit finding proper matches. As she was making this request, her eyes filled with tears, for she recalled a child, who was cut off in his prime, and she broke out in her dirge. When I told her that I wrote down the dirge, with its words and melody, for a keepsake, she at first got a bit angry. She immediately forgave me, for I was aspiring to go to the Land of Israel. She learned this dirge from her grandmother. According to her, her grandmother's voice would tear open the heavens and open the gates of the Garden of Eden to every deceased person, may G-d protect us.
Rachel used to wear fine embroidered clothes of silk and velvet. She also enjoyed jewelry and colored kerchiefs. Her Sabbath robes were spiced with perfumes that she purchased from Petru Zigeiner, the chief musician of the town, who knew how to play Kel Maleh Rachamim (ed. note: a memorial prayer for the deceased) at the weddings of orphans, as well as haunting melodies, especially the Avinu Malkeinu (ed. note: Our Father, Our King) of Reb Yonah the Blind, the cantor of the Tailor's Synagogue. He also would play the Mitzvah Dance (ed. note: a family dance at wedding celebrations), and ancient dances. He certainly also knew Kalah Badekenes (ed. note: beckoning the bride), and the Bride-Groom Dovronotsh (ed. note: Good night). However, Rachel would come to funerals with worn out, torn clothes, tattered shoes, and covered with a shabby Turkish sheet. She would have copper coins in her pocket for the charity box Charity saves from death for the poor. Here eyes were black, exuding the grief of a broad heart that was open to take in the sighs of orphans and widows.
She was strong with her hands. Every Sabbath and festival eve, she would send to the Bagadelnia (old age home) horseradish prepared for the meal, which was famous for its sharpness. (People would say that it had the power to quicken the dead and wake the slumbering.) Once she prepared the horseradish with a grater, and injured her finger. Its end was cut off, and her right hand was amputated. She died in her suffering. She was above the age of seventy.
The song is as follows: Such a young tree, young in years, short of days, woe to me, woe to me. Woe, what is man, and what is his value on the sinful earth. He is like a dish, behold it is whole, and then it is like shattered earthenware. Woe to me, good-hearted and faithful father!
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At that time (1929), Captain Kodryanu, of the reserve (Sub-lieutenant), came to the garrison - from one of the well known anti-Semitic families in Romania. He mocked us at any occasion. It was the custom that a soldier could present his complaints at a certain time during role call. I issued a complaint about Kodryanu, and asked: are we not wearing the clothing of His Highness the King of Romania? The complaint was accepted. That night, Kodryanu went to the city and took care of the daughter of a captain (ed. note: had illicit sexual relations). The daughter complained about him to her father, and he was imprisoned after an inquiry. The soldiers who did not know the reason of the punishment said: See the power of the Jews. Yesterday they issued a complaint about him, and he already received his punishment.
The garrison arranged itself in the courtyard of the church. The captains and the soldiers were at the front. The priests recited their prayers in the church. After that, the garrison again arranged itself for the kissing ceremony, with a cross and flag. I, Nisenboim, and two rabbis, the rabbi of Mitaam Yosef Pagis and the Admor Zilberfarb may he live long), who were to administer the oath accompanied by a number of captains, went over to the Great Synagogue. The rabbis wrapped themselves with tallises (prayer shawls) and recited a brief prayer. We then returned to the church, where the official ceremony was taking place. The rabbi recited the Kol Nidre prayer from the Machzor (festival prayer book), and presented us our weapons. We kissed the flag and the Machzor, and the ceremony ended. When I had the opportunity to ask Rabbi Yosef Pagis the reason that he chose Kol Nidre in particular, he answered me, It is written there, 'and our oaths are not oaths'.
I was very careful that such things would not happen, and thereby, I prevented discomfort among the Jewish population.
Once Captain Konstantinescu came across a letter that was suspicious to him. He summoned me for a clarification. He became angry and warned me: We will meet further in the military court. I told my captain what Konstantinescu said to me, and I reminded him of my initial conversation with him, and my reluctance to take the task. The captain went outside with me. He calmed me and told me that there would be no court case.
The large hall that was in its time used for a tobacco factory was given over to us. Our visits to the village turned into an experience for the Jews of the village and also of the region, who would come to the party. The local authorities also related to us in a friendly manner and helped us. For example, the tax supervisor would provide us with wine for a low price. Obviously, the wine brought joy, and added to the exalted spirit and the success of the party.
In the winter of 1925, we arranged a literary party on the topic of the child in the village. Avraham Malovatsky, Pinchas Zadonaisky, Shrayberman, Miryam Beznos and I participated. Apparently, we were very successful, for the wealthy man of the village arranged a party for us in his home and gave us praise and compliments. The goodness of his heart left an impression with us, for there was an accounting of a match here.
The captain who was already prepared to free me was not able to explain for himself the matter of the map and to interpret the secret letter. He accepted my explanation that I used the map in my lecture about the Land of Israel, and the letter was from that young girl, a friend of mine, who helped the Sigurnatza interpret handwriting on occasion. It appears that the presence of Vaynshtok influenced the captain, who freed me.
Prepared for print by M. R.
Having no choice, my father arranged places for the soldiers to sleep. However, they were not satisfied with this, and issued other demands, that they be given wine and other things To my father, it was clear that giving wine to these men who had thrust off the yoke and do not control themselves is a danger to the peace of the city, so he tried to avoid fulfilling their demand. However the soldiers did not wait for the assistance of my father. Within moments, they broke into the wine cellars on the main streets, drank until they were drunk, and went on a rampage, breaking the barrels. Puddles of wine flowed onto Torgovia Street. The first victim of this disturbance was the cellar of Sander Pagis, whose storehouse was on David Brandis Alley that leads to the street of the Yeshiva. When my father heard about the happenings, he immediately ran to Pavlov and asked him to take control. He displayed criminal apathy, and further demanded that my father fulfill all the demands of the army. He directed my father to the commander of the army. However the commander, rather than taking action, demanded that the Jews provide daughters of the city to his troops, heroes of the motherland Of course my father responded to this brazenness of the commander with a firm refusal. On account of this brazenness, he suffered a beating in the head that dimmed his eyes. He was brought home accompanied by two soldiers. My father informed us of the demands of the commander, and ordered our four daughters to quickly leave the house and advise the girls of the neighborhood to find a hiding place. A Christian woman named Irina on Dimitri Street took us into her home, but we had to leave the next day since her son, who was also stricken with anti-Semitism, threatened that he would turn us over to the army if we did not immediately leave the house. When we returned home, we found father lying paralyzed. He did not recover from the illness, and he died in July 1918.
Shocked by the events that we experienced, I no longer felt a place for myself in my native city. I left Orheyev in 1920.
[Pages 134 - 135]
The boats would arrive at the port of Lalova in the morning, in the direction of Rezina, Soroki, etc., and would set out from there in the evening in the direction of Dubossary. Since there were no hotels or inns there, the local Jews would take in guests. They were happy to receive guests also on the Sabbath if for some reason people could not continue on their journey on Friday.
Each Sabbath, the Jews of Lalova would worship in the home of one of the residents. They also had a Torah scroll. On the High Holy Days, they would hire a cantor for the Musaf service, whereas one of the local people would be honored to lead the Shacharit service.
There were three Jewish families in Stodolna, the nearby village. They would also come to Lalova to worship.
In 1920, where there were battles in Ukraine between the men of Dennikin and the Communists, Jewish refugees streamed to Lalova from across the Dniester.
The Jews of Lalova offered them assistance, and helped them continue on their route to Orheyev.
After 1922, most of the Jews of Lalova moved to Orheyev. The Jews of Lalova played an honorable role in the life of this community. Lemel Brezner served as the Gabbai (trustee) of the Marketplace Synagogue, and Moshe Shaiovitz served as treasurer of the Kapstra Synagogue.
At the end of the summer, the port of Lalova was full of merchandise and grain, weighing several tons. Hundreds of workers from the village and area worked day and night at loading and unloading.
Boats of all types, including ferries and barges, docked in the port. After unloading, they continued on to the Black Sea.
Heaps and heaps of grain were piled upon the banks of the Dniester.
The owners were afraid of wasting time, and they were also afraid that the rain might ruin the grain. Despite this, work in the port stopped from the Eve of Yom Kippur until the following night. In the large vineyard of the Cush the Poretz, workers worked at harvesting grapes that day, but that was only when the director of work was a gentile.
Ferries laden with wood from Bukovina, boards, beams, etc. arrived from the mountains of Bukovina to Lalova, from where the loads would be sent to Orheyev and environs.
The holiday spirit of Yom Kippur pervaded the place.
The Jews of Stodolna, Bachushka, the workers of the port, and guests who happened to be there also worshiped in the synagogue that was located in the home of one of the residents of Lalova.
Each of them was honored with an aliyah to the Torah. The guests in particular were honored. The young people proved their abilities in the reading of the Haftorah. This provided an opportunity for them to demonstrate in public what they had learned at Cheder. This served as a test of the teacher, who was most often a Lithuanian.
When the time of the Shofar sounding arrived, the women hurried home, while the men continued on very quickly with the weekday Maariv service.
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There are times when I say to myself that my town is like any town in the Diaspora. Many before me have splendidly offered their reminiscences, and what power do I have to add something about the landscape of our town and recesses of its past
I will confess. I was deeply affected by the enthusiastic atmosphere of the two meetings of our townsfolk.
Feelings of grief are intermingled with the joy of meeting friends, with whom memories of days of yore and forgotten experiences come up during conversations.
However, that which was lost forever will not be returned Nevertheless, at times, my town floats before my eyes, and many are the visions that I see
I see the large synagogue in the eyes of my spirit. There the rabbi Mitaam, Yosef Pagis, stood on the podium, discussing a historical event that was being celebrated in the country of Romania and we school children were listening to his discussion in an appropriate manner.
There was the large Kloiz where the important people of the city worshiped. On the High Holy Days, I loved to listen to the sweet voice of Reb Motia Goldshtern, who led the Shacharit service. How pleasant was the singing of the leader of the Musaf service, and the sounds of the worshippers repeating after him.
By the eastern wall, sat the old man Rabbi Avigdor Rekis, the son of the rabbi of Orheyev. He sat, enwrapped in his tallis, diligently overseeing the opening and closing of the Holy Ark during the time of the avoda service of Yom Kippur.
I remember the traditional procession to the Hakafot service of the eve of Simchat Torah. A festive crowd of members of the community accompanied the Gabbai to the Kloiz, after enjoying a reception in the home of the Gabbai. Children accompanied them on the street, carrying multi-colored flags adorned with lit candles. The procession proceeded toward the Kloiz with singing and dancing. How enchanting was this atmosphere of the festival.
The Shtibel stood at the side of the Kloiz. There, the Tehillim (Psalms) recitors gathered on winter nights. Snow and ice did not deter them in their arising for the service of the Creator.
The Kloiz was too small to accommodate all of those would come, thirsty to hear news from the emissaries of Zion.
The streets of the city come to my memory, each street with its scenery. Alexandrovski and Gogolivski were the most honorable. The communal institutions on those streets were housed in splendid buildings, surrounded by beautiful gardens. The cream of the crop lived there, both Christians and Jews.
On the other hand, there were Torgova and Bessarabski streets. These were centers of business, and the crowded fairs. There was the Synvia market, where there were taverns in which the drunken farmers wallowed. The desolate alley, Di Poste Lik was enveloped in mystery. It aroused curiosity and feelings of fear in the souls of the young people who passed through it. Now I can see the Vadafravad (a primitive well) next to the Nicholievsky Church, from which the water-drawers drew their water. The scene around the well during the winter was very pleasant. Children were skating and enjoying themselves on the ice, their faces red from the cold.
From there, we move to the courtyard of the Talmud Torah, next to it. In one of the wings, the Tarbut School and the Hebrew Gymnasium were discretely housed. A small group of teachers were struggling for their existence, holding their stand against the machinations of the authorities, until their strength gave way
Thus do visions of the scenery of my town pass before the eyes of my spirit. A deep sigh breaks forth from the depths of my heart as I see the frightful reality, for the town of my cradle was destroyed, and is no more. The pleasant and beloved, the hand of the enemy caught up with them.
The heart is overtaken with grief and cries breaks forth: Remember, remember what Hitler and the Amalekite (ed. note: first tribe that attacked the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt) did to you.
In 1938, I set out with my father to visit our relatives who remained in Orheyev.
We sailed by ship to Konstanta. From there we traveled by train to Kishinev, and arrived by car in Orheyev on the same day.
This was my first contact with Diaspora Jewry. I came across two youths, roughly my age, who were conversing in Hebrew. This was a very pleasant surprise for me. I strolled in the public gardens. There, I also met Hebrew speakers, who were members of a youth group. We sat together, and I told them about the Land and life therein. From the questions that they asked me, I could see that they were very interested in everything that was taking place in the Land.
From among the few people that I knew, I met one friend, Chaya Mundrian, who enchanted me with her Hebrew. I never thought I would hear such wonderful Hebrew from a girl of the Diaspora. Indeed, she was a Zionist in heart and soul. During all of our meetings, she never stopped talking about the fact that she was preparing to make aliyah, and about her desire to live in one of the Kibbutzim in the Land.
She indeed did make aliyah, after she suffered the tribulations of the war.
We did not have a common language with my uncle, who owned much property. I tried to speak to him several times about investing some of his fortune in the Land, but I got nowhere. I advised him to concern himself with his family and promise them a place of refuge when the tribulation would come, but it was for naught. He mocked us and looked upon us as dreamers
To my great sorrow, I found out that after one year, and perhaps even less, he and his family perished, and their property was pillaged or confiscated.
I am jealous of you honorable writers and publishers, for you are happy in the Land, and you are able to express the feelings of your soul on every question that comes to your minds relating to Jews. In my eyes, Yisraelik the Intellectual, and in the eyes of people like me, you writers and publishers are not human beings, but rather angels fulfilling a Divine mission. It appears to me that only you have acquired two worlds, the life of this world and the life of the world to come.
But what am I in comparison to you? Dust and ashes! I am only a reader, and not an honorable reader who pays good money for each word that comes forth from your heart. Honor flees from me as it chases you, and therefore it is bitter for me!
My desire and objective is to also be an honorable writer as the honorable writers of the Land. But in what manner? Can I write poems or tell stories? But hey! Torah, wisdom and ability, from where do they come?
At times, a serious idea comes to my heart: If only I would come to the house of great writers who write a great deal, I would put a small book in a container and call it by my name. Then I would be happy and joyous. However I am very much afraid lest the true author come and contradicts the living, the pretending author, and what would I do then? How could I raise my head? Would I not be embarrassed and mortified before the people and the community?
At times I think: I will write news from my city and send it to publishers of manuscripts, asking that it be printed as a leading headline or at least a feuilliton (ed. note: as an installment or as entertainment). I imagine in my heart: Is the hand of the publisher too short to do this, if he has a generous spirit and a good heart?
It was the middle of the night. All of the people of the house are sleeping and dreaming. I am not sleeping, and my heat is awake, for I attempted to write news about the synagogue, its Gabbaim, the Talmud Torah, its directors, and other such things matters of extreme importance. I obtained a new iron pen, and started my article with awe and trepidation. I made efforts to write with clear language and without errors, as the good L-rd was gracious to me. I also wrote a special letter to the publisher, in which I praised him and his publication, which is pleasant to the readers, including every small matter that the writer sends to him. I also promised him to distribute his publications broadly through my efforts, etc., on the condition that he prints my articles in accordance with my will. If not, I would obviously always be on the side against him. I did not say to inform my friends of my future happiness. In my heart, I said that they, in their jealousy, are able to write all the news that I wrote the publisher behold this is a lie and a falsehood, and the publisher would erect a pillar of disgrace before me until I succeed in demonstrating my correctness. Wait, I imagined, a day would come and you will see with your own eyes that I accomplished great things. The L-rd G-d knows how many drops of sweat dripped from my forehead as I was writing my article for the first time. And I did not try as these ones did. I did not even forget to write the date at the top of my letter, lest the publisher complain that I did not act properly. Of course, I sent my letter insured, as was fitting and proper.
I waited impatiently for a few days to see my name and article printed in square letters, as was my desire. However, I expended my energy for naught! After I searched thoroughly through all of the pages, from beginning to end, I saw the following answer in an open letter: To Yisraelik the Intellectual of the city of Orheyev Words such as this I cannot publish. A shudder overtook me as I read these words! Is such a thing possible? My reading made my heart groan. I, Yisraelik the Intellectual, worked so hard with the writer's pen for the benefit of the public and not Heaven forbid for my own benefit, and I also spent money on postage from my own pocket, and after all this the publisher answers me in the negative?
After the initial shock passed, and after I thought about and enumerated each word of the open letter, I thought in my heart that the publisher would relent and publish my article. Without doubt, the editor would not publish something from a simple person such as me. When he wrote: Words such as this we cannot publish, he meant to say: my words are not fitting in his eyes because of their lack of rhetorical, clear and pleasant language in accordance with his custom and style, and therefore the editor would clean and polish them, to make them fitting for publication. However my hope was for naught! All of my thoughts came to nothing! My letter fell, by accident or on purpose, to the ground or the waste basket.
* This was copied from Hanitzanim (The Buds) an anthology of literature (published by Hanetz), volume 1, Warsaw 5655, 1894.
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