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[Page 139-140]

Enda, the Lady-Butcher (Katzfke)

Translated by Milly Hock

Wearing a plain cotton dress, wrapped in a large linen-like apron, runs Enda the lady-butcher in her menís slippers, self-absorbed and talking to herself.

What do they mean? she thinks, – and if they owe me a few gulden, would I let them go to their Shabbos table without a little soup, without a piece of meat? No, dear people, Oy Veis Meir!! She moans.

It is late and Enda runs with a little package of meat wrapped in white paper. She arrives at a poor family on one street, and immediately is reminded of another housewife who didnít come today to buy meat, being too ashamed to borrow.

"What is there to be ashamed of?" she would argue with the women, as she laid the package on the table. "When you will have the money, you will certainly pay me."

"Meanwhile, why should the children suffer? I am in a hurry," she would say as she stood in the doorway. "Donít be offended. Have a good Shabbos!"

She runs further, her wig blowing in the wind, with a pale, tired face.

Berish Taharness, her neighbor, teases her. "Why do you run, Enda? You are losing your apron."

While running further, Enda would respond to him. "Stop your foolish talk, Berish. Better go in and help your Yideneh get ready for Shabbos."

And Berish would talk into his red beard. " Let there be already such a year, what a dear person she is!"

And the people of the shtetl, from one border to the other, know well this special woman who lives among them.

It was about time for the stores to close, when Enda turns around, tired and smiling. In the distance, one could already hear from afar the cry of Yitschak-Jacobs. "Jews, close the stores!"

She sits down for a while to catch her breath. Chana, her daughter, stands over her and murmers impatiently.

"Mama, letís close already."

But Enda is absorbed with again counting the merchandise, and her customers, to determine whether she had forgotten someone.

"Wait, donít nudge me!" she answers Chana and continues to count on her fingers.

"Chinkeh-Rachel. Yidl Polker. Ezri-elkin. Paluchi. Chatskel, the teacher. David Volvishes-"

And thus counting, her face lightens and becomes more restful.

"It seems to me, nobody is forgotten, thank God. Now, Chana, we can close the butcher shop and make Shabbos."

Enda and Chana go home, wash themselves, dress in their Shabbos garments, and set forth to the synagogue. On the way people greet Enda with a cordial "Good Shabbos," as was proper to a distinguished person in the shtetl. On the steps to the womenís synagogue she meets Chaveh. They greet each other. Chavehís "Good Shabbos"strikes a chord in Endaís heart. She stops Chaveh.

"Tell me, dear Chaveh, why have you not bought any meat from me for Shabbos?"

Chaveh blushes a little.

"In truth, dear Enda, a piece of chicken has remained from yesterday, and we managed somehow."

In the synagogue, Enda stands in her usual place, opens her prayer book to Kabalas Shabbos, and when the cantor begins the "Líchu níra-nan"ah," a question arises in Endaís mind. How did Chaveleh get a hold of a chicken? She wants to go to Chaveh but her mind speaks again. Here, we canít talk. And what good would it do? The dear Chaveh couldnít possibly have cooked for Shabbos.

"Oy, veis meir" exclaims Enda. "What will they eat today? I am thinking of her sick husband and their dear children?" she murmers.

"Whatís the matter with you?" asks the wife of the Shamus quietly.

"I am very warm and my head is spinning. I must go out and catch a breath of fresh air. Iíll soon be back," she answers, softly.

Enda slips out of the synagogue, goes home, takes out the hot pot with the Shabbos soup, wrapped with a cloth, and runs breathlessly to Chavehís house. Upon her arrival she doesnít even knock, but goes into the kitchen and places the hot, covered pot on Chavehís cold stove.

"Children," says Enda, "I have brought your motherís soup which she had cooked in my oven. Tell her it is a bit tight in my oven, so I brought it here,"

And without waiting for a reply, she goes back to the synagogue.

When Enda arrives the praying is already over and the people of the congregation are heading for home. She doesnít find Chaveh.


The children in America had written Enda more than once that she should go to them. They had even sent her a ticket for the ship, and the necessary papers. The children often begged their mother to leave the butcher shop, make them happy, and go to America. Enda would read the letters from her children, look at the shipís ticket and cry. How could she leave the shtetl, her dearly beloved people? So many years to be together, in joy and in sorrow! How can a person just travel away, never to return?

In the evening Enda goes to Mendel, the scholar, to counsel with him. He knows Enda quite well. She lives not far from him and she goes to him often with her bitter heart. He knows well how difficult it is for Enda to tear herself away from here, and her longing for her children. Mendel speaks to her as though he is her brother.

"How long, Enda can you hold out here alone, in your butcher shop? The competition in Poland is affecting the Jewish trade, and you carry more and more packages of meat on loan. The poverty here cries out to heaven. True, you have the heart of a saint, but you have children, may they be well. Be a mother to your children! It is a great mitzvah. Go Enda. Go to America, in good health, and help them prosper."

The time comes for Endaís departure. The shtetl is saddened as in the Nine Days of Tisha BíAv. People come to the butcher shop and to Endaís house, for the farewell. In these days many tears are shed by the women, neighbors and friends, There were those who owe Enda for meat and had nothing with which to pay. Enda cries along with them, comforts them, blesses and thanks them.

Nighttime, in her bed, Enda is not able to sleep. Her sole thought is, how can I convince the Ribono shel Olom to feed his people Israel? She had already read all the books of prayers for women but she is not satisfied. She must talk it out with God, in her own words.

She goes away to the large Bays Ha-midrash, falls to her knees with eyes closed, clasps the Ark, and these are Endaís words, her own prayer!

"Thank you, dear Gottenu, loving heart, Father, for the kindness you do to me and my children. Forgive a sinning woman, who comes to you, not for herself, but for all of Israel. Master of the Universe, you know the truth, that I did not want to depart from our shtetl. These are your plans, that you have sown like seeds, and spread my little calves, my little children over the seas. Now I order and command You. You shall, trustful Father, nourish Your children of the shtetl. They should have, at least, a little piece of meat for Shabbos!"

Enda clasps her face with her hands, which had held the Holy Ark, and cries and moans bitterly.

Thus does Enda depart painfully from her shtetl. We shall remember her name with great love, esteem, respect and faithful memory.

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