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[Hebrew page 57 & Yiddish page 219]

From Day to Day Life

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Words spoken at the annual memorial ceremony of the Organization of Bolechow Natives in the year 5710 (1950) in Tel Aviv.
A Monument to my beloved ones, three generations, who perished in the Holocaust.

“A disaster gathered you together from the four corners of the earth
Its bitter scream you all uttered
And then the great event happened
Tears welled out from their faithful source
The great, the pleasant, the bright, the warm,
We will continue praying for it.”

Bialik

My Town

by Yonah Eshel-Elendman [1]

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Thirty-two years have passed from the time that I left the home of my parents of blessed memory in Bolechow.

This extended period of time has significantly dimmed my memory of events in the town. This was a period of time full of content and rich in experiences. Despite this, I will attempt to portray the image of the world of its Jews and what went on therein – a world which has now set and been silenced for ever and ever.

Bolechow, a far off corner in the Diaspora in the Carpathian Mountains that support the heavens, in the area of Bubnishche Rocks, the residence of the well-known robber Dowbusz [2] who instilled his fear in the region. Bolechow, enhanced with forests, rivers, mountains and meadows. You were surrounded by villages populated by Ukrainians, whereas Jews dwelt in your midst. They were employed in business, trades and manufacturing, including tanning, salt making, chairs, candle, soap rakes, glue, saws, water wells, which were a mark of water upon it.

As in all places the residents had nicknames. These names portrayed the essence of life, the physical makeup and the source. These included the Dore Mielic, Dodek, Hamgorgel in my soul, Pidgani, Staczyk, Columbuski, Seletsis, Chlapchis, Soike Wielki, Poczaczki, Francois, Eli Bach, etc.

These nicknames stuck with their owners, and the matching was very well.

{Photo page 58 top: The Maccabee Organization.}

{Photo page 58 bottom: “Heatid” group of Young Zion.}

In addition to the personal nicknames, there was a general nickname, “Bolechower Kricher” (Bolechow Crawlers), perhaps on account of your lethargy and your crawling? No, no. Your sons and daughters did not crawl at a tortoise's pace. On the contrary, they reached all parts of the globe. For they were enthusiastic people, accepting of change and progress. They desired worldly knowledge.

Bolechow, you were alert, revolutionary. Your reality was not sufficient for your children, so they left to acquire knowledge. Glittery Vienna was their place of desire.

Your surroundings had their own charm. Since that was a peaceful part of our lives, they granted us enjoyment and hours of sublimity of the soul. I will write a few words about them.

  1. The German Colony.
  2. The public gardens.
  3. The Hill. The Hill of Shlomo or Salomonova Gurka.
The German Colony: Your houses were small, covered with vegetation, Your yards were clean. There was a barn, chicken coop, and a lodge. On your gates, the milk vessels were neatly polished. Their rims sparkled like crystal. On your long windowsills, there were red apples… tomatoes, desirous food for the “poretzes” (landowners), as yet unknown to the Jewish palate.

The Colony, what jealousy did you arouse in us! You were to us as an example and an emblem for a life of work and redemption.

The Public Gardens

You were a living organ in our souls, the delight of our souls. It is impossible to close the grave on Bolechow without mentioning you. Within you, we were able to expose our deepest emotions. The living spirit of the youth was formed within you, the sublime possession, joy and gladness. In you we met, talked, debated, poured out our pure hearts that were overflowing their banks and embracing the arms of the world, with conversation and song. In the summer, many fine festivities were organized in you for the benefit of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (Jewish National Fund) and our blue boxes. This too was an eternal victory. Within you there were water fountains, two statues of Mickiewicz and J. Slowacki. In your center there was a pavilion. Near your entrance was the booth of Landau of blessed memory, with cold drinks, sweets and chocolate. The daughter of the aforementioned was Mrs. Soferman, the wife of the veteran teacher and writer Rafael Soferman, was one of the first of those who made aliya to the Land.

The garden, you were a possession of everyone and its center. Everyone who was in need would enter. However the “shkotzim” and “shiksas” [3] did not visit you. They had meadows and gardens, but no problems. For us it was the opposite. In the air of your space, the following songs were heard: “Onward Toward the Jordan”, “In my Thoughts”, “Raising a Banner Toward Zion”, “Let's Go Along the Way”, “There is the Place of Cedars”. The echoes were heard from afar. You were a refuge to us from the rotten “Rynsztok”, in which was gathered every broken vessel, every carcass, and which always exuded a “fragrant aroma” [4]. The Garden! You enriched us with a corner of pleasure, with contentment, with enjoyment.

The Hill. From whence flows our great love and lamentation to you? Several factors are the cause of this: a) my group of friends; b) esthetics; c) salvation to issues of day to day life requiring a solution.

Do you remember? The route to you, how wonderful and enchanted it was. Paths growing wild flowers, meadows, a multicolored checkered tapestry, and above a blue sky – that tell of the honor of G-d.

Groups upon groups streamed toward you. On Sabbaths and festivals, the “aliya” to tradition was overturned [5]. When we arrived to you, with the trees spreading shade over the pleasant grass. There, there were boughs of aromatic, fleshy cherries, whose aroma was like that of the trees.

We sat together in the aromatic air, discussing and enjoying the beauty of the world. The farmers received the visitors graciously, for we were considered to be “customers”. There was also a foamy white drink. This enjoyment was not the main thing. Milk and cherries could also be found at the homes of our parents. The purpose was to spend some time in companionship, to grant salvation to our mundane lives, and particularly to liven up reality with song and beauty. Our spiritual world at that time was full of problems. We were oppressed and pined for solutions. The worries searched for a solution, and it seemed as if they would be found in the wide vistas. You, oh hill, served as our vista.


The makeup of the population, which included three nationalities, necessitated the study of multiple languages at school. We had to study three languages: Polish, Ukrainian and German. It was extremely difficult for a poor Jewish child to learn the Ukrainian language. In particular, the study of chapters of its literature was like walking on stilts. It was doubtful if we understood Szewczenko, yet we were required to know it, to quote it.

The child was confused with the multitude of languages, and could not find his bearings. In addition, the youth wished to learn English. Yiddish was spoken in my parents' home. Only in the houses of the assimilationists was Polish spoken. National consciousness which penetrated our city before it opened up a windows on the other cities of the region, obligated the youth to learn Hebrew. With the passage of time, the study of our language became a holy task, and they became dedicated to it with all their enthusiasm. This was a splendid period, which I will dedicate some words. We studied German in school drop by drop. When Galicia was under Austrian rule, the Jewish intelligentsia had a special love for German literature, its writers and poets. Members of the generation that preceded mine knew Germanic poetry by heart. They could not have imagined even in a nightmare what would arise from them, and what they would perpetrate against us.

A proverb circulated among the people:

The Haskalah wished to establish itself well among three cities of Galicia: Brody, Buczacz and Bolechow. In Bolechow, you could find books of philosophy, research and poetry under the Gemaras of those who studied in the Beis Midrashes.


The Maccabee Zionist Organization had its headquarters in the center of Bolechow, in Schindler's house. A library was next to it. Services would also be held there on Sabbaths and festivals. The cream of the crop of the group was centered under one roof. The Goldschlag brothers, the Schorr brothers, the Bikel brothers, Nechemia Lutringer, Herman Blumenthal, Lemel Meir (this was the person who was “crazy for one thing”, the zealous Zionist, the dreaming fighter, “the young old man”, a one of a kind personality), Shimon Elendman, and many others. The hall was noisy, bustling from the multitude of those who came. Chibat Zion struck roots in it, and spread out its rays from there to the youth. At that time, the group was a workbench, a sign and an example. The settlement in the Land was poor in those days. However, everything that took place there was known from the newspapers.

The settlement was close to our hearts. It warmed our hearts, and gave meaning and taste to life in the Diaspora. There was a strong bond between us and between the best of our sons and daughters.

Lovers of Song

These were also not missing. We were involved in song from times of old. We had an established choir. The blind pianist Brukenstein and Avraham Frei were its two pillars. We would learn “songs of the Land” for festivities on various occasions. We were enthusiastic youth, and our hearts rejoiced. “Crazies” were hurrying about in every area. They stood for us at all times and bore the burden. Their concern was the strengthening and forging of the chain. The concern for song enhanced the situation.


As if from a fog, I will attempt to glance back at a communal political event that occurred and left a powerful imprint upon our hearts that will not be erased. This event, which forged our political image, was the parliamentary election.

This took place about 50 years ago. Gershon Zipper was the candidate of the Zionists. Dr. Lewenstein was the representative of the assimilationists.

Both candidates had dependents and dependents of dependents. It was a life and death battle. This was an event for which we lived, suffered, and sacrificed our bread. Each side was convinced of the righteousness of its ideas and stand. Each “voice” was considered complete forever. The hatred of the Zionists for the “prim and proper people” was great. This caused divisiveness, friction, and disputes between parents and children. Zionist activity was liable to weaken the foundations of livelihood, and this was the weapon of the assimilationists. They talked ill about the landowners (poretzes). Thanks to their fawning and their Diaspora-style bent form, they had influence with the authorities, regional and district officials, etc. However, who paid attention to such trivia? On the contrary, the threats added reasons and fuel to the fire. The threats dampened our spirits. Our strong decision was to not pass up on our rights at all, and to fight for our rights and honor. Our one and only aim was for liberation and the removal of impediments.

Haifa, the Festival of Lights 5710.


[Hebrew page 61 & Yiddish page 223]

The Hebrew Language

by Yonah Eshel-Elendman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The first sparks were ignited already 50 years ago. Do you not remember the teacher Shlomo Neimark and the teacher Yisrael Spiegel (Szpigeli). Both of them founded the Tushia School in Bolechow. They did not have fine, practical textbooks. In place of that, they had boundless dedication, love of the language, and a desire to spread it. Their strong desire to inspire the young people to speak and work wonders.

Five decades ago, there was a lack of usable expressions, and a common conversation was extremely difficult. To make a request and to express even the simplest idea was very difficult. The Batalnia academy for language was not yet born. It did not invent expressions, new words, textbooks in all fields of science, technology, arts, song and language, etc. (Who can count them?) Words for many things ranging from kitchen utensils to shepherding terminology did not exist. Therefore, their “holy work” was just commencing.

From amongst our elite youth, a group of girls was formed that made it their point to speak only Hebrew. On the Tylat (along the Ringplatz), one could already hear Hebrew expressions, Hebrew small talk, an adage or even a verse from the Bible. These two Hebrew teachers – short in stature but strong in spirit – achieved a great feat. They reached the summit.


[Yiddish page 224]

The First Day of Hebrew

by Yonah Eshel-Elendman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In 1911, three Hebrew organizations – the Organization of Hebrew Culture (Dr. Yehoshua Tahon), the Union of Hebrew Teachers (Rafael Soferman), and the Union of Jewish Schools (Dr. Korngyn) – proclaimed the first Day of Hebrew in Galicia and in the world at large. It was to take place in Lwow. Thanks to this convention, 35 Hebrew public schools in outlying cities and a Teachers' Seminary in Lwow were founded.

Naftali Zigel was among the activists. The Day of Hebrew was a demonstration for Hebrew speakers in the capital of Galicia. That day, Hebrew speakers went out into the street and spoke only Hebrew (which reminds us of the blessed work of Eliezer Ben Yehuda); they purchased a stamp in Hebrew from the post office; they ordered borscht in Hebrew in the restaurant; and they asked to purchase a train ticket in Hebrew from the train station. They argued, chatted, and dreamed in Hebrew. From Bolechow, the following students of Neimark and Szpigeli traveled to the Day of Hebrew: Leika Reiner, Chitzi Shuster, Reizi Landis, Rivchi Elendman, Tzipora Schnur, and Sheindele Tepper. When they returned from Lwow, full of action, impressions and experiences, they never tired of discussing about this impressive event. (I listened to these discussions with great jealousy, and I prayed in my heart: When I grow up, may my lot be among them!).

At a later time, Yaffa (Sheindele) Tepper, today Levanoni-Wissel, worked in the field of the study and dissemination of the language in Bolechow. Yaffa Wissel was the first girl to make aliya. She taught in a school in the Galilee and in the Real School in Haifa. Tzipora Schnurr, a graduate of the Tushia School, served as a teacher in Bolechow at the same time. Later, she made aliya and settled in Jerusalem, where she taught at the Hebrew High School in Rechavia that was founded by Shlomo Schiller.


[Hebrew page 62 & Yiddish page 224]

The First Actualizer

by Yonah Eshel-Elendman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Zeidele Mehering the watchmaker was modest in manner and pure of spirit. To all of us, he served as a symbol of the actualization of dreams. He made aliya to the Land before the First World War as one of the early Chalutzim (pioneers). He, and may she live Yaffa Wissel-Tepper, formed the first connection between us and the Land. They would send us fruit of the Land for Tu Bishvat. We touched, smelled, and lovingly and desirously stared at the fruit with holy awe. The aroma of the fruits of the field of the desired homeland entered our nostrils and our blood. It was passed from hand to hand. I thought to myself: This simple piece of fruit was in the Land, but I, when would I get there?

{Photo page 63, top: The counselor Lipa Brill, Hodaya Rozenbaum and Rachtzia Schorr.}

{Photo page 63 bottom: The first group of pioneers, 1920.}

In 1916, during the First World War, a Jewish soldier from Stanislawow arrived in our town. His name was Lipa Brill. He was a man of great action. When he took note of our youth, he realized that the situation should be improved.


[Hebrew page 64, Yiddish page 225]

Youth Movement

Translated by Jerrold Landau

His first task was to set up groups for the study of Zionism and the Land of Israel. These groups were called, “Tzeirei Zion”. The youth who were anxious for action and awakening gathered around these groups.

The number of people who participated in discussions, debates, festivities and excursions grew. The influence of these groups slowly encompassed the youth.

From the ranks of participants of these groups, who absorbed the convincing teaching and doctrines of the gifted teacher Lipa Brill, the kernel of Hashomer Hatzair arose. This was through the efforts of Mishli Hendel, Zeida Mehering and Shlomo Kaufman.

As a result of this education for Zionist preparation (Hachsharah), the first Chalutzim of our city made aliya in 1920. They laid the foundation for the farms of Cheftzi-Bah and Beit Alfa. These peoples included Berchi Josefsberg, Akiva Fruchter, Moshe Klenbard, Hodaya Rosenbaum, Moshe Reiss, Rachtzia Schorr, Ruchtzia Schindler, and Yechezkel Schlifka.


Before I finish my article, I will deal once again with personalities and events that penetrated our hearts.

Who of you does not remember the “Tzetl Yid” (List Jew) Yankel? It was difficult in those days to acquire all sorts of provisions. The needs and desires grew, and the town could not accommodate them. What could a Jew do, a rich one was in the same position as a poor one? The 'Tzetl Yid” used to accept orders from all the residents of the town, each with his own list. These lists were pasted to the brow of the “Jew” when he returned to us, laden with packages. He received his payment. “Jews earn their livelihood from each other.”

At the conclusion of my memoirs, I will touch on other personalities of Bolechow. Among them were the master among his people, “the powerful” the conceited, the refined and the coquettish. Behold! There was the Maskil, the modest one, the scholar who keeps himself discrete, the person of faith, the G-d fearing, the person who knows the Book, the one who knows the square letters [6], the one who studies Ein Yaakov, the one who looks into Hatzefirah, all together. There are the ones who read Shalom Aleichem, Frischman, Peretz, Schnitzler, Zweig, Karelman, etc. And where is the charitable person? And where is the one who gives discretely? One runs into the doer of good deeds at every step. Was it possible not to run into them? These people who do not work regular jobs [7], there is no word to precisely describe these ideas even in a foreign dictionary.


Bolechow! What came across after I left you? I was a wanderer in the final years on a one-legged journey.

Fate was not kind to you. Your dear Jews, comparable to fine gold, drank from the goblet until is conclusion. Where are your elderly and your children? The cruel murderer caught up with you in strange houses, in forests, in hiding, and in bunkers.

The innocent, the pure, those who hoped for good, free of guilt, who can count your number? A world rich in spirit, with many thoughts, sunk into the ground. Dreams and songs were cut off in the middle. Who paid attention to your suffering, and to your last gasps on your final journey?

Dear Bolechow natives, on all corners of the earth and in Israel! The Kibbutz member, the worker on a Moshava, the farmer, the counselor, the teacher, the doctor, the engineer, the housewife! Do you remember your youth in Bolechow, the place of your childhood? The reality that I described to you is like a dream that flew away, taking along our pure dear ones!

With your tragic deaths, terrible beyond terrible, you commended us to a life of struggle and pride [8].


[Hebrew page 65 & Yiddish page 226]

From Days Gone By

by Yonah Eshel-Elendman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Dedicated to the memory of my mother Malka of blessed memory.

Mother told me:

Her brother, Yisrael Yosef Szpigeli (one of the founders of the Tushia school in Bolechow, loved by the family and nicknamed “Das Feterl” – “The Uncle”) became engaged. The time of the wedding approached.

At the end of the Sabbath, his father (my grandfather) Yoshi sat on a long bench near the stove and studied Gemara. The door opened and the in-law entered in order to decide on the time of the wedding.

“Good week!”

“A good and blessed week!”

Since the in-laws did not like to engage in much conversation, they fulfilled “a word as a stone [9]”. The in-law sat on his second side of the bench. They sat and sat, they were silent, and they enjoyed smelling tobacco for enjoyment, until the in-law stood up and uttered:

“With G-d's will, we will arrange the wedding on the week of Shabbat Shira [10].

“It should be at a good and propitious time. Have a good week!”

This ended the mission of the in-law. At the set time, my uncle said the “Harei At” formula [11].


He was a great scholar, and also very wealthy, blessed with possessions. He owned a bank and various businesses. He did not understand the vernacular language, and he wrote the Latin script cryptically, in his own manner of hieroglyphics. As a multi-branched businessman, he related well to people, and he came into contact with institutions. It seems that he had to sign the documents, checks, contracts, letters and other printed items in the language of the country.

The poor man was perplexed. How to do so!

Someone wrote his name as Jacob, and he copied it over verbatim. Dealing with these letters was not simple. It was as if he was walking on stilts.

When he finished Jac, he clapped his hands, shouted for joy, and called out: “I am already at Yatz”.

Note: Many other of those who came before him thrust themselves into the true study of Torah. They turned it over and turned it over. Bright vistas and worlds opened up for them, without nullifying their personalities and lowering their stature.


[Hebrew page 66 & Yiddish page 227]

A Fire in Bolechow

by Yonah Eshel-Elendman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It was the middle of the night. The town, with its pathways and alleys, was sleeping a sweet slumber. Its tiny, modest houses were right next to each other. They were covered in a gloomy, dark, wrapping. Nobody was on the streets, and there was no sign of life. There was no sound, and even the dogs did not bark. Sound sleep enveloped the young and the old. Only from one window did a the light of a dim oil lamp break forth into the darkness of the night. The diligent learner was still engrossed in his study, struggling with a difficult section of Gemara, awaiting a solution.

Bolechow was not known for large houses. On the contrary, its houses resembled dice from a game, one being supported by the other, as if each was asking for help from the next. Most were made of wood covered with a material that was quite flammable. If a fire broke out, there was a danger that all the houses would be destroyed. They were fuel for a fire.

“Havdalah” and “Bore Meorei Haeish” [12] were for us portents to a fire. Why was this? Rumor stated the following: There was someone interested in a fire for economic reasons, for that would give the person an opportunity to exchange his poor, rickety house with a good spacious house, on account of insurance money. It is possible that we suspected the innocent. The idea is strange, and nobody can research it. G-d has the answers.

Since fires used to break out at the conclusion of the Sabbath, it was said that Havdalah was the reason.

It was after the third Sabbath meal (Shalosh Seudot), Havdalah, the recitation of Elokei Avraham Yitzchak VeYaakov, talking to a neighbor or a friend, or reading a restful nighttime book. The Sabbath Queen was still hovering over Bolechow. In the dreams of its sleepers there were holy visions, which had not yet given way to the secular – this was the battle between the holy and the secular in its essence. The holy had the upper hand.

The prince was engulfed in his slumber, enshrined in a world that was completely good and sublime. The slumbering prince, the dog's life was for him hence. The burdens of the worries, the yoke, the degradation that he suffered during the six days of the workweek, were all forgotten and erased. Like the thunder from the heavens, suddenly a terrifying voice pierces through the air. “Danger!, Danger, a fire!”. From one of the houses, flames leap forth and pillars of smoke ascend. Within moments, a tumult breaks out. Yossel, Eidel, Feivel, Mendel, Yenta, Soshia, Dvosha, scream out with all their might.

Perplexed, desperate, tired men, women, children and elderly burst out from every alley, from every house, and wander to and fro. Here is a woman afflicted with the fear of death breaking down a gate, with her child in her arms.

{Photo page 71 top: Ringplatz (the Town Square) after a fire.}

{Photo page 71 bottom: The Town Hall (Magistrat). }

Here a dumbfounded young girl wails. There a forlorn elderly person stumbles as he runs to and fro clapping his hands, “Woe that I merited thus!”. The disorder increases, and confuses thoughts and action. House after house is engulfed in the flames. Someone throws a wet sack onto a roof. Another one tosses a pail. Suddenly Jerzy Bilinski, the “hero” of the fire, enters into the tragic scene. He is the gentile Jew who speaks a juicy Yiddish, understands the occurrences of the town and its Jews, and displays his power in extinguishing fires.

Bundles and bundles of moveable objects are loaded onto a wagon and transported far from the spreading fire.

The domestic animals are aroused from their sleep. A confused cow hurries out from one of the barns, mooing bitterly. A calf hastens to flee. The barking of the dogs, the yowling of the cats, and the cooing of the chickens merge together into a terrifying, tragic symphony. Everyone is calling for help. One encompassing bitter cry ascends heavenward. Even birds smell the fire, and fly about in a frightened, perplexed manner, circling about and moving away quickly from the danger zone.

Terrified images move about, pushing and carrying things. Muffled cries are heard. Broken walls of homes tumble down, accompanied by sighs of anguish. The fire defeated them. The fire bears destruction. It spreads and spreads.

One can see the forms of the chimneys alone, pointing upward, and after a short period, all that is left is burnt out, charred shells. The houses of Bolechow were turned into mounds of ashes, to nothing! Above is the sky, darkened with thick smoke.

What is a fire in the town? An event that is completely terrifying. A painful happening in the chain of suffering, a monstrous event in our early childhood which leaves an indelible impression.

What is it to have your house burnt down? It is to be uprooted from the home of your rearing, in which you were born, from the home in which you grew up and rejoiced, like those who came before you, and who came before them. The house of a legacy! If it is burnt, it is like the uprooting of a tree from the place of its nurturing, growth, flourishing, acclimatizing. With regard to the years of a person, to what is it compared? To embitter his life, to cut him off from his foundation, to cut of his roots and the roots of his roots.

And the children of the fire, to what are they compared? To those nestlings who have had their warmth removed from them, and whose source of life and joy has been taken away.

After the fire, poor indigents were added to our community. This one stayed with a neighbor, this one with an acquaintance or a relative. They sufficed themselves with temporary arrangements.

A few days after the fire, one runs into an honorable couple of the community begging from door to door in the outskirts of Bolechow, or a pair of righteous women dressed up in festive clothes collecting for the needy. “One should not talk about it”, or “be discrete with your needy”, was an internal command, a voice from the soul.

The more one could give, the more praiseworthy it was.


[Hebrew page 68 & Yiddish page 229]

My Rebbetzin

by Yonah Eshel-Elendman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Who knows four? I know four? Four are the matriarchs [13], Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. My masters, remove the last two names, and you have the name of my Rebbetzin.

She was called Sara Rivka on the streets of Bolechow. It is a beautiful name that sounds nice. Is it not?

She was a woman of medium stature. Not fat and not skinny. Her face was marked with many wrinkles. Her nose was blessed like a wellspring, and was always dripping liquid. She wore a pair of glasses when she was teaching. The color of her hair? Do not ask, you should not know, for her hair was always covered with a kerchief, tied tightly so that not even one of her hair should ever be seen, G-d forbid. Her thick handkerchief, not white, with which she wiped her nose, was in constant use. Believe me, I remember that handkerchief to this day. Her clothing was not fine and elegant. It was sufficient just to cover up her nakedness.

My Rebbetzin, I did not hate you. On the contrary, you taught me, as a child, how to read my first Hebrew, with those small, square letters. I did not particularly like you, why? Because I had to sit before you as I wasted a thousand and one other opportunities to play with castles, to conduct business, to knead cakes, challas and all types of pastry out of mud – Bolechow was blessed with mud when the snow melted. Bolechow took eight portions and the rest of the world one. Who can enumerate the number of games that were waiting for me at that time? Despite all this, I did not avoid this study, for my conscience was bound with bonds of responsibility for my actions. You were also a progressive teacher for me, and kept me from doing wrong and ignoring the holy work of studying Hebrew. Indeed, the externals of Sara Rivka did not particularly attract me. She did not excite my eye. On the contrary, he appearance was someone bothersome to the esthetic feelings of a child.

With a pointer, you hovered and flew over the Siddur (prayer book), the mixture, the octagon, the blurry and the worn, thick, worn from much use, seeking repose so that the boundaries do not become blurred [14].

In truth, I strongly hoped that the Rebbetzin would get mixed up and skip a page, a line, or even one blessing. But never. She wet her finger with her saliva, which was always plentiful in order to flip through the poor, forlorn Siddur. Thus did she do from early times.

Sara Rivka did not know anything about Pestalozzi, Korzac, or Freud. However, this did not “bother” her. She understood the meaning of the words, if not completely, then partially. I would snatch some Yiddish, some explanation; thus did we drink to our content. My Rebbetzin had her own style of teaching. From where did she acquire it? Don't ask. The youngsters did not ask very much, the main thing was to be freed from this waste of time, from the boring reading of the familiar Siddur that did not interest the hearts of the children. Indeed, do we have to delve into and understand everything? The more knowledge, the more pain, taught our sages. Indeed, there were some words that I could not repeat and understand in any way, for any price. For example, “vehayu letotafot bein eineicha” (“And they shall be as frontlets – i.e phylacteries – between your eyes”) [15]. “What are totafot, Rebbetzin?”. What is the connection between “totafot” and eyes? I cried out, misery, misery. Do you have to know everything? She answered, “You are still young, when you are old, you will understand everything.”. If so, what is “tzeetzaei tzeetzaeihem” [16]? I liked these words, due to the many Tzadis [17], and the strange sound. To my dismay, Sara Rivka did not have an answer to this question of mine. She was stumped. After all, my friends, to this day, believe me, I do not clearly understand the meaning of “totafot” or “tzeetzaei tzeetzaeihem”. All this was because of my Rebbetzin. Her soul was refined. I will grant you good if you could give me a clear explanation of these words.

Pure Sara Rivka, the good, the modest of women of blessed memory, even today there are Rebbetzins like you, who are not able to transmit various concepts and ideas to their students. This is despite the fact that they studied some psychology, psychoanalysis, and psychotechnics. Despite this, they are wonderful teachers of Israel.

What is the same of all of you: your pure intentions, your straightforward heart, and above all – your strong love of your fellow Jew that beats in your hearts.


[Hebrew page 70 & Yiddish page 231]

Tashlich [18]

by Yonah Eshel-Elendman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

And you shall cast into the depths of the sea all your sins. (Micha 7, 19).

The casting away of sins – this is an unpleasant task for man – into the depths of the river during Tashlich was “technically” straightforward in Bolechow, since we had no shortage of rivers. Tashlich was an extraordinary pompous scene. Before the procession, the diligent would stake out for themselves a comfortable place to stand near the two riverbanks, on a gate, on a roof, near the dam, on a bridge, or on a projection on a house of an acquaintance or a friend.

The ceremony begins. Here is Rabbi Shlomo Perlow – the wise scholar who did not rebuke his daughters if they study Hebrew, and did not worry lest they be ruined in public – with his community of Hassidim, each with a lit tallow candle in his hand. They walked in a long rearward line, walking along jauntily, with importance. When they reached the riverbank, everyone shook out his outer garment, and said with awe, “And you shall cast into the depths of the sea all of your sins”.

There was a holy awe surrounding. The last radiant rays of the sun intermix with the lit tallow candles, and they glitter in the slow moving waves of the river. The jokers – they apparently do not have sins and iniquities to cast into the depths – so for them, Tashlich is a different matter. What did they do at that time? They would pile up piles of straw that they had prepared from the eve of the festival, role them into a shape, place a burning candle into them, and float them in the river. Within a few moments, the river was filled with tiny islands, spitting fire, “burning, jumping, flickering”. What a splendid site! Fire and water under one roof! And look! The thick bundle does not extinguish. On the contrary, it floats, moves on and on, the light does not dim, for it is very proud.

The ceremony concluded. The rabbi and his entourage head toward the house of the rabbi. The house is noisy with joyful people, exulting in gladness. The community is basking in the presence of their spiritual father. The song breaks forth with enthusiasm. The devotion and the excitement reach the point of leaving behind the physical. The forgetting of the worries of the gloomy weekdays envelops everybody. The sun sets over the treetops. Darkness covers the earth, and on the river, there is fire and water. Around is the joy and happiness of young people and friends, the gladness of the festival, the feeling of calm and salvation. Behold, we are clean of all sin. The waters covered the sins, and the fire burnt them…


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This chapter and the next were particularly difficult to translate. They are written in a semi-poetic, dirge-like form. Many of the thoughts in the first chapter appear to be addressed to the town itself and its locations. This style is borrowed from the Zion odes of the Tisha BeAv liturgy, which personify the destroyed Zion and Jerusalem. Return
  2. His full name is Oleksa Dowbusz. Return
  3. Derogatory terms for gentile males and females. Return
  4. The term here, obviously sarcastic, is the Biblical term used to describe the aroma of the Temple sacrifices. Return
  5. This is a cryptic reference. My interpretation was that the younger felt greater spiritual solace at the hill than at the synagogue. Return
  6. I am not sure of the implication of all of these innuendoes. Ein Yaakov is a compendium of the legends of the Talmud, generally studied by the less scholarly but faithful people. Hatzefirah refers to a modern Zionist newspaper. Return
  7. A reference to a person who spends the bulk of his days engaged in holy works rather than pursuit of a livelihood. (In Hebrew, batlan.) Return
  8. I believe that this is a reference to the rebirth of Israel. Return
  9. I am not sure of the meaning of this reference. It seemingly is a term for terse speech. Return
  10. The Sabbath upon which the Torah portion of Beshallach is read. Beshallach contains the Song of the Sea. It occurs in mid to late winter. Return
  11. This is the formula that is declared by the groom at a wedding ceremony. Return
  12. Havdalah is the ceremony conducted over wine, a flame and spices to mark the end of the Sabbath. Bore Meorei Haeish (He Who creates the light of the fire) is the blessing recited over the multi-wicked flame at Havdalah. Return
  13. A quote from a well-known song that is sung toward the end of the Seder on Passover. Return
  14. This sentence seems to be describing a child's view of a worn out, tattered prayer book. Return
  15. A quote from the Shema prayer. Return
  16. A quote from a blessing recited as part of the morning prayers. Literally, “The descendents of their descendents”. Return
  17. Tzadi is a Hebrew letter, making the 'ts' sound. Return
  18. A ceremony performed at a riverbank on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, where one's sins are symbolically cast into the River. Return

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