A memorial candle for my parents (zl)
Translated by Selwyn Rose
Every one of us, when we touch the malignant wound known as the Holocaust feels a quaking, trembling of the heart perhaps the approach to sacredness Take thy shoes from off thy feet, and the pain which, with the passage of years has dulled, again rises up and floods the heart. And we don't even have half a consolation, that the many sorrows of all who have lost dear ones carry their grief, although in the togetherness, the biggest togetherness of all in history, because few of our brethren were not touched.
One of the most central figures in the public life of the last generations in Sokółka was that of the Rabbi Bezalel Zakheim. He was born in Rizhinoi to a family of martyrs, of which two brothers, Yisroel and Tovia were martyred in blood-riots 400 years ago hence the acrostic name Zakheim (meaning their seed is holy or martyred). The family is related according to tradition and ancient documentation that passed from generation to generation to Rabbi Yonatan the Shoemaker and King David.
During the last twenty years, Rabbi Bezalel was teacher and Dayan in Sokółka, in his earlier years he was a trader. During the day he traded as a businessman and at night in Torah. He was exceptionally intelligent, considered and sharp, would astound his listeners with his brilliance on the words of the Torah and also in everyday conversation. With his rapid, penetrating and easy understanding of everyday experiences of the world, his lack of formal school education was completely unnoticeable.
He found a common language with old and young alike. On the Torah he was like an over-flowing spring, but also in everyday conversation he scintillated, peppery, full of humor. In spite of his immense talents, there was a measure of un-worldliness about him that was quite common among the talented scholars of that generation. His business was difficult and he was full of concerns for his sustenance. All his fiery soul and abundant energy was invested in helping people. That one man was himself an entire institution of social welfare. His unearthing of ways of obtaining means to help people was boundless. He always found the necessary money in his hand for the needy that came to his door. Needless to say Rabbi Bezalel not only acted he was also very practical: he would collect money from among his acquaintances, friends and even strangers. But first he would give of his own, from the little that he had. He appreciated charity but was inclined to help and rehabilitate a man. To help put him on his feet, was his main aim and to that end he was ready to do everything; to provide financial assistance and guide with wise advice.
Obviously there were strange occurrences in that field. In Sokółka there were no buses and almost no automobiles. Wagon-master was one of the accepted businesses in town and if the horse of a wagon-master died the driver would immediately rush to the Rabbi and would be heard and helped. An example was Walwel the driver, who appeared once crying: Rabbi, my horse fell please I'm coming! But he fainted. The Rabbi went to him and said: Mr. Walwel, get up there will be a horse! and Walwel immediately recovered and happily got to his feet.
A shopkeeper, an artisan who was in need of help and rehabilitation was helped and supported and was rehabilitated. And the help was given honorably without the need to demean oneself: the man had no need to give extended explanations or plead for mercy. Rabbi Bezalel would cut the man short with So, in short!? To all appearances it would seem as if by that, he was hard and impatient, but it was clear that the in short was precisely to prevent the man from having to demean himself. Neither did he like to hear the words Thank you! He would stop the man and say: Please G-d when conditions improve, remember to help someone in need. Most of the help he gave was performed modestly, anonymously. He knew of every case of hardship and stress and sped to help. He would appear at people's door without them asking and offer help in the form of a loan as encouragement knowing that he was unlikely to receive it back. Even strangers from out of town, would knock on his door and receive help.
I remember an incident from my childhood one of many: one summer day a Jew appeared at our door wrapped in a long ragged coat, because they had told him in the Beit Ha-Midrash to go to the house of Rabbi Bezlel and he would get help. He opened his coat and it was clear that he had no trousers. My father had two pairs of trousers: for weekdays and for Shabbat. My father took off his trousers and gave them to the man and put on his Shabbat trousers in place of them. Mother returned home from the street and seeing my father in his Shabbat trousers asked what the festival was. Dad was a bit embarrassed and we, the children, laughing joyfully told her the story.
The house was open to every hungry person or someone with no roof over his head. Business was hard and perhaps that was the source of his understanding and sympathy for the needy.
Rabbi Bezalel was pleasing to most of his fellows and even the rich and notable of town, sometimes were in need of his advice and guidance, for the man was exceedingly wise and had a sharp eye. He would get right down to the depths of the matter in hand and his advice was intelligent and correct.
The Rabbanut, whose main problems were usually on questions of Kashrut was not loved by Rabbi Bezalel and he found the Rabbanut abhorrent. Other than that he loved the judgments and laws of the Torah; it was within them that he found his greatest strength and they won for him a reputation well beyond the confines of Sokółka. He was often consulted and invited to the large cities for debates on difficult questions and would return with great happiness and satisfaction. Even Christians in their arguments with Jews would come to be judged by Rabbi Bezalel and would not be disappointed. Even the well-known medical aid, Noske, the Christian, materially rich, would sometimes find himself in an argument with a fellow man and would come to take advice from our father. Once I saw a real Solomon's wisdom demonstrated in our home; it was like this: A Christian from one of the villages and a Jew, a shopkeeper, came to our house on a winter day. The Christian claimed that he paid the Jew a debt that he owed him; the Jew claimed the opposite, that he hadn't received any money at all from the man. Father listened to the claims of both sides and said to the Jew in his broken Polish: You have to swear that you haven't received the money. The Jew was ready to swear. The Rabbi was satisfied with that and didn't actually make the man swear but declared that he was in the right and that the Christian had to pay his debt. He turned to the rejoicing Jew and said in Yiddish, with a few words of Hebrew thrown in: Mr. Jew now, when you pay the judgment fee, don't take out the coins he just gave you, be careful that the uncircumcised one doesn't recognize his cash! The Jew winked his eye at father and answered: And so what? Am I so stupid? Give the man back his money! shouted the rabbi in an angry and aggressive voice. The story became well-known throughout the town.
He had great influence in town, although he did have opponents. Indeed, everyone even those with opposing opinions, honored and respected him.
I remember an incident where he played a decisive role in saving a man's soul through his influence. There was a well-known man in Sokółka, much complained against, who played cards a lot and kept company with a bad group of people. He had an only daughter who was married but died giving birth to her only son. The man fell into deep depression and his family were concerned for his life. Rabbi Bezlel began to make contact with him through conversation and teaching. The man began visiting us at home and to spend the winter evenings with the Gemara. We sometimes even saw a smile come upon his face.
Father was an enthusiastic Zionist, loved The Land of Israel and got very excited on hearing any news from there. From my earliest childhood I heard from his mouth songs of the Zionists in tunes full of longing; he sang to us in the evenings while rocking our cradles. His ambition was to immigrate to Palestine and live there. Fate was cruel to him. When we already had the permits in our hands for our parents, the war broke out.
Our mother was known in town by her nickname Hanna Nehama-as; she too was known, like father, through her help for other people, in her own special way. Women in Sokółka didn't usually give birth in hospitals but at home. If there was a birth expected in a family, my mother was asked to be there; for friends and neighbors as well but especially for the poor women in town. There were many nights when mother was missing from the house for that reason. She had some medical knowledge and knew how to treat minor injuries and sickness. A thermometer, rubber bottle and other simple household medical things we had, but were rarely found at home because they were nearly always on loan to people needing them and if we were in need of them, we would go out and search for them among our friends. On Friday nights, after lighting the candles, mother would send us the children to take parcels to the poor. To this one a jar of chicken noodle soup; to that one, a challah; there a cake, home made jelly to many, and so on. And we? How we loved those missions! We were welcome guests in these houses. They would show us the newly born babies, they would cover us with many blessings we were important!
Our mother was an excellent example of a housewife. According to our status we were considered middle-class in Sokółka but never was the income sufficient to our needs. The efficient management of the house demanded a special expertise and fortunately our mother possessed just that.
There was another special quality in our lives at home: our parents knew to honor in secrecy the stories they heard from others; they did not know the meaning of the word gossip. They earned by their discretion the complete trust of all who came to them. Many women would come to my mother to pour out the bitterness in their heart. They would always find a listening ear, and father the same.
I will recount more but that in just a few words: Tsilla my sister and her husband Baruch and their two sons, Yitzhak and Haim; my grandmother Nehama and all the children of our extended family uncles, aunts, and their children who, together with the rest of our martyrs among our people symbolized an era, who passed from this world under such horrifying circumstances.
We will remember them in sorrow and pain and may this be their eternal memorial.
Translated by Selwyn Rose
My father, Rav Leib Pazniak; my mother, Rabbanit Feigel Pazniak; my brothers Dov, Yoshe and Avech Pazniak; my sisters Dina, and Shosha Pazniak; 1) my uncle (my father's older brother), Shaul Pazniak; my aunt, Khu'ala and their four children; 2) my uncle Yosef Pazniak, my aunt Tatti Pazniak; 3) my uncle Haim Pazniak and his six sons, my aunt Fruma Pazniak 4) my uncle Avrhaml, my aunt mindeli and their six sons may they all be remembered for a blessing.
And all my dear and beloved missing family.
The dumb silence in which I have been trapped for so many years, saturated with the suffering and sadness of your not being here alive, is very hard.
It is difficult to bring up these things, the memory of all those dear souls who went their way, unseeing, to torture and death at the hands of the vile Nazi enemy (may their name be erased for ever). What is left of life without them, for my afflicted soul the endless agony and sadness?
I remember my home, a Jewish home, warm-hearted in which was found everything a listening ear, a generous hand offered in help. My parents were modest, good people; and my brothers and sisters were also were the same unobtrusive, not bothersome, I was so proud of you all, my beloved ones.
I remember the night that I left you all at home and parted from you forever, you were all so worried about my fate as I went out into the world, distant, alone. My mother was so worried about me. But I knew I had a good home and I couldn't believe that you would never see me again, proud that I hadn't disappointed your hopes in creating a family in Palestine.
May your memories be blessed.
(Perished at the hands of the Nazis in the Białystok Ghetto)
Translated by Selwyn Rose
I want to memorialize eternally the name of my late father-in-law by recalling his image. I had the privilege to know him in the autumn of 1921 when I was inducted into his family and I lived close to him until summer 1933 when I immigrated to Palestine.
Rabbi Baruch Tsvi was a much-talented man, brotherly and loving to all who came under his roof.
Modest in his manner and way of life, he was totally without arrogance in any form. His motto - Love thy neighbor as thyself. was stamped in his blood and a guiding light in his life.
For the entire period I was in his company, I never heard a single word of insult to, or concerning a human being. He also failed to condemn anyone who harmed him and saw no stain in such a person. He judged every man according to his deeds and always gave him the benefit of the doubt
He was dedicated in his public offices and activities, working assiduously and faithfully to serve their aims. There was no institution or charity in town in which he did not play some part to his total ability, heart and soul. He was especially active in religious matters concerning the old synagogue in Sokółka, as one of the treasurers who founded and supported all the societies such as: The Society for Psalms, Mishna and Shas. He was always among the first to arrive and the last to leave. And when he left, he always examined every corner to ensure that there was no one left behind perhaps in need of a meal or bed.
Every day he would bring home with him a guest and place him at the table as though this was his house.
His modest wife, Fasha, the daughter of Rabbi Eliezer died before the Shoah. She left a son, Shimon Shaimeh a gifted scholar, righteous, a known businessman in Vilna, who perished with his in-laws in ghetto Vilna. His daughter and grandchild and great grandchild perished in the Białystok ghetto.
The rest of his family the only one left alive is my wife in Palestine, and our family.
May his memory be blessed with all the righteous honest innocents who sacrificed their souls in the Sanctification of the Holy One of Israel.
Translated by Selwyn Rose
Avraham was born in 1936 in Tel-Aviv to David and Haya Yardeni. He excelled in his studies and was a member of Mahanot Ha-Olim during World War Two. In 1949 he was a volunteer and went to help out on farms. He was in a work camp, together with comrades of the movement and from one of the missions on which was sent he failed to return. The Yardeni family mourn his loss in his extreme and fruitful youth.
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