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{69}

Jewish Education

And Let Your Eyes Behold Your Teacher 1
My Teachers and Educators

by Ben-David Schwartz

As Rava said: A person does not understand the opinions of his teacher until after forty years… Talmud, Sanhedrin 109.

With reverent trepidation, I lift up the writer's pen to express my feelings of gratitude to Rozniatow in general, and specifically, my feelings of gratitude to all of my teachers and mentors, who influenced me from the wellsprings of their wisdom, thought, and knowledge.

In those days, as Kaiser Franz Josef I sat on the throne of the Hapsburg Monarchy, which was called at that time Austria-Hungary, and ruled over more than ten states and peoples, the Jews of Rozniatow dwelt without fear of the gentiles, for the Kaiser protected them from all bad occurrences. The Jew haters were not so brazen as to lift a head or a hand. Reb Veve Zeev Hoffman, a Jew with a splendid visage, whose beard flowed down to his cloak, a man of learning and knowledge, was chosen or appointed by the authorities as head of the town, and he led the population, including the gentiles, in an agreeable manner.

In those days, Reb Kopel served as Shamash. In addition to his important task as the Shamash of the Kloiz, he was also the “waker of the slumbering”. Toward the end of the night, when all of the townsfolk were in a deep sleep, the voice of Reb Kopel rang out “Arise to the worship of the Creator, for it was for that purpose that you were created”. In a voice saturated with tragic anguish in the spirit of “the Divine Presence in exile” 2 , he knocked upon the doors of the Jews with his mallet, and woke them up, some for Tikkun Chatzot 3 , others to recite chapters of Tehillim (Psalms), and still others to study a page of Talmud. I and a few other children of my age (10 – 12 years old) were accompanied by Reb Kopel in the early hours of the morning (4 – 5 a. m.) in the summer and in the winter to the cheder of my Rebbi and teacher.

Reb Yitzchak Branik

I attended the cheders of and drunk from the wellsprings of many teachers, such as Reb Yudele, Alter Meir, Reb Eliezer K. Moshes, and others. However the cheder of Reb Yitzchak Branik is guarded in my mind in a positive light until this day, in accordance with the words of Rav Yannai, “Anyone who studies Torah from one Rebbi only will never see a sign of blessing. Rav Chisda states in the name of Rabba that he responded to him (i.e. Rav Yannai) – those words apply to logic in general, but Talmud is best studied from one Rebbi.” (Talmud, Tractate Avoda Zara 19a).

Reb Yitzchak Branik, who was an expert scholar, came to Rozniatow from the city of Kalusz, which was famous for mighty Torah students and scholars. Many Torah giants found it to be a pleasant place to live. When Reb Yitzchak lost his livelihood, he made use of Torah to earn a livelihood.

He had two children 4 . Yehuda, whose son Aryeh Leib lived and worked with us here, and died an untimely death only a few months ago. He had a daughter Matel who is in America, and Dina who died. There was also Moshe who served as a Hebrew teacher in several places around Rozniatow and later was drafted into the army. When he returned home in one piece after the war, he married Sarache, the daughter of Reb Yitzchak Rosenbaum. They then moved to Lvov where they led the Tarbut organization. They made aliya during the 1930s, and he died in 1940 while still in his prime.

Reb Yitzchak Branik opened up the treasuries of Torah for me. He taught me Talmud in depth, as well as the laws of meat and milk and the salting of meat from Yoreh Deah 5 . On Thursday nights, he taught the weekly Torah portion along with the commentary of the Or Hachayim and others. These childhood teachings accompany me to this day. I am deeply grateful that I merited to pour water on his hands 6 .

Reb Yitzchak Hertzberg

I studied not only Hebrew and grammar with the teacher Hertzberg, but also bible and Jewish history. In the higher grades, I studied Ein Yaakov 7 . His biblical lectures on chapters of Isaiah and Jeremiah were quite beloved by the students. All of his commentaries and explanations on various sentences, words or events are still with us to this day.

I merited to receive from him while still in Rozniatow, and later when he visited Pressburg 8 some of his poems upon current events, which were dedicated to me as an excellent student. We renewed our connection in the Land, and he would often visit me in my office for pleasant discussions on various matters regarding the good days in Rozniatow.

His memory and his blessed Torah are kept by me to this day.

May the memory of all of these be guarded by me with blessing and gratitude.

Reb Yehoshua Reiter

Apparently, he was the first Hebrew teacher who used the “Safa Berurah” (Clear Language) manuals. He died after a drawn out illness (tuberculosis). I studied with him for only a brief period of time when I was eight or nine years old. His image is guarded in my memory. His face resembled that of Eliezer Ben Yehuda 9 . In praise of Rozniatow, let me state here that the mantle of Torah for its own sake, and the spreading of Torah, served as a candle at its feet 10 , and that already by the beginning of the current century (20 th century), a Hebrew school existed.

From right to left: Dvora Brand, Miriam Heisler-Yungerman,
Rotenberg, Gitla-Tova Friedler, Yehudit Friedman (Heisler-Yungerman)

 

Dr. Lipa Leopold Adlersberg

He served in Rozniatow as a teacher of religion in the public school. He was also my teacher for German language and grammar, as well as math, both before he became blind and after. He lived in our neighborhood, and therefore it was easy for me to be assisted by him when I had difficulty in preparing my lessons. I enjoyed his style of teaching very much. From his style I learned that only a superior pedagogue can impart a style of learning to his students that is most important. That style is, reading, being exacting in the reading, for it is Torah and one must study it 11 . This I learned from Dr. Adlersberg. Until this day, when I read a book or article in depth, the image of this person passes before me. With his sharp pencil, as if he was “passing a quill” across the printed lines, he organized the proper divisions and notations, and therefore exposed the secrets inherent in the reading matter. I should mention here that when I was twelve or thirteen years old, I read “Nathan the Wise” by Lessing with his assistance.

{Photo page 72: Exact same photo as page 71, with exact same caption. Must have been duplicated in error.}


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Reb Yechiel Mechel Faasberg

by Tzvi Faasberg

If one finds the lost object of his father or that of his teacher
The lost object of his teacher takes precedence,
For his father brings him into this world
While his teacher, who teaches him Torah
Brings him to the life of the world to come.
(Mishna Baba Metzia 33a)

My teacher and Rebbi 12 Reb Yechiel Mechel the son of Reb Yaakov Faasberg of blessed memory was born in the city of Bolekhov in 1876. His grandfather was Reb Shimshon Faasberg, a rabbi in Zworno, and, as I have been told, he was also an Admor. During his youth, he studied Talmud, its commentaries, and Jewish law, and he was also familiar with bible and its commentaries. He was particularly familiar with the commentaries of Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Sforno and Or Hachayim 13 . He also studied works of investigation, and his books included: Moreh Nevuchim, Chovat Halevavot, Ben Hamelech Vehanazir, etc. 14 .

My father married my mother Leah Miriam, the daughter of Reb Shimon Fishbein the Cohen, and settled in the village of Holyn near Kalusz. He occupied himself with teaching in Holyn. He excelled in his clear thinking and straightforward logic, and he influenced his students greatly. They honored and loved him deeply. He taught not only holy subjects, but also secular subjects, such as German, Polish, math, as well as German grammar. I learned whatever meager foundations of knowledge I possess from him.

He would arise early in the morning during the winter, and until this day, I can hear the melodic sound of his Talmud studying ringing in my ears. He did not become greatly involved in communal affairs, and he never served as a gabbai. However, on Rosh Hashanah, he did blow the shofar. For him, shofar blowing was an art and a skill, not a labor.

He fled with his family to Rozniatow at the outbreak of the war in 1914. I was not home at that time. I was in Russia, and I spent approximately two years in Tarnopol after that. In the meantime, he was drafted into the army until the end of the First World War. After the war, he settled in Krechowice in the Dolina region.

I parted from him in 1936 and made aliya to the Land. As they tell me, he was murdered on the 22 nd of Elul, 1942.

My parents had two sons and four children until the time that Hitler came and murdered them all. Only I remain alive.

Up until this point were the words of the son Tzvi, who, for obvious reasons, was meager in the praises of his father, following the adage: “teach but leave something over”. However, I permit myself to add the feelings of my heart, and I trust that I will not violate the adage “Whomever adds, detracts”.

I merited knowing Reb Mechel Faasberg and his family, especially the sons Itzi and Hershel 15 , when I was still a lad and I used to visit my grandparents Reb Leib Yosef and Perl Kenigsberg in Holyn. I do not exaggerate when I say that a warm charm and smile always graced the face of Reb Mechel. The pleasantness of his ways and soft words with his fellowman were those of a great man. These attracted me to him the entire time that I was there. He had a splendid visage, which radiated light and goodness of heart. Even though more than fifty years have passed since I have seen him, his appearance and warm eyes are still before my eyes, and I can still feel his loving caresses upon my cheeks.

Woe for those who were lost, and are not forgotten.

B. D. Schwartz


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Youth of Rozniatow

by Y. Neubauer

The first night of Selichot 16 was, for the children, like the night before army induction for adults. On that night, the children of ages 12-15 exacted their debts from all those who oppressed them throughout the year.

Here are a few of their pranks:

The Goats of Shlomo Teitelbaum

In 1934, Reb Shlomo Teitelbaum was chosen as the gabbai in the Kloiz, and he guarded that holy place. The children suffered particularly from him. He did not permit us to speak out loud, even when it was not during the time of prayers. He did not permit us to crack open seeds. He did not permit us to play in the sukka that was build next to the synagogue, etc. All of the children of the town gathered together, including the writer of these lines, and decided to punish him once and for all, and we decided to carry out the punishment. One of the punishment brigade was Shimshon Gross, the son of Mordechai who owned a hotel and a wedding hall. The night of Selichot arrived. We broke into the pen, tied the mouths of the goats so they would not be able to make a sound, brought them up to the third floor, and tied them to the porch.

The next morning when Shlomo went out from the morning prayers to milk the goats, it was as if the earth swallowed them up… Due to his great despair he decided to alert the police. When he left the police station he noticed that there was a crowd of people near Gross' house, who were laughing out loud. He approached, and what did he see? – His goats standing on the porch, tied to the railing. He immediately realized that the children had a hand in this, and from that time on, there was peace between us.

The Revenge

When Rabbi Yosef Metzner came to deliver a lecture prior to his being appointed as the rabbi of the city, he had, as is well-known, many opponents who interrupted him during his speech. Reb Zecharia David Liberman attempted to silence the disturbers with all his might, but his efforts were in vain. Due to his great anger, he decided to take revenge on the children whom, for some reason, he saw as disturbers. He approached Yaakov, the son of Reb Yosef Shimon Stern, a lad of fourteen, and gave him a sharp slap on the cheek. Of course, the adults did not accept this silently, and they had a heated argument about the matter. The children also decided to take revenge on the honor of their friend.

On the first night of Selichot, the group purchased a large pail of whitewash from Reb Mordechai Tisch. On the preceding Friday, they had prepared a box of black paint. The son of Leizer Ber Klinger provided two brushes, and everyone got to work. We painted all of the lamps in the synagogue with white plaster, and marked them with a black cross. It is difficult to describe the effect and laughter that this incident had on the town. However Reb Zecharia David learned his lesson, and was very careful never to touch the children.

The Innuendo

When the children made peace with Reb Shlomo Teitelbaum and thought that they could have a bit of fun, Reb Moshe Friedler suddenly arose to pass judgement upon the children. He warned one of them, pinched another, and even administered a beating with his cane. Once again, the punishment brigade rose to action. Of course, we did not want to inflict great damage, since we knew of his difficult livelihood. We decided to take revenge on him in a different manner. We took three tins of the well-known “Ardal” shoe polish, whose insignia was a frog. One Friday as evening approached, we glued one of them to his seat in the synagogue, and two others to his shtender 17 . When all of the worshippers entered for the welcoming of the Sabbath, they saw the signs, and he also took the innuendo and recognized that the hands of the children were involved.

From that time, peace prevailed on all fronts.


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The Teachers in our City

by Y. Rechtschaffen

The meaning of the word “melamdim” is teachers who taught children and youth to read the Siddur and Chumash, to understand the meaning of the words, and to study Torah and commentaries. There were several types of these melamdim. There were the teachers of young children, that is to say the teachers who taught the children from the age of three until they began studying Talmud. The second type was the teachers of Talmud. A third type was “the reciters of pages of Talmud), who would explain the specific Talmudic section in depth, turning it upon all its sides, breaking it apart and again reconstructing it. This was called “sharpening the mind”. For the most part, none of these teachers had any professional accreditation. They never completed any teaching school. Everything depended on the specific skill of the individual teacher. There were teachers who were naturally blessed with teaching ability.

The cheder was one of the rooms in the home of the melamed. These homes were for the most part either two rooms, or just one room and a kitchen. In that room, there was a long table with one or two freestanding benches. The lessons continued without a break from the morning hours until noon, and from noon until evening.

There were several melamdim of the various types in Rozniatow. I will begin with the teachers of small children, those who taught the reading of the aleph beit. It is told that the Tzadik who was the founder of the Ryzin dynasty, Reb Yisrael, who had many scholars among his Hassidim, used to seat the teachers of young children at the head of the table. He would say: “Indeed, I know that the teachers of Talmud are good scholars and used to teach me the understanding of the page of Talmud and the interpretation of the words, but it was the teacher of young children who taught me the aleph beit who set me on the course to success, with the help of G-d. Therefore, I must honor him first.

Reb David the Melamed

His cheder was in the center of town. He had only two rooms. The large room contained the cheder, and the family lived in the second, smaller room, which included the kitchen. He would warn children who did not want to listen and learn that he would place them in “his nest” in the second room, which was somewhat dark. This was some sort of restraint or other punishment, and nobody understood the meaning of it. Nobody was actually punished with this, for they took heed of the warning about the punishment of being placed in “the nest”.

Reb David the Melamed was, in his younger days, a handsome man with an impressive black beard, a straight posture and a pleasant person. Even in his latter years, in his old age, one could still recognize the remnants of his impressiveness. There was always the aura of grace upon his pleasant face. He would explain to young students all sorts of pleasant stories. The students would willingly sit around the table and listen attentively to his words.

The Melamed Reb Abba

Reb Abba

 

A sense of duty to his work, and a sense of honor regarding the seriousness of the task – these were the characteristics of the cheder of Reb Abba the Melamed, and these symbolized the stature of Jewish education in our town.

Reb Abba Taneh and his wife Talchi lived close to our house. Reb Abba used to speak to the children in their own language, the language of children. He had a true sense of what it means to be an educator, despite that he was not a trained pedagogue. He would play games with them. He was beloved by the students of the cheder. He had two children, a daughter named Yuta, and a son named Leibish who lives today in Israel.

Reb Chaim Shimon Lutwak

He was one of the more modern teachers. People would study bible with him, and this was an innovation among the teachers 18 . He was an enlightened teacher, and his students were more familiar with chapters of bible than pages of Talmud. He also educated his own children in this spirit. His children studied in the gymnasia. His oldest son Moshe, who today lives in the United States, studied law and is today a lawyer. His second son Yeshaya is a dentist. He passed through the flames of hell during the Holocaust at the time of Hitler, and after much tribulation, he succeeded in reaching the United States and joining his brother Moshe.

Reb Yehuda Branik the Melamed

I only knew him after he left the profession of teaching, and only the name stuck with him.

During my time, he served in a sacred role in the Great Synagogue. He was in charge of the charitable coffers for the poor who would gather in Rozniatow to collect donations from generous people. It was a custom in our town that the person appointed over the charity would give a note to the charitable overseer, Reb Yehuda Branik, to give a certain sum of money to so and so. It was forbidden for the poor people to go to the doors of people in town to collect charity. They would receive their allotment, each according to his honor and value, directly from the charitable overseer.

Reb Yehuda Branik lived near the communal building in a small house with his three daughters Matil, Dina and Rachel, and his three sons David, Leib and Izak. I used to visit that house. I was friendly with his children, especially Izak, who was my good friend.

Izak participated in all types of monthly literary journals.

Other friends of mine were Mendel Horowitz and also Pesachia Turteltaub, educated children who knew how to recite entire chapters of bible off by heart. They also read Hebrew newspapers and knew how to use the Hebrew language, both in its written and oral form. They were also knowledgeable in world literature. I was the youngest of this group. I learned a great deal from them, and everything that I know, I learned from them.

Reb Yehudale Kaufman (Kneiper) 19

They called him by this nickname “the pincher” for, despite the fact that he was short and thin, and that he had a large class of children in the cheder, both old and young, he knew how to instill his fear upon everyone. Woe to the child who would come late to cheder, or who would not listen to the reading of the Siddur or Chumash. He would immediately approach such a child, give him a pinch, smack him on the face, and shout and scream at him. He would thereby instill his fear upon everyone. His wife would often get involved in order to rescue the child from his beatings.

Even though he was prone to anger and shouting, he was a righteous Jew, ready to give himself over to anyone who had a desire to learn, without concern for time. He would agree to teach anyone Torah.

However, the students would search for means to escape from the studies. One night, someone started to cough suddenly, as a sign for a general coughing attack. Everyone coughed until the lantern on the table went out. Then all of the students rose from their places in the dark and fled from the room.

Echoes of this revolt spread quickly through all of the residents of the town, and it became the talk of the day. The melamed later felt very badly about the situation, and began a new method of teaching. He chose about seven or eight excellent students, with good memories from among all of his students. He would then read them the Torah portion with Rashi's commentary. Then, each student would teach a group of six or seven other students. Thus, by the time the Sabbath came, the student guides knew the weekly portion almost by heart, and the other students also knew the portion, for the learning from the other students without fear was better and more effective. On the Sabbath, there would be an examination.

On Friday, there would only be studies for one half of the day. At that time, the Rebbi would be calmer, quieter, and not as exacting as he was on the other days of the week. We would sit in the cheder and study the “chapter” of the week 20 , and the Torah portion of the following week. Once in a while, he would take out a book of moral ethics (Mussar) and read to us about how to conduct ourselves in the world that is full of falsehood and hypocrisy, and how to watch out for the evil inclination that is always trying to remove us from the straight path. He would also read us about the Garden of Eden and Gehinnom (Hell), until he would come to the topic of repentance.

The topic of repentance was the most interesting subject to our teacher. He truly intended everything for the sake of Heaven, and talked from his heart. Despite the fact that all of the students had received at times from him severe beatings, pinches and curses, they never forgot his Torah. What he instilled in us during our youth is still guarded very well in our memory until this day. His hundreds of students still remember the melamed Reb Yudale Kneiper with love and respect all the days of their lives.

He had a son Meir Kaufman who got married and had sons and daughters.

Reb Moshe Weinrob

He was the Gemara (Talmud) teacher to the more advanced students, over the age of Bar Mitzvah (13), at a time when they were already responsible themselves before G-d and man.

He was a great scholar. His teaching methodologies were completely opposite to those of Reb Yudale. His speech was quiet and calm. His thorough explanations were understood by everyone. Complex Talmudic passages became clearer, as oil spread upon bones…

I never saw him with an angry face. He always explained things to his students in a pleasant manner, and he could take pride in his students: everything that is placed is absorbed in the brain.

His wife Chanchi Perl helped him earn his meager livelihood by selling groceries and bread, as the Rebbi Reb Moshe taught his students in their home.

There were also some external teachers in town, that is to say, who were not local. They came to town to teach, and then returned to their places. It is fitting to make mention of them here, for they also contributed to the raising of the horn of Torah in our town. Everyone taught according to his methodology and ability.

All of them together should be remembered positively, for they came too study and teach the words of His Torah with love and awe.


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Educational Institutes

by Y. Friedler

The Cheder

Rozniatow was blessed with melamdim who came from various circles and walks of life. These included scholars and enlightened people (maskilim), people of fine character and manners, who gained the trust of their students through their pleasant mannerism; as well as others who did not hesitate to punish the “wrongdoers”. Each melamed had his own cheder. During the summer, the studies went from 8:00 a.m. until dark, and in the winter until 8:00 p.m. There would be a one-hour break for lunch.

In the cheder, the following subjects were taught: prayer, Chumash and Rashi, bible, rudimentary Gemara, penmanship and arithmetic. The long hours of study did not have a bad influence on the students, and did not make them bored. The cheder was not only a study hall, but also literally an educational institution. The students invented many games and means of having fun. Every student gave of his talents to his friends, whether in jesting, imitating adults, or in other manners. Games that were fitting to the time of year helped lighten up the seriousness, and enriched the lives of the students. These games include buttons, nuts, etc.

The Talmud Torah

In the year 5680 (1920), the Talmud Torah was founded in Rozniatow. It was overseen by a committee that consisted of important residents of the city, including: Reb Yitzchak Leib, Reb Mordechai Geller, Veve Hoffman, and Reb Yisrael Tzvi Londner. The shochet (ritual slaughterer) Reb Moshe Weiser, a person who inspired honor, would examine the children at the end of the term. Exams in Gemara, Chumash and Rashi would take place semi-annually. The principal and head of the Yeshiva was Rabbi Yisrael Heller of Dolina. Everyone worked diligently to establish and maintain this institution. This labor was carried out without anticipation of a reward.

In general, the students were busy for many consecutive hours with their studies. The students were required to learn entire chapters by heart. They studied Talmud with the commentaries of Tosafot and the Maharshah in the higher grades. The students left the school well fortified with knowledge of Talmud and other holy subjects.

Students learned to read and write in Hebrew in the Safa Berurah School.

Safa Berurah 21

The teacher Tzvi Faasberg, who is with us in Israel, taught Hebrew, grammar, and penmanship. His lessons caught the interest of the students, and they listened attentively and quietly. He was beloved by his students, for he knew no anger and bitterness. His words were always issued peacefully. His greatest concern was the progress of his students. This school was unique in the community, and students of the Talmud Torah also studied there.

Prior to Mr. Faasberg, Yitzchak Hertzberg was the teacher, and prior to Yitzchak Hertzberg was Yehoshua Reiter. The latter was a noble person, who knew how to transmit the Hebrew language with love.

A report of promotion from the Talmud Torah of Rozniatow
The student's name is Yisrael Friedler, the author of the above article

 


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A quote from the book of Isaiah. Back
  2. It is said that when the Jewish people went into exile, the Divine Presence (Shechina) also went into exile, and suffers along with the Jewish people. Back
  3. Tikkun Chatzot (literally: the midnight rectification), is a series of prayers and elegies recited in the middle of the night lamenting the destruction of the temple, and praying for the restoration of the Jewish people. This set of prayers is not obligatory, and is generally recited only by extraordinarily pious individuals. Back
  4. There are more than two children listed here. It seems as if there are four. This paragraph is quite unclear. It is possible that some are grandchildren. Back
  5. Yoreh Deah is one of the four segments of the Code of Jewish Law. Among other things, it deals with the laws of kashruth, including the prohibition of mixing milk and meat, and the requirement to salt meat after slaughter to insure that the blood is properly drained. Back
  6. An expression meant to indicate closeness between a teacher and disciple. Back
  7. A compilation of the legendary (as opposed to legalistic) segments of the Talmud. Back
  8. Now Bratislava. Back
  9. A famous Hebraist, regarded as the founder of Modern Hebrew. Back
  10. An expression indicating that Torah was disseminated in quite a fine fashion in the city. Back
  11. This is a Talmudic adage indicating the necessity of studying a matter for the sake of the study. It does not refer specifically to Torah. Back
  12. According to this chapter, also his father. Back
  13. These are various well-known bible commentators of the Middle Ages. Back
  14. Moreh Nevuchim is Maimonides' philosophical work – the Guide of the Perplexed. Chovot Halevavot is an important medieval work on Jewish thought by Bachia Ibn Paquda. Back
  15. Hershel is the Yiddish form of Tzvi. Back
  16. Selichot is the penitential service that takes place daily starting from one week before Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. The first Selichot service takes place around midnight on the Saturday night preceding Rosh Hashanah, or one week earlier if Rosh Hashanah falls early in the week. Back
  17. The bookstand upon which the prayer book rests during services. Back
  18. Generally in a traditional cheder, the study of the prophets and writings (as opposed to the five books of the Torah itself), was downplayed. There are many historical causes to this, one of them being a reaction to the Haskalah movement, which stressed the study of the bible, as opposed to Jewish law and Talmud. Back
  19. The pincher. Back
  20. Most likely referring to the chapter from “Pirke Avot” (The Chapters of the Fathers – often known as The Ethics of the Fathers). This is a Mishnaic tractate dealing with moral adages. It consists of six chapters, and one chapter is studied each week during the summer months between Passover and Rosh Hashanah. The cycle of six chapters is repeated several times during the summer. Back
  21. Literally “clear language”. Back

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