All of the poets and hymn writers sang of him
With pride, their songs were listened to.
To me, their praises were strange,
My thoughts on him were altogether different.
We waited for you all winter,
At a time when the snow piled up on our roof
The freezing and cold lamented in our house,
They became our constant companions.
At a time when the snow penetrated through the apertures
Inside the house and in all its corners,
The walls cracked from cold and dampness
To you, oh golden sun, is the heart and thoughts of man.
But my disappointment toward you is great.
You behaved like a hypocrite to us! This I will tell you inside.
The faces of the well-to-do and the vain are beaming,
Yet you withhold your rays from the poor and destitute.
Your shine into thousands of palaces
You grace the splendid rugs
Yet you fail the millions of poor
How can you be pleasant in my eyes? How?
Do you expect to receive thanks from the golden calves?
I will explain this to you clearly
They hide from your face in sanatoriums and thick forests
They are afraid of your rays.
I will give you some advice:
Enter our house please,
Please dry our moldy walls,
Please warm the weak back of mother,
Heal her ailing hands and feet.
Rozniatow, May 14, 1939.
The Judaism of the Diaspora, the Jewish town in all of its appearances, splendid looking Hassidim, Beis Midrashes, Kloizes, Rebbes' courtyards, Jews and Jewesses, their deeds and manner of life among themselves and between the gentiles in whose midst they lived the Judaism of the Diaspora is clearly illustrated before my eyes in the books of Bialik and Agnon. This is especially the case with the books of Agnon, for he was born and grew up in the region where my parents, my grandfather, and all of my family lived. He knew very well how to describe the lives of the Jews there as I heard related on occasion from my parents, who told us girls about the life of our grandfather, uncles and aunts.
Grandfather is a foreign concept to us. We never merited to experience the heartwarming gaze of our grandfather, the soft hand of grandfather touching my hand and telling stories to his grandchildren, appeasing his grandchildren during an argument between themselves over a toy or an apple.
A photo of my grandfather Avraham of blessed memory in his prime stands on the bookcase in my parents' house. One day as I was browsing through the bookcase, the picture caught my eye. I stared at it and remembered that this was my grandfather, this was the man who was such a close relative of mine and about whom I had heard so much, and I did not know him. My eyes filled with tears. I looked again at the picture and saw a hearty smile in the eyes of my grandfather as he looked down at me. Thus did I stand for an entire hour, without being able to move from the place. My grandfather was a dear man, a pious man, and a great scholar. He studied Torah and taught Torah to others. He was a loving and dedicated father to his children and his family members. He was beloved by his fellowman. Everyone loved him and everyone revered him. At a wedding, circumcision or other happy event, my grandfather was always at the center of the rejoicing. He also knew how to play a violin without ever having taken lessons. He would play Hassidic melodies and lead the gathering in dance, full of joy of life and happiness. He was a communal activist. He occupied himself with the needs of the community without intending to receive a reward, whether for the benefit of the community in which he played an honorable role or for the benefit of the youth. He concerned himself with the youth. He brought in a Hebrew teacher, organized a choir and introduced the youth to Torah and Zionism.
From the mouths of Rozniatow survivors, I heard that my grandfather went to his death bravely, encouraging the people who were with him so that they would not be distraught. He strengthened their hearts on their journey to sanctify the name of Heaven.
From my mother, we girls have heard a great deal about the refinement and spiritual grace of my grandmother Tila, after whom I am named. Every Thursday as she began to prepare for the Sabbath, she would cook fish and other delicacies for the Sabbath. She prepared everything in honor of the Sabbath queen. My mother told us that on Thursdays, her mother of blessed memory would send her at dusk to bring baked goods and other provisions for the Sabbath to poor people and families who have come upon difficult times, so that they would have something with which to greet the face of the Sabbath.
The following is a story that occurred. One Thursday night, as my grandmother went as was customary to the home of one of the needy people with her gift, she forgot that she herself had not yet eaten anything after her Thursday fast, which she observed to pray that my grandfather would come back healthy and in one piece from the war. She fainted on the street from her weakness.
As our small family sits at the Sabbath table and sings the Sabbath hymns, with the same tunes that my family sung in the exile, tears well up in my parents' eyes. They tell us that when they sing these Sabbath hymns, they can see before their eyes the Sabbath table of their parents, a table filled with children and a grandfather at the head of the table, singing Sabbath hymns, with the house filled with light and joy. The light has been extinguished and the joy snuffed out, and we remain as the only survivors of the conflagration, a small spark from a large flame. I hereby hope that light will shine from this small spark, and a large flame will light up the darkness of our lives.
May their holy memory be blessed.
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