By Miriam Valodovski
My parents, Meir and Yehudit Shub, were from an old family in Antopol. In the course of many generations, they were rabbis and ritual slaughters (as the family name indicates, Shub, shohet u-bodek, ritual slaughterer and examiner).
My father was active in the community and quite a few of the inhabitants of Antopol immigrated to Israel, thanks to him. However, fate was cruel to him and precisely his daughter, the widow Niyotah with her two children, Avraham, aged 12, and Yehudit, aged 5, could not be brought by him to Israel. They died together with all the people of our big family, together with all the martyrs of Antopol.
Life in the small town with its low houses went on slowly and with great moderation. I remember the garden with the pretty pond, which we called after the name of its gentile owner Goren. The streets were sometimes full of mud. The inhabitants, who lived in them, were dear people, each one of them.
I remember one Hanukah night. They treated all of us at home with potato pancakes, as was the custom. And, afterwards, we the youth went out to walk in town. The Hanukah candles flickered in the houses and the smell of potato pancakes wrapped the town and enticed our appetite.
And behold the market place stands in front of my eyes. One day when I approached the market place, I paid attention that something had changed and the people had gathered to talk about what they saw. I also looked and saw that in the course of the night the youths inducted into the army had managed to pass the store signs from one store to another. This was done in the typical spirit of venting one's feelings in those days, as if they wanted to encourage themselves as they were about to be drafted.
These and other memories come to my face from the period of our youth. However, they cannot cure our pain at the loss of our family members killed in the Holocaust.
By Belah Liberfroind-Kletski
I was born in the village of Frishkhvost. There passed here the first years of my childhood. The village was found at a distance of two kilometers from Antopol. The meaning of its name comes from the combination of two Russian words, Frishiti-khvost, that is, sewn tall, since the village was as if a continuation of the town.
In Antopol itself there was a long main street and at its center a square, which was embellished by stone houses and stores. The square served as the market place, and twice a month there were held fairs to which the White Russian villagers would come bringing for sale their agricultural products and manufactures. With the money they received in exchange, they would buy their different needs such as clothing, shoe products, haberdashery, etc., in the Jewish stores. From the two sides of the main street there continued unpaved streets. The inhabitants of the small wooden houses that stood on their length were poor people. The continuations from the two corners of the main street were called morges, the plots of land that belonged to Jews, who worked them and earned a living from their work. Around the town a wide meadow continued and fields of grain spread out, which could hide, among the tall stalks of grain, a person at his full height.
The village Frishkhvovst was one of those White Russian villages surrounded by gardens and courtyards. The farm buildings included a shed for cattle and a silo for grain and the rest of the agricultural products. Among the inhabitants of this village, there numbered two Jewish families. One of these was the family of my grandfather.
My grandfather had a patriarchal appearance. His face was decorated by a white beard. He always wore a long coat (kapotah). And like every religious Jew, he took care to pray the morning, afternoon, and evening. When he had time, he also looked at his Talmud.
My grandfather's house stood at the entrance to the village. It was a pretty wooden house surrounded by a garden of fruit trees, which numbered more than two hundred trees. Not far from the house were the outhouse, the stable, and the building in which the sheaves of rye, barley, and other summer grains were threshed. In the winter, it served as storage for seeds and fodder. At the gate of the courtyard, there was the doghouse for a big dog, who frightened the peasants dressed in gray robes and sandals twisted from reeds growing in the area of the meadows. The well was found in the garden. There was a wild pear tree by it. Its ripe fruit fell into the water giving it a special fragrance.
Thus, life went on quietly and tranquilly generation after generation until the end came and the hand of the executioner also reached them.
Rabbi Mordekhai-Li, of blessed memory: Letter of the dream, which was sent to the luminary, Rabbi Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory.
With the help of God, on Friday the 28th of Shevat (January 28, 1881), in the year 641, here in the holy community of Biten, peace and great salvation to honorable dear friend and friend of my soul, the great rabbi, the luminary, analytical and knowledgeable, knowing the revealed law and able to analyze it, the saintly and humble rabbi, famous is the honor of the holiness of his glorious name, Rabbi Pinchas Michael, the rabbi of the community of Antopol.
After greeting him, the honorable one of sublime Torah, I come to tell you an awesome tale. Undoubtedly, people will not reveal this to any person but will only hide the letter In a place where no one can reach, or tear it to pieces in a fashion that it shall not come to anyone's attention.
On the night of the past Day of Atonement when I learned my set lesson, I fell asleep, and a splendid-looking person with a beautiful face and big beard came to me. When I looked at him, I was startled. He took my hand and said, Why do you sleep? Get up and call to God. And I was very startled and awoke and behold it was a dream. I said to myself dreams tell false things. Nevertheless, my heart beat and I was greatly afraid.
I fell asleep again on my bed. And behold in my dream, there came to me again the splendid man mentioned above and two men were with him. The two men said to me: Know that this is a true dream and don't despair. And I was very astonished. Then, the splendid man mentioned above said to me: Examine your deeds because I come on a mission from the world above to you.
Then, I recovered and I said to him: On what mission do you come? And because, I spoke aloud, I awoke from my sleep. And I saw and behold it was a dream, and I said again: Dreams are not significant. Nevertheless, because my heart beat, I was frightened and I didn't sleep again that night. And on the Day of Atonement, I cried a lot in a fashion which I never did. And I didn't know why I cried so much. And I said to myself perhaps it is because of the above mentioned dream that I cry, because my heart beat, etc.
I didn't dream again until Shemini Atseret. Then, I slept in the Sukkah, as was my custom, and in the midst of my sleep the splendid man mentioned above came to me dressed in white. I was startled when I saw how beautiful he was and that he looked frightening. Then, the man came up to me and said, Your crying helped a lot so that they sent me to make you understand and to tell you how to take care and to abrogate the decree.
And the man was silent and stood silent about a quarter of an hour. Then, I began to weep a lot in my dream and said: I don't know what is the big sin, which I sinned, that sent me emissaries from the world above. And I cried a lot in my dream and because of the great crying I awoke from my sleep. And when I awoke, I didn't say that this is only a dream mid of no importance because I had seen him speaking.
And I was very happy on Simhat Torah when I was asleep, and in the midst of my sleep, behold the
splendid man mentioned above came. The glory of his appearance was awesome and he was wrapped in white and he came close and said to me: For how long do I have to bother myself on your behalf to come to you from my honorable place.
Then, I recovered and said to him: By the merit of the Torah and the Tannaim and which I have learned and studied, I ask you to tell me the matter of your mission and to explain clearly to me so that I can understand.
Then, he went with me to a beautiful and pleasant room ornamentally decorated. I could satisfy myself with looking at this. And he said to me: Sit, my son, sit and I will reveal to you a secret matter. And this is my mission.
I sat on one chair and he sat next to me. And he said to me: I am revealing to you secrets. You know that I am the rabbinical teacher Rabbi Y. ben Lev, and when I was alive in this world, I sat on the chair of judgment to judge between two men. Two men came to me to decide a case and one was guilty. And he didn't want to accept the sentence because he was a violent person. Then, I warned him with the known warning and left. The above-mentioned man, whom I declared guilty, came to me and struck me on my cheeks, What he did is inscribed on his bones until this day and he has no recovery from this.
I was startled and astonished and remained like a silent stone for about a quarter of an hour. And after this, the rabbinical teacher, Rabbi Y. ben Lev, of blessed memory, touched my mouth and said to me: Why are you silent?
Then, I began to cry a lot and said: I don't know how to fix this because I have no knowledge about private matters and intentions. Then, the rabbinical teacher, Rabbi Y. ben Lev, of blessed memory, said to me: You should know that it has been decreed for you that you are to buy a book of the response of the rabbinical teacher, Rabbi Y. ben Lev, and you are to learn it constantly until you know it fluently from beginning to end. Then, this person will have a big recovery and you will be able to go up from step to step. And he said this with a soft voice: Why do you want to know the secrets of the Torah?
I said to him: How much time should I study the above mentioned response until I know it fluently?
He said to me: Not less than four years because in addition to this, you have to study your regular lessons, what is forbidden and permitted and the laws of torts. Therefore, you have to study at least four years.
And then, I said to him: I don't have a copy of the response of the rabbinical teacher, Rabbi Y. ben Lev.
And he said to me: You may seek and find them for sale, only I am going to reveal to you one thing, which is that you must buy this only from the rabbi of Antopol, who has the above mentioned response. And I said to him, Why only from the above-mentioned rabbi? And in saying this, I awoke from my sleep and was very startled. Then, I said to myself: Perhaps, it is an idle thing to buy it from the above-mentioned rabbi because it is possible to buy it in another place.
And in any case, I had a lot to take care of in the city and I began to ask some people to get the book mentioned above for me. And about two weeks later, the splendid man mentioned above in my dream came to me again and said harsh words to me: Why are you waiting to carry out my mission?
And I said to him: Am I not trying to buy it?
And he said to me: Didn't I warn you to buy it only from the rabbi in Antopol.
And I said to him: What is the reason for this?
And he said to me: It is because you have studied with the rabbi in Antopol that you have the merit to be a messenger to him, and I shall reveal to you this matter.
You should know that the above-mentioned rabbi also has some things noted in the world above about him because he began to prepare for print an explanation on the Talmud for the Tractates
Temurah/Meilah [and this is because I don't remember if he said to me Temurah and Meilah or only Meilah], and he didn't carry out what he had prepared to do. Therefore, he also has to take care to do this. And from the money that he will receive from you for the response of the rabbinical teacher Rabbi Y. ben Lev, he will begin to prepare himself to print the above mentioned.
And I said to him: How is this matter connected one to another?
And he said to me: Do you want to know about the secrets of the Torah?
And I said to him: Why don't you go yourself to tell the rabbi of Antopol?
And he said to me: Do you want to know the secrets of the Torah? He repeated and shouted: Take care for the sake of Heaven to carry out my warning, a moral rebuke, and don't change from anything an iota. Then, it will be good for you and also others.
And because of the voice, I awoke from sleep. The next day I wanted to send a special messenger to tell you all the matter, only I was delayed a little because of public service in which I was a little busy.
And in the past week when I began to sleep at night in a lot of sadness on account of my wife, who became very sick, the rabbinical teacher, Rabbi Y. ben Lev, of blessed memory, again came to me and said aloud: You should know that this is the last warning, which I am warning you, and the sickness of your wife is a sign because you have been lazy at my warning. Therefore, take care for the sake of Heaven to immediately send a messenger only to the above mentioned rabbi and buy from him my response and learn it until you know it fluently almost by heart.
Then, I awoke from my sleep in great fear and began to hire a special messenger to your honor, only I learned that the person delivering this letter was traveling to your honor on some matter. Therefore, my teacher and rabbi, have mercy please, have mercy to spread the wings of mercy over me and send me the response of the rabbinical authority, Rabbi Y. ben Lev. I will pay you what you want for it. Only hurry to send it to me and I will begin to do what I have to do. My wife is in great danger, may God have mercy over her. I ask you as an honorable Torah authority to pray for her.
Your strong friend in word and soul, writing from the depth of his heart with lots of tears. The abovementioned Mordechai, who lives here in this holy community.
About the letter of the dream, the comments of the researcher Akiva ben Ezra.
R. Mordechai-Li in the letter under examination was born in Antopol, still before R. Pinchas Michael came to Antopol. R. Mordechai-Li. was already teaching rabbinic law there. When R. Pinchas Michael became appointed the town's rabbi, he developed a friendship with R. Mordechai-Li. The two of them sat and studied and together they made legal decisions and cared for the Jewish public. When R. Mordechai-Li left Antopol, they didn't end their faithful friendship and exchanged letters between themselves on private and public matters. The letter printed here is one of the letters that R. Mordechai- Li sent to R. Pinchas Michael and was published. The letter was first printed under the name Letter of the Dream in Kevutsat Kuntresim in Jerusalem. It is according to this edition that I am publishing the letter.
The first editor of the letter, R. Yitshak Hirshezon, wrote the following: The above-mentioned letter reached me by one of my acquaintances and students of the rabbinical seminary Shenot Eliyahu, who traveled on business through the city of Antopol and visited the above-mentioned president of the rabbinical court there. He stayed in his house and when he opened a book to study, he found the above-mentioned letter from the rabbi of Buten. He immediately copied it and sent it to us, and he put back the original letter in its place.
And in one of the letters to me, Rabbi Hayyim
Hirshenzon, of blessed memory, wrote that R. Yitshak Horovits was the person who copied the letter and afterwards was a principal in Zikhron Yaakov and the father-in-law of the scholar Dr. Binyamin Menashe Levin.
R. Meir Otenof told me these details in connection with the letter under discussion: Every week before the Jewish Sabbath entered, R. Pinchas Michael used to empty his pockets and give the items he took out to his grandson Alter, the son of Elazar, his son from Pinsk, so that he would bury them or burn them. Once Alter felt among the letters that R. Pinchas gave him the letter of R. Mordechai-Li. Alter didn't burn the letter spoken of but gave it to the scribe R. Mosheh Rozenburg (R. Mosheh der Shrayber) to copy it. R. Mosheh copied it. Thus, this secret letter became known to the Jews of Antopol. When R. Pinchas Michael was informed of this, he became angry with his grandson. Alter became sick and died a week later. R. Pinchas Michael wept a lot at his death. People say that the rabbi said, You will have no more chances to be a fool again.
This letter was also published by David Vaisman under the name The Great Terror in 1903 (663) in Mosdot ha-emunah of R. Mordechai Aryeh Nisenboim. The second edition (and another edition) was in N.Y. 1924 (684): The Amazing Dream, Tel Aviv 1939 (699). The letter mentioned above was also discussed by Mark Toleran (B. Rivkin), who researched dreams in the issue of the Yiddish newspaper Tog for March 4, 11, and 25, 1944.
The rabbinical teacher Rabbi Y. ben Lev mentioned in the letter is R. Yosef ben Lev, one of the great rabbis who lived in 16th-century Turkey. His response in four volumes was first published in Constantinople in 1573 (333) with the help of Hanah Donah Gratsiah and Don Yosef ha-Nasi. This book was also published in Venice in 1606 (366) and in Fiorda in 452 (1692) and in Amsterdam In 1722 (482). The book had such a large distribution that by 1722 it was hard to find.
The fact that he struck the rabbinical teacher R. Y. ben Lev mentioned in the letter on the cheeks is a historical fact. The name of the man who hit him was Barukh, a Marrano from Portugal, who lived in Saloniki. He was a rich and tyrannical man. The contemptible deed took place in one of the market places of this city in front of witnesses. In the year 1545 (305) (see R. David Konforti, Kore ha-dorot, edition by Kessel, p. 37; Shelomoh Rozanes, Divre yeme Yisrael be-Turgemah, v. 2, p. 58).
By M. Polak
Purim was an especially happy day for us children. We began to feel the holiday at home with the good smells of the fish cooked with vinegar and the laurel leaves for the meal and with the pleasant smell of all the cakes Mother baked to send as gifts. In addition there were also the smells of the apples and pears kept in the attic and especially the smell of the oranges, which my brother Aharon would send us early as spirits. Understandably, I would take upon myself to be the messenger to deliver the gifts of food. The activity began mainly in the afternoon. However, I would start out early in the morning so that I would also be a messenger on the way back.
The gifts of food would be put on a big plate with flowers, which my sisters warned me not to break. The plate had two big pieces of cake, one white and one brown, and three pieces of cake filled with all types of filling. Likewise, we also added one orange, one red apple, one pretty pear, a piece of chocolate, and some pieces of candy wrapped in different wrappings. Around the plate was a round carton, higher than the cake, covered by a white ironed handkerchief, whose ends were gathered on the bottom of the plate. As a messenger, I got paid and could also taste the food. Thus, my pockets and stomach were full at the end of the day.
Standing out in importance after the sending of the gifts of food were the Purim plays (Purim shpil). I and my friend Shimon would dress up as an elderly couple. Shimon would bring us the old silk coat of his father, and my sisters would fold it and arrange it so that it would fit me. They also put a rag into the old hat of R. Mosheh. Still, it fell down over my ears. They made the white beard from flax and stuck it with glue. Even the broken cane in my hand added to the splendor of my beard. They outfitted Shimon my friend in a black silk dress and the first wig of my mother. When we walked past the houses like an elderly couple, they didn't recognize us. It should be known that in a place where they didn't recognize us, they gave us a bigger gift. Our friend Yisrael-Mendl would accompany us and hold a big purse. When we entered each house, he would declare that the gift was for a widow and orphans. We didn't miss any house. Even the widow for whom we were collecting gave us a donation!
Generally, all the Jews of Antopol gave generously. When my mother gave the money to the rabbi's wife, she decided how to divide it among the widows. We had the satisfaction that we did our part to help the needy.
I would also run to the study hall so that I could fulfill the commandment of making noise at the mention of the name of Haman during the reading of the Scroll of Esther. I would build the noisemakers myself. Sometimes, I would have the help of my friend Zaidel, who was an expert in this work. Before Purim, I would go to Meir the carpenter and take from him broken pieces of wood and I would engrave at the home of my friend Gedaliah's father, a carpenter, teeth from the spindles my sisters saved for me around which was wrapped their thread for sewing. I would make with these raw materials big noisemakers. Understandably, I would save the biggest for myself and I would sell the rest or exchange them with my friends for other toys.
Passover and the preparations for it involved a lot of cleaning. There was not a thing that was not taken out of the house for cleaning. All our clothing and bedding were cleaned and aired. All the closets and cabinets were swept and washed. Even the eating utensils used for all the year but not on Passover were completely cleaned before they were stored in the attic.
The preparations included cleaning the storage areas for the holiday, barrel for matsah, a closet with jams and cans of goose fat, and a big wooden mortar. Everything was cleaned and made kosher.
My father also would be busy outside the house. He would hurry to make ritually fit the mill to grind flour of Gediyah in order to grind the wheat that had been watched not to leaven. Afterwards, there came in line the cleaning and fixing of the oven of Esther the baker. The very baking of matsah was done with mutual cooperation among all the relatives. It took each family about five hours and about three days for all of them. Mainly, girls did this, rolling the matsah before baking it. One or two in boys would be enough to pass a wheel with teeth to punch holes in every matsah before its baking. Adults put the matsah in for baking and took it out.
After baking the matsah and preparing the house, I would bring a sack of shaved wood to spread on the floor. Afterwards, I would rush to polish all the copper pots, baking, and eating utensils. Mainly on the afternoon of the day before the Passover seder, I would rush to the study hall to put in some places crumbs for the ceremony of the taking out of the leaven. And after the evening prayer of the evening on the day before Passover, I would go with my father, and with the aid of a burning candle, we would search out the crumbs so that we could recite the blessing of taking out the leaven and then burn the leaven.
I would buy the haroset (the mixture of fruits, spices, and wine) from the rabbi R. Hersh. I would dig in the garden of Tikhan for a radish to make the bitter herb. I would buy wine from Yosel Shemuel Rsiles for the study hall. And afterwards, I would
help my father to completely clean the study hall in honor of Passover. After that, we would run to town to see that the eruv (symbolic enclosure) was complete and finally go to the bathhouse to get a bath in honor of Passover.
Generally, we children would play games in the synagogue with nuts. However, it happened that my father took me and set me on a bench on the platform (where the Torah is read) and would watch me so that I would not get dirty. And truly when I came home clean and sat by the table, I had complete pleasure.
Father dressed in his white robe with a white skull cap and sat at the table at the set place on the east side. The matsah made of watched unleavened grain made into flour was covered with a tablecloth embroidered in honor of Passover. The wine cups were put by each person (in the appropriate size) according to his age and the cup of Elijah was in the middle of the table near father. It was set next to the colorful plate with the chicken wing, egg, bitter herb, lettuce, and the mixture of fruit, nuts, spices and wine. The wine and the mead were produced at home and served in antique glass cups. The Passover hagadahs were also early editions and illustrated on every topic.
After father made the blessing over the wine with the festive sanctification were went on the seder itself. As I was the youngest child, understandably, I asked the Four Questions. And afterwards when they continued reading the haggdah, I mainly slept until food was served. I heard the last song Had gadya while in my sleep The teacher who taught us the importance of counting the thirty-third day of the omer was R. Leibush. On this holiday, he would go with us to the forest and make for us bows and arrows in memory of the war and heroism. R. Leibush would tell us about Bar Kokhba and R. Shimon bar Yohai, about their bravery and devotion to the people and Israel and still more and more. For other rabbis, the holiday was just a day off from school. We would run by ourselves to the forest and fight amongst ourselves. We would return home at night just like after a war.
The holiday of Shavuot was for me a special pleasure when my sister Hashah would go the day before the holiday to our relatives, the Weinstein family in the village of Falushin and also take me with her. There, I would feel the holiday of harvest time and the first fruits.We would go home with baskets of vegetables and flowers and even doves, really like in the days of old.
The fast of the ninth of Av was felt everywhere. Even at Hebrew school on the day before the ninth of Av, the Rabbi would explain to us about the destruction of the Temple, about the prophecy of the prophet Jeremiah, about the great hunger in Jerusalem, about how King Tsidkiyahu and all the officers fell, and about how Yohanan mi-Gush Halav with the last remaining in town fortified themselves and didn't want to give up. And why was Jerusalem destroyed? It was because of Kamtsa and Bar Kamtsa. This made a big impression on us children so that there was dead silence in school. Understandably, all fasted in our home, Even I wanted to fast. However, my mother proved to me that it was forbidden to fast at my age. In the study hall, just like at home, all went without shoes and in torn socks.
Weeks before the High Holidays, I would run in the evenings to all the cantors in the city to hear their auditions together with the choirs of the prayers for the High Holidays. Not everyone in our town was able to enter to hear. However, I had special luck. I was just like a family member of R. Yaakov Hayyim, the ritual slaughterer, because their son Yisrael Mendel was my best friend. I was able to enter the presence of R. Avigdor, the prayer leader, because of my friendship with David and Naskah. My friends Yosel and Shemuel made it possible for me to enter to hear the prayers of their father, R. David. While our relative R. Shemuel Dinkah would himself invite me, and his wife would give me sweets.
When my father would take me to Penitential Prayers, I would say the prayers with great
concentration, thinking over all my possible sins during the year that past. Likewise, I would help my father prepare the study hall. I would sweep out all the study hall, dust and set up all the tables and chairs in their place, put kerosene in the lamps and clean them and their glass, and fill up the vessel for the washing of the hands with water. I would reveal all these good deeds to God to weigh them against my sins.
And behold it was already the day before the New Year's. I completed all the tasks given to me and I stood on the platform where the Torah was read with my father. I paid attention was in awe. I didn't miss a word of the prayer.When the prayer was over, we greeted on another to be written and inscribed immediately for life in a good year. We went home spiritually uplifted and entered the Ten Days of Repentance in awe of the Day of Judgment.
I had the extra work on the day before the Day of Atonement of putting shelves around the walls in order to place on them boxes full of sand in order to hold up in them the great white candles in memory of departed souls. Likewise, I would bring plates from home and put them at the entrance door written with the names of the institution receiving the gifts.
The afternoon prayer was very early. Everyone, who lay down to say confession, would be lashed 39 times with a strap by my father. After that, each person would put charity in every plate he found necessary. I would stand by the table to see that the labels did not fall out of the plates and be exchanged. When the afternoon prayer was over, I would put all the plates with the money inside a chest that stood on the platform where the Torah was read and close it. After that, I would sweep out all the study hall, put all the long candles into the boxes of sand, run home to eat before the fast and to dress in honor of the Day of Atonement, then and return to light the candles and the lamps. My father would come to the study hall with a white gown and with a white belt and skull cap with silver embroidery. He would stand on the platform where the Torah is read and say the prayer of expiation. And when the cantor R. David would begin With the knowledge of God, there would be silence and all the congregation would tremble with fear until he would finish And God said that I forgive according to your words.
My father would remain all the night in the study hall in prayers and beseechings, and I and my mother would go home. My mother would arise early to go to the study hall. Afterwards, she would return to wake me and to take me with some food. After the memorial prayers, we would go behind the study hall and finish all the meal. After the blowing of the shofar and finishing the prayer we would return home. After that, we would again return to the study hall to clean it and to air it out and to write down from memory all the donations from those being called to the reading of the Torah. And returning home, we would make the first preparations for preparing the Sukkah.
For the Holiday of Tabernacles, the building of the sukkah began on the day following the Day of Atonement. A layer of dust filled the sukkah, which had to be cleaned again, after opening the wings of the roof. The wheels, which opened the wings, were greased and branches were brought for a roof for the sukkah. Some apples and pears were hung under the roof. The walls were decorated with pictures of luminaries and a picture of the Temple. Colored chalk was used as a decoration. Behold, the sukkah was prepared and pretty. Father would also sleep in the sukkah in addition to eating in it. Guests would also come to us, family members and friends. We would be happy. My brother Aharon would supply us with a citron and palm branch. I would run with the palm branch and citron so that our relatives would be able to participate in the commandment of blessing the citron and also to have others participate, whom my father wished to honor.
When I came to the palace of R. Mordechai Sheinboim, the dogs inside the gate would frighten me. However, the gatekeeper would take me by the
hands and have me enter inside. They would give me a ruble of money for my effort. My savings bank would still increase more afterwards because on the day before Hoshana rabba, I would hasten with father to Goren's orchards. We would cut big piles of willows near the pools for hoshannot. I and my sisters would clean them at home and wrap them in bundles of seven pieces and tie them with straps from the palm branches of the preceding year. Afterwards, I would sit by the entrance of our study hall and would accept any price given. I would give the money to mother and take a part of it for my savings.
I would participate together with the grown ups in their happiness on Simhat Torah. My father would give me a small Torah scroll and I was able to participate with him in going around as one of the adults. I was also able to enter with the Torah into the women's section and especially to have my mother and aunt benefit from kissing the Torah. The children would follow me with envy. When prayers were over, my father would invite a part of the substantial people to his house for the sanctification of the wine. People would go on to dance at home and in the street. Everyone was happy.
There were no classes all the eight days of Hanukah. However, I was immersed in what my sisters read about the bravery of the Maccabees, about Matityahu, Judah the Maccabee, Yonatan, Hanah and her seven sons, the bravery of Judith, and the miracle of the can of oil. Even father would take time to play with us children with the dreidel, chess or checkers, and even cards. The night before Hanukah, I would hasten to the forest to bring soft branches and, with the help of my father or also my friend Zeidl, who was an expert in making and engraving molds, we would pour liquid tin to make dreidels. We would receive the tin from the spoiled type my father got at work as a bookbinder. Zeidl would also bring the tin seals from the sacks of flour, which his father, R. Refael, the baker would give him. We would use mother's pot to melt the tin and a copper spoon to stir it and would pour it into the molds. We would make dreidels of all sizes and market them in class. So that merchandising would be permitted in class, we would first of all give the rabbi dreidels for his children. Certainly, I was not a great merchant. Sometimes, I would give on credit and not care to collect. Most of my earnings would come from money received as Hanukah presents. I would give it to my mother to keep and only stash a part away for myself.
The Fifteenth of Shevat was famous for the great number of weddings made on it. My sister Blumah's wedding was also on the Fifteenth of Shevat. We would study half a day and half a day we would hasten to the orchard of Goren to the frozen ponds to slide on the ice with ice skates we made ourselves or in small sleighs. Mother would give us fruit at home for the holiday: Saint John's bread, figs, and dates from Israel.
By A. Varshah, From the book by A Varshah, Yorn Fun Fayer Un Blut
Each town was graced by special qualities that distinguished it from the other towns: its legends, heroes, and similar stuff. Each settlement had woven around it magical stories from the past and from current events.
We, the children of Antopol, listened with a thirst for the words of our elders on the glory of our town, about which they talked with feelings of honor and respect. Certainly, it was not a small matter that we had in our cemetery the structures built over the graves of R. Moshesh-Tsevi, of blessed memory, and R. Pinchas Michael, may his merit protect us. Which city in all the region had such merit as this? And we had the cold synagogue, whose name went forth in all the region as an ancient and beautiful building. And there was a long list of well-known rabbis that the ancient rabbinical seminary had given to the world. And generally, the great number of
learned people, who were found in the city until now. All of this filled each heart with feelings of pride and happiness.
However, it sometimes happened that a person from a nearby town would visit our town and with a wave of his hand make as if it were nothing all our glory. This caused us, mainly the children, disappointment and dejection. Their crushing argument was: Do you have a river or a bridge? Do you have a railway? Behold, it is not even possible to get a divorce in your city... People from Horodets had arguments like these and similar arguments, which filled their mouths with praise for the great pleasure caused by bathing in the river, swimming, diving from the pier, or rowing boats in the evenings beneath a canopy of stars, and the like. While the people from Kobrin got a lot of mileage out of mocking the town, which was entirely muddy with no paved roads or sidewalks and didn't even have wagons for transport.
However, when a person from Kobrin like this was taken for a walk in the courtyard garden, his genealogical tree collapsed. He was moved and enchanted by looking at the wonders of nature so that he was prepared to give up ten bridges and to give all the military barracks in exchange for such a wonderful place like this to spend time. Truthfully, the garden didn't belong at all to the city. The city belonged to the courtyard. This is because the inhabitants of the town paid their taxes to the owner of the courtyard. The entrance to the garden was not gained easily. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of town didn't restrain themselves from boasting and saying: The garden is ours'. The courtyard is ours'. They felt superiority toward other towns that is to say guests and friends coming from there when they put together all the riches and valuable antiques in the courtyard, its gardens, and forests.
Around the courtyard itself there was spread a row of legends tied to loves, quarrels, and murders. However, that didn't touch the town itself. These matters that concerned the owners of the courtyard, the list of women led astray, barons, who were shot, etc., were not added to the genealogical matters of our town. The exception was one spot in the pleasant courtyard about which it was possible to say that it belonged to the Jewish town. And this is the glorious pool of water to which the Jews went on Rosh ha-Shanah to say Tashlikh.
The pool was found to the left of the entrance gate and was decorated with trees and bushes. It was like there was a wondrously carved framework around the picture of this pleasant pool, which lay spread out facing the blue sky and felt the eternal prayer that came from the broken hearts of the local Jews on the first day of the Jewish New Year. And it seemed that if someone happened to pass near this pool on the other days of the year, he would really hear the small voice of holy words that rang out in a wonderful harmony somewhere: Sing righteous, sing to Him And whoever had a good sense of hearing was able to listen to the singing of the Heavenly Hosts.
However, it was not easy for the Jewish congregation to reach these peaceful waters on the most holy day of the year. The gate was always shut. Every year, it was necessary to send a delegation to the baroness to ask her for special kindness and to let the Jews come to pray at the pool in her garden. There were two intermediaries in the city who had permission to enter the palace. The one was Hayyim Tsodokes, that is Hayyim Grinberg, and the other was Shelomoh the painter. Since Hayyim took his time to go to the court, he would rely in everything on Shelomoh. However, it is worthwhile to note that there was never any certainty that the gentile baroness would open that year the gate. This is because every New Year there spread rumors of her anger at the Jews, who came over the bridge and ruined her garden, trampling the flowers. And for the sake of the truth, this was not at all a false charge.
And therefore, when the day before the New Year's arrived, the Jews thought of the pool and their
heart was full of fear, lest the baroness not open the gate and God forbid the sanctity of the holiday be disturbed. They were full of anger towards the young boys and girls, who were wild, and these troubles came on them because of them. The situation was tense and their being ill at ease was justified because there was likely to be missing a respected part of the worship service, in which the song of the soul rises from the depths and fills all of creation with a divine sound, with every living thing, every plant, and every mineral adding to the song.
Behold, the Additional Service was already over and still the fate of the water for Tashlikh was not known. The baroness used to receive for some reason the permit seekers precisely on the holiday. If she did this out of the stubbornness of her heart or for other reasons, nevertheless, they had to go to her court on the first day of the New Year and ask her just like before Pharoah in his time: Let my people go and worship me! And Shelomoh, instead of going to the study hall immediately after his noon meal, went to the court with a silent prayer in his heart, that God would grant him success, that the baroness would not be angry, and that she would immediately give him the key to the courtyard. And when Shelomoh was seen in the courtyard of the synagogue and his face beamed with the appearance that he was bringing good news, people went out to meet him with shouts of joy to hear him say clearly: Praise to God, the Jews are able to go to Tashlikh!
These few words were carried as if on wings. They arrived in a storm to all the study houses and the big synagogue. To the praise of the people, it should be said that their exit from the houses of prayer took place with order and discipline as if done under an experienced command. There was no wild rush. Rather, each house of study went calmly under its flag. The holiday procession of the Jews was wonderful in the clear air of the month of Tishre (September), which spread over everything a golden and splendid veil. It appeared as if each row arranged itself. Here and there above the sea of heads there stood out cylinder hats, which seemed to be leading the camp.
When they passed the beautiful pillars, which rose above the gate, it seemed as if they had entered a world of mystery. The trees in the nearby rows bent their heads before the holy community and received it with dignity. The blue pool awaited them with hidden longing. The bushes around its edge and the surrounding oaks joined in prayer. Wave after wave of people approached the water and whispered their prayers with great intention while their swaying bodies were reflected in the image of the pool, which received and hid their secrets in the recesses of its water.
While the sun slowly set, the prayers spread out on the water. They were the great song to God from His people Israel, which exists forever. The people left the shore of the holy water and went back to the study hall with sure steps and a relieved heart. Everyone felt and hoped that they were written up for a good and happy year.
The gate was shut again with its lock and bolt. The pool and the trees at its side continue to sing their eternal song, From the depths I called you.
By A. Slonimski
This was in the year 1908. On the Sabbath after Sukkot, there was a meeting in the garden of the priest against the Russian authorities. Two groups of youths went on this Sabbath before the evening and sang revolutionary songs: the group of Fraydl sang international, proletarian songs and the opposing group sang national Jewish songs. Mosheh Stavski and the pharmacist were in the latter group.
The police came when they heard the singing and arrested three youths who demonstrated: the tailor from Odessa, Stavski, and the pharmacist. The girls went with the boys to the police commissioner.
When they all entered his office, he shook hands, like a gentleman, with the girls. He ordered the girls to leave and arrested the boys. When the Sabbath was over that evening, Yonah the miller was murdered. Upon hearing shouts from the miller's house, people began to run and the police commissioner also left his office. Running was hard for him and he shouted in the direction of the house to arrest the murderer. The arrested youths took advantage of the confusion and left peacefully the place and even went to the house of the miller. When people got there, they found the miller lying on the floor with his head bashed.
The murderer, a Russian gentile who had fled Siberia, hid in the forest near Antopol. Before evening, he entered the house of Yonah. When the latter returned from evening prayers, he attacked him, took some rubles from his pocket, and afraid lest he inform the police commissioner, killed him. Yonah's wife, who tried to protect her husband, was severely wounded and died some days later. The murderer fled.
This murder caused a big storm in town. From that day, it was decided to keep a good watch on the town every night from 10 p.m. until dawn. The gentiles were very afraid at this decision of the Jews. They hid in their houses and didn't dare to go out during these hours.
The Jewish inhabitants didn't rest. They diligently began to search for the murderer of Yonah the miller. They found him after a few days in the nearby town of Horodets when he was asleep at the bank of the river. They put him in chains and took him to Antopol. The murderer was put in jail in one of the available stores. However, he refused to talk and admit doing the murder.
At that time an unknown person came to town. He entered the hotel of Eizik Rubinshtein, ate a meal, and refused to pay. Eizik ran to the police. The visitor was arrested and put in jail in the same store that held the imprisoned murderer. The two jailed people didn't have anything to do with one another at first. However, the new prisoner took out a bottle of brandy after a short while and offered his fellow prisoner a drink. While the new prisoner took a drink, he cursed the Jews whose fault it was that he was now in jail. Then, the first prisoner opened his mouth and the two began to find fault with the Jews. Slowly, the first prisoner felt that the other prisoner shared his views and was his faithful friend. And as it says in the Talmud, when wine enters, the secret is out. The murderer began to reveal his guarded secrets, how he came to Antopol and how he killed Yonah the miller and his wife.
The next day the prisoner who had refused to pay for his meal was taken out of prison. It was revealed that he was a detective, who had been sent by the police to get a confession from the murderer about the murder and some details on how he carried it out. The fact of not paying for a meal in the hotel of Eizik Rubinshtein was only an excuse for his arrest so that he could be imprisoned together with the murderer.
The Jews thanked the detective, who succeeded in his task. It was a holiday for the Jews of Antopol when the murderer was brought in the streets of the town to the police commissioner. Two people held him on each side. A crowd gathered to look at the caught murderer. One Jew tried even to approach and hit him. The murderer was tried and sentenced again to twenty years of exile at hard labor in Siberia.
By Dr. M. Zagor (Zagorodaski)
Antopol was the last one of the towns in the region of Polesia in which I stayed.
I taught mathematics at this time in Pinsk and my small wage was not enough to live on. Therefore, people advised me to go for a period of time to a small town. They directed me to Antopol, with
recommendations to the young Ms. Yahalom, whom they knew to be enlightened and good-hearted. She really helped me to get lessons in good homes. She herself invited me to be her German teacher.
The family Yahalom was one of the best families in Antopol. When the Sabbath was over, the best people in town would come to drink tea and discuss various topics, especially commerce and forests and timber. I would also visit them sometimes on these occasions. However, I didn't make the acquaintance of the guests and I knew few of them. Since I continued my studies and prepared to take tests, I didn't think much of the town because it certainly was not different from other towns in the Pale of Settlement. However, I was proven that I made a mistake.
There was a rabbinical judge there, who was interested in engineering. He was Rabbi Tsevi Hirsh Rabinowitz, who had read the book of H. Z. Slonimski, Guide to Engineering. He used to solve questions on engineering during twilight. When he found out that there was a scholar from Pinsk in town, he addressed me in writing with a request to meet him when the Sabbath was over. I answered him and visited him. We talked about engineering, and I solved some questions that had bothered him. Once he asked me a question that even I had difficulty to solve. I sent the question to my brother Y. H. Zagor in Warsaw so that he would ask an answer from H. Z. Slonimski. I received from my brother this answer: The Slonimski of Warsaw does not reach up to the ankles of the Slonimski' outside of Warsaw. This meant that he could not answer the asked by the rabbinical judge from Antopol.
The person spreading enlightenment in Antopol at this time was really a gentile, the local Christian doctor, Dr. Bik. He had a good library and he lent his books to whoever asked him. Ms. Yahalom also used to borrow books from him. It seems that many of the Jews in Antopol used this gentile's books. I also used to borrow books from him and helped to spread enlightenment. During the Sabbaths, I would carry on discussions with children and youths about different topics and sometimes on our Torah and its numerous commandments about the soul, God, the Garden of Eden, and more topics. Generally, I tried to enlighten the children and expand their opinions.
I have a good memory of the town of Antopol, especially since I found in it a desire for enlightenment and diligent men and women, who helped to spread it.
Dr. M. Zagor is the author of Milon kol-bo le-haklaut and more important books, on the topic of agriculture. He did a lot for Israel.
A selection of folktales from the period of R. Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory, selected by A. Ben-Ezra
A Jewish Burial. The story told by Avraham, the butcher, and he begins: Do you remember the butcher Tuviah? Everyone nods. This Tuviah had a father named Hirshl. You certainly don't remember him. This Hirshl was also a butcher. He used to go to the villages and negotiate with the gentiles. He would leave after the havdalah ceremony at the end of the Sabbath and return in time for the candle lighting ceremony for the next Sabbath. In those days the gentiles and the merchants were different. It was important for them. No one would sell until Hirshl had expressed his opinion.
Once on a Sunday at dawn, Hirshl left his house. After he prayed, he ate, put a piece of bread and his prayer shawl and phylactery bag into his sack. He hid some money in a pocket hanging from beneath his shirt, took his walking stick in his hand and put his coat on his shoulder. It was the end of the summer. Hirshl thought that he would return home on Wednesday or at the latest Thursday morning. This is because all the town was waiting to have meat for the Sabbath.
On Tuesday evening Hirshl appeared to his son Tuviah in a dream. Tuviah saw in his sleep that his father appeared to him. Tuviah was astonished that his fatter came home so soon, and he asked, Father, where is the cow? And he answered that it remained in the village. Why then were you in such a hurry to
return? Then, he answered that he didn't come willingly. How he shall not have any peace for himself until his bones should have a Jewish burial.
Early in the morning Tuviah hurried to the rabbi and told him the whole story. In those days, the saintly R. Pinchas Michael was still alive, may his memory be blessed. He asked Tuviah how his father appeared to him and how he entered the house, whether as people usually enter or don't usually enter. Thus, they were speaking and behold Tuviah's two brothers came looking ill. They were working in a forest about ten miles away and their father appeared even to them in a dream. They got up early and at dawn went to town to find out what this was.
Everyone understood that this was not a simple matter. The rabbi asked: Where did your father go?
Tuviah answered him: To Homitsits.
How much money did he have with him?
They answered him: He had sixty rubles in his pocket.
The rabbi gave them his blessing and ordered them to go the same way that their father went. The three brothers came to the first village. They stood and asked: Was Hirshka here?
They answered: He was. They showed him where he slept and told him what cows he saw.
They came to the second village. The townspeople said to them again: He was here, prayed, ate breakfast, and went on his way.
They came to the village of Homitsits and went directly to Prokop, from whom Hirshl was supposed to take a cow. They found Prokop standing in the courtyard and fixing his wagon and the women working in the garden. The brothers opened the gate and entered the courtyard. Prokop pretended that he didn't see them come in and continued his work. They said to him: Hello, Prokop!
He replied: Greetings and blessings. He didn't stop working.
They asked him again: Was Hirshka here?
The gentile said to them: No, he wasn't here. I didn't see him at all. He didn't raise his head from the block of wood on the wagon that he was shaving at that time. Suddenly, the brothers looked at the handle of the axe in Prokop's hand. They saw that he had just now shaved a new one. And at this moment the three brothers felt that this was the axe with which their father was killed.
They stood and made an excuse that they wanted to buy hay. Was it possible for Prokop to show them the hay in his threshing floor? The gentile put down his axe, opened the threshing floor for them, and stood and watched how they put their hands deep into the hay and checked it, lest it be rotten underneath. And when they returned from the threshing floor, the gentile turned and said to them: And I was already amazed that Hirshka is not here and I also need money.
The brothers went to the side and discussed what to do. They had a heavy heart. Their father was no longer alive. They had no doubt of this. However, who knew if they could find his body. Behold, a thief goes one way and his pursuers have to go a thousand ways to get him. This is what people say. The brothers decided that they have to pass the garden and the meadow behind it. Each one went his own way and made different excuses. This one went to the field to look at cattle, and this one went to the garden to take vegetables for dinner.
Thus, the brothers went looking at what was around them. Perhaps, a mound would be found and signs of fresh digging in the earth. While they were looking for this, Tuviah found a groove in the ground and saw that a sack was sticking out and a pair of shoes was sticking out from the sack. Tuviah began to call and shout. The brothers hurried to his call and came and took out the body of their father.
When Avraham was finished speaking, R. Ber the sexton asked: Do you remember the words of the saintly man, of blessed memory, when they brought the corpse to town? And what did he say? Avraham didn't remember the statement. The saintly man, of
blessed memory, said that Hirshl wouldn't have been given permission to appear to his children in a dream except for the merit due him for the days on which he fed the children of the Jewish religious elementary school and for the merit due him for inviting guests to his table for the Sabbath. This is because that the evil man, who killed him, was going to take the dead man's body out of the groove the next night and hide it in the shed under the manure.
Good Advice. Once a Jewish man came to him and told him his problem: Rabbi, I am a clerk in a forest. My employer is a hard person and he certainly wants to fire me and to take away my income. And if he fires me, I have no choice but to become a vagrant and to go begging with my family. Please, rabbi, give me good advice as to what I should do.
Rabbi Pinchas Michael asked him, Do you live together with your family in the forest?
The clerk answered, No, I live alone. How can I bring my family when I am in suspense and don't know what will happen tomorrow?
Rabbi Pinchas Michael said, If so, listen to my advice and have your wife and children brought to you.
The clerk was startled: Rabbi, you don't know my employer. He is angry and excitable. When he sees that I have brought my family, he will be angry and immediately evict me.
Rabbi Pinchas Michael calmed him: Don't be afraid. Listen to my advice and God will help you.
The clerk went and followed the advice of Rabbi Pinchas Michael. He brought to him his wife and children and settled them with him in the forest. He trembled, awaiting the day his employer would come.
The owner of the forest came and saw the clerk living with his family. He was angry and strongly rebuked him. However, after a short time, he made peace and was satisfied. And not only that, he raised the clerk's salary and married his daughter, who had come of age. When the forest was cut down and no workers came, he transferred his clerk to another of his forests.
Sometime later, the clerk came to Rabbi Pinchas Michael and thanked him for his good advice, which came out of his scholarship.
Rabbi Pinchas Michael said, In my opinion, this was a simple matter. A Jewish person, even if he is one of the most difficult, will not harm his fellow man, supporting his wife and children. Jews are merciful people, descendents of merciful people.
The Saintly Man on the Roof. Once, a fire broke out in Antopol. As usual, they began to save the houses of the rich people in town. No one paid attention to the houses of the poor people. R. Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory, went on top of the roof of the house of a poor man, which no one had hurried to save.
When the people saw the rabbi sitting on the roof and not coming down by himself, they hurried to save the rabbi. However, Rabbi Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory, called from on the roof: I will not go down from the roof before you also save this house.
When they began to save also the house under discussion, the saintly man went down from the roof.
Punishments. The building of the study house En Yaakov, or as it was called the study house of the butchers, in the city of Pruzinah went on for some years. And this is the reason for the delay in building it. A new Provoslav priest came to the city of Pruzinah. He was the head of the priests in the district of Pruzinah. His name was Gomlitski. Once on a Friday when the priest about whom we are speaking went to a bathhouse, he passed the study house under construction. He turned and asked the people with whom he was walking what sort of a building this was. When he heard that this building was going to be a Jewish study house, he asked to measure the distance between the building for the study house and the courtyard of their church. He saw that the new building was too close to the
church. What did he do? He reported this in a letter to the district city Horadna. An order came from there to stop building the study hall.
Some years passed and the building was not completed. What did our brethren, the children of Israel do? They sent a messenger to the saintly man, R. Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory, to ask of him advice. And R. Pinchas Michael promised them that everything would turn out well. And behold the Day of Atonement came. And when the cantor started to say Let our supplication go up in the evening and let our salvation come in the morning, a cry was heard from outside: Fire! And behold the threshing floor of the priest Gomlitski was on fire. From there the fire spread to the church, a wooden building that stood next to the threshing floor. And after a little while, there was no trace of the threshing floor or of the church.
And again the above named priest wrote a report to Horodna, as follows: The Jews are responsible for this fire, having made it, so that it will be possible for them to finish building their study hall.
Two important officials came from the city of Horadna, the provincial prosecutor and one of the head priests. They asked the priest Gomlitski who was in his threshing floor that evening. It became clear that on that day two gentiles were threshing his produce. He gave them after their work glasses of brandy. After drinking they returned to the threshing floor. They lighted their pipes and slept. Meanwhile, one of the gentile's pipes fell on the hay in the threshing floor. This was the cause of the fire in the threshing floor and the church.
The priest Gomlitski got his punishment. Once he came to the post office to pick up the mail sent to the church. There was money included in the letters. Gomlitski took the money for himself and left. However, a person can't get away with things forever. So it happened that he received an order for demotion to serve as a regular priest in a far away region. This decree caused him mental instability. And after some time, he became crazy.
In the city of Kosovah in the province of Grodno, there was a brandy distillery. There was a Jew named Shelomoh in it that city. The gentile estate owner liked Shelomoh and appointed him in charge of his distillery. And behold, there arose a certain gentile, who envied Shelomoh. He made up some stories about Shelomoh to the owner of the distillery, who fired Shelomoh and put the gentile in his place.
Shelomoh came to R. Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory, and told him what happened. R. Pinchas Michael called together ten Jews and blessed Shelomoh in their presence. Just a few days past and the gentile we mentioned got drunk and caused a big, monetary loss to the gentile estate owner. The gentile estate owner got angry at the gentile and returned Shelomoh to his place.
Kadish Otanof was an elementary school teacher in the village of Volitski near Horlovits. His wife Gronah used to sell brandy to the gentiles. And behold one of the gentiles of the village used to bother her and not let her sell brandy. He would send the police every time to check her permit. And that wicked man would also kill the geese, which she fattened.
Once, Gronah came to the rabbi to tell her troubles. The rabbi told her to find out the name of the gentile and the name of his mother. However, she shouldn't tell anyone about this. Gronah told the names to the rabbi. This took place in the month of Heshvan (November). And in the month of Kislev (December), the gentile about whom we are speaking traveled to the forest. A fight broke out between him and another gentile. The latter went and killed the wicked gentile.
There was an investigation as to who the gentile murderer was but he was not found. Gronah told the story to the rabbi. And the saintly man said, This will remain a hidden secret.
There was a story about Yudil Tornoyar, the son-in-law of Mendel Palavski, who lived some years in the village of Toronoyah. This Yudil had built his house on the land of one gentile of that village. The
gentiles of the village enticed the owner of the land to force Yudil to leave his house, and then they would be able to buy Yudil's house for half its price.
Yudil came with his brother R. Lazar from Hutiva to R. Pinchas Michael to ask advice. The saintly man answered: Keep calm, he will not drive you out. You will continue living in your house.
And Yudil Tornoyar returned to his village. When he got to Toronoyah, people told him that the owner of the land had died. And our Yudil lived in his house until his death.
In the village of Darvanoyah near Antopol, there lived a Jew named R. Yosef Rubinshtein, or as he was known in the village, R. Yosef Darvanoyer. There was one gentile in that village who had five sons. All of them were completely wicked. They would enter R. Yosef 's tavern, get themselves drunk, and not pay. They would break the furnishings, and sometimes they would also hit the owner.
This above-mentioned R. Yosef came to Rabbi Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory, to ask his advice. The saintly man first said, Prepare to receive the Sabbath. Afterwards, he said, Give them to drink as much as they want, and they will not bother you any more. And so it was. The father and one son got alcohol poisoning from drinking too much. One son was ground up in a windmill. Another son died from a flesh wound. One went crazy, and one disappeared. These tragedies happened in one year.
People say that the child who went crazy got up one night, opened the stables of the village, and took out the cows. He himself was strong like a cedar tree. He stood outside, dressed only in a shirt, his eyes raised to heaven and kept on looking without harming any one.
Once, there was a quarrel between R. Shemuel the tailor and his partner. They went to R. Pinchas Michael for judgment to settle the dispute. The rabbi said that R. Shemuel was innocent. Then, his ignorant partner jumped up and said to R. Pinchas, I will not accept your judgment. I will listen to you, like I listen to a cat. This happened Friday before the Sabbath.
He went home and told his wife the story. In the afternoon when his wife gave him fish, the household cat jumped on him and bit him on the lips with his teeth. He began to shout and chase way the cat.
However, the cat didn't pay attention. His lips bled and he couldn't get rid of the cat. His wife ran to R. Pinchas Michael and asked his forgiveness. The rabbi gave his walking stick to the sexton and said to him, Go chase away the cat. The sexton went and chased away the cat.
Once Hetskel the wagoner got angry at the rabbi. R. Pinchas Michael threw him out of his house. People say that all the members of the household of Hetskel died of tuberculosis. He was left without any descendents.
This story happened around 1905 during the days of revolution in Russia. The young people of Antopol would gather in the cemetery outside of town.
At one of the meetings Shabtai Kolodner, the son of a candle maker and a youth of fifteen, went to the structure around the saintly man's grave and said: Old man, old man, don't you say that you are able to bring the messiah. Where is your messiah? He was paralyzed on the spot.
In one village near to Antopol, there lived a Jewish tenant farmer. He had a Jewish woman as a servant. She had loose morals. Finally, the gentile estate owner took her to his home. One night the threshing floor of the gentile estate owner went up in flames. The Jewish girl about whom we spoke came and said to the estate owner that the Jewish tenant farmer burnt up the threshing floor. Meanwhile, the tenant farmer was put in jail until the end of the trial.
Then, the tenant farmer's wife went to R. Pinchas Michael to ask for help. The rabbi said that God would help and that her husband would go free. A few days before the trial, the rabbi sent his sexton to
the Jewish woman to warn her not to give false witness. However, she told the sexton that she would say what she wanted. Then, the rabbi sent his sexton still another time and again she gave the same answer. Thus, she answered the third time. The rabbi heard the sexton and said: God will help and she will not testify.
The day of the trial came and it was held in the district city of Kobrin. At the time of the testimony being taken in the trial, the judge asked the gentile estate owner, Where is the witness?
She is in the hotel. However, she is sick, answered the estate owner. She is lying in bed and unable to come to court.
The judge ordered the estate owner to bring the witness in her bed to court. When they brought her in bed before the judge, he asked, What do you know about the matter of the Jew? However, the Jewish woman was unable to speak, as she had become dumb of speech. The Jew went free.
Draft to the Army. Once in the time of the draft to the army, many Jews were taken and gentiles exempted. Belah Hanakes came to the saintly man to complain before him about this unjustness. When he heard of this unjust deed, he struck the table three times and said, Master of the universe! Enough wicked people have been freed from the draft! Immediately after this story, they began to exempt the Jews.
People say that once there was a complaint about the wickedness of an official in Brisk di-Lita, who was cruel to Jewish youth and drafted them to the army. In the beginning, he gave the excuse that it was not easy to kill a gentile. Finally, he was silent, as if he agreed that the complaint was a just one. After a few weeks, the gentile got a stroke and died.
And the Brandy Became Vinegar. Some Jews had a brandy refinery. As is known, there was a tax on every barrel of brandy. However, the Jews under consideration didn't pay attention to the government and didn't pay the tax.
It happened that the government official came one night to investigate the matter. He seized one barrel and sealed it with the government seal to be evidence during the trial. For now they arrested the partners. Only one partner remained not arrested. He came to R. Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory, to ask him advice. At first, the saintly man didn't wish to answer him because it is forbidden to try to get out of paying government taxes. However, after the Jew insisted of the saintly man, the rabbi advised him that all the Jews should say during the trial that they made vinegar and not brandy.
And thus during the trial, the judges had the sealed barrel brought. They checked it and found that it contained vinegar and not brandy, and the Jews went free.
Medical Treatments. Sarah Zisl, the only daughter of the elementary religious school teacher, R. Lazar of Hotvah, became very sick. A Polish pharmacist was in Antopol at this time. A big doctor came to him from Warsaw. The wife of R. Lazar brought the visiting doctor to see her dangerously sick daughter. This was at 2 p.m. on a winter Friday afternoon. The doctor examined the sick person and gave up hope for her. He said, Why have you brought me to see a dying person?
However, the parents of the daughter didn't entirely despair. R. Lazar ran for help to R. Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory. The saintly man said: Do you think that what the doctor said is true? Here are six cents from money given to redeem a first-born child. Go to the rabbis and buy olive oil. Rub the child with the olive oil and God, may He be blessed, will help her.
R. Lazar did what the righteous told him to do. And after he rubbed all her body, the blister, which was in her throat opened, and the puss flowed out. Then, the child opened her eyes and wanted something to eat. The child went on to get better.
There was a baker in the city of Kobrin and his name was Jacob. This Jacob had a son who was sick with epilepsy, God forbid. He was sick until the age
of six with this disease. They brought him to R. Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory. The saintly man put a cube of sugar in his mouth and said to him: Eat and be well. He said to call him Zaidel. From then on, he was healthy.
Once, a father of five sons came with his son who had suddenly lost the ability to speak. R. Pinchas Michael asked if he were a first born and if the ceremony to redeem the son had been done. The father remembered that he hadn't redeemed his son. Then, the rabbi summoned Yaakov the doctor, who was a Kohen, and another Kohen. They made the redemption ceremony as prescribed. After the ceremony, the mute boy began to speak.
Once, a bone was stuck in the butcher, Shual of Antopol. The righteous man advised that he be given a glass of milk to drink. His reason and point was that since meat and milk are forbidden together, this Shual would spit out the milk together with the bone.
By Mosheh b. R. Akiva Yeruham Lifshits
Hillel Rozentsvaig, the grandfather of Barukh Yahalom, studied and taught a lot. He was a member of the old generation, that between the enlighteners and spiritual people keeping the Torah and commandments. However, they didn't ignore secular knowledge and science. He studied together with Hayyim Zelig Slonimski, the editor of the newspaper ha--Tsefirah, a newspaper for secular knowledge and science.
Hillel came to live in Antopol. He took for a wife Bailah, daughter of Shemuel Tsevi and sister of Tehilah Leah, wife of Efrayim Lifshits, and sister of Hayah Etil, wife of Yehezkel Saharov.
He had a house on Pinsk Street and an inn for travelers going from Brisk to Pinsk by way of Antopol. In addition to this, he made wine to sanctify the Sabbath and to welcome the end of the Sabbath for the inhabitants of the town and the surrounding area.
Hillel's house was open to acquaintances and friends. They would gather in the evenings to drink tea. A samovar stood on the table. His wife would distribute the drinks. She would give everyone a glass of tea. They would discuss what happened in town and in the country. Yekutiel the blacksmith and his brother Hirshl would come to events like this.
Yekutiel was a blacksmith by trade. All day he would strike the hammer to the anvil. However, during the evening after the afternoon and night prayer in the study hall, he would gather a group around the table and study with them a page of Talmud. This he did daily. His brother Hershl studied in the yeshivah and was renowned in Torah. Yaakov ben Aharon Shemuel, a person who rented farm land (about six dunam's of it), would also be among those who came.
The farmers rented about 1,200 dunams and paid a tax for this to the German estate owner, Voitash. They would till and fertilize the land and sow cucumbers and other vegetables. When it was a dry summer and there was no rain to water the earth, they would fill barrels from well water and bring it to irrigate the land. For harvesting the cucumbers, they would hire workers from a nearby village and prepare small barrels. After they filled the barrels and closed them with corks, they would ship them to Warsaw.
Henikh the wagoner had a big wagon covered in felt to protect from rain. Every Sunday he would make a list from the storekeepers about goods needed by them and also of travelers who had business in Brisk. He would travel on Monday. He would return on Wednesday with travelers and with goods. He would bring tied packages full of raisins for making wine. They would tread it until liquid came out. They would put it in barrels for three weeks. They would strain it with saccules hanging on top of the barrels until the wine came out clear and fit for drinking.
The cucumber season was over. The month of Elul arrived. It was time to say the penitential prayers and they began to repent. Speeches were given. Preachers gave public sermons calling for repenting, doing good deeds, and leaving sin. Behold, Rabbi Naftali Tsevi Berlin of Volozin, called ha-Natsiv, was going to come to the city on the next Sabbath to give a speech in the synagogue. There was a lot of preparation to receive the well-known and praiseworthy rabbi. Everyone knew that the German estate owner Voitash liked the Jews in town because he would open the gate of his courtyard for the Jews, as if to say: Open the gates and a righteous gentile will come to say the Tashlikh prayer by way of Shloss Street because there is a pool of water with live fish. Therefore, some Jews came to him and said that the famous rabbi R. Naftali Tsevi was coming to our town and would he please give us his carriage to bring the rabbi to us. Jawohl, he answered. If the great rabbi comes to you, I will put at your service my carriage and driver.
When Natsiv came, the town's important people went out to meet him on the intersection between Horodets and Antopol. When he came to the synagogue to give his speech, Abrahmel, the sexton, struck the wooden hammer on the platform and announced: Let every living being be quiet out of respect for the rabbi. Silence is good! And the Natsiv spoke for one hour. The rabbinical judge, Rabbi Tsevi Hirsh ha-Kohen Rabinovits, the son-inlaw of R. David Yosef the religious school teacher, gave a sermon on the Sabbath between Rosh ha- Shanah and Yom-Kippur, Shabat Shuvah, in the synagogue about the survival of the soul after death and on other things.
The houses in town were mainly small, poor, in bad condition, and old. The stores were made of wood and mostly rotten. Only the hotels were different. They were big and good. There was under one roof the house and a big stable for the big wagon with its horses and its goods because people went from Brisk di-Lita to Pinsk through Antopol. Hotels like these were in Kobrin Street next to the study hall and Pinsk Street.
One summer afternoon, a big fire broke out in town. All the wooden stores in the town's center, the houses on one side, the wooden study hall, and all the houses around the row of stores in the street, and a big part of the houses on Pinsk Street were eaten up by fire in the course of a few hours.
The harvest and summer were over. And everyone thought how to rebuild his house. They prepared all the days of the winter, whosoever with money and whosoever with materials. Spring came. Then, some people built a wooden house and some a brick house. Little by little people began to come out of their lethargic winter sleep. They built anew out of brick a women's section above the wooden study hall, whose walls were bent with age and which were threatening to collapse. In the summer they also built a beautiful house with pretty rooms, which could be praised as said before. The big room was for important guests. There were dining rooms and sleeping rooms with a pretty balcony to the street. Hayyim Zelig the carpenter made pretty designs, wooden engravings around the doors and windows. Everything was made in contemporary style. Life began to return to its old and usual course.
This is how life went on in Antopol. A generation came and a generation went. The kids became goats and new winds began to blow in town. Some people left town and scattered themselves in the big world. Some people remained in town and continued under the yoke and carried out the deeds of their ancestors until the great and bitter day when WWI broke out. Then, things became a mess for those people who remained in Antopol, and they didn't know what to do. Many years of disruptions and confusions passed over our brethren in Antopol and the last great one, that is the great enemy of the world Hitler, may his name and memory be blotted out, realized his plans. He completely destroyed our beloved ones and didn't leave a remnant from them. Jewish Antopol of four hundred years does not exist. However, we will endlessly remember it!
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Updated 19 Feb 2010 by LA