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[Page 161]

Rabbi Feivel Melamed

Translated by Myra Rothenberg and Melvin Schmier

His students were all one of a kind, very dedicated children.  Feivel Melamed took no more than twenty young ones, and only those who already knew something. He was also very expensive, taking not less than fifteen zlotys for a term. With Feivel Melamed, one learned all day, from early morning till eight o'clock at night, with a break to eat meals, and a small break between minkha and ma'ariv.

Feivel Melamed was a handsome Jew with a full yellow beard. But he wasn't seen as a hearty healthy man because he was always hoarse. His big, angry eyes peered out from under his thick bushy eyebrows. His neck was always bound by a kerchief. He didn't make a move without a little stick in his hand. . The cane(stick) was used to give a little whack to someone who wasn't listening or not understanding the lesson in the Talmud. He also used the cane to give himself a little scratch between the shoulder blades, deep down through the collar of his shirt, or to help wipe the smoky lamp glass with a kerchief.

Feivel Melamed was also in the habit of constantly demanding of the rebbetzin- Peniah was her name- a glass of warm tea. And if G-d forbid she forgot and didn't immediately bring the tea, he would cry out to his daughter, Zipporah: where is the tea? What's taking so long, Zippor-AH? And when she finally brought the tea, he grabbed it from her in anger, laid down the stick on the table, scratched his left ear and standing thus with his left foot up on the bench, he drank and listened to what the students were reading in the gemmorah. (Every minute was precious.)

At 1:30 they went to eat lunch. On the way back form lunch, the children brought back with them something to eat between minkha and ma'ariv [the afternoon and evening prayers] - two pieces of bread with schmaltz, or prune jam or herring. There were children who were not embarrassed to bring something cooked in a pot. Only after davenning [praying] minkha and ma'ariv and after eating, did the real learning begin.

A hanging lamp was let down from the ceiling, in the middle of the long table. And the students on both sides of the table began to chant together in harmony at the top of their voices in the traditional religious melody, the parsha from the chumash [portion of the week from the Five Books of Moses] or the lesson from the gemorrah. All this they did without stopping until eight o'clock at night. The students were happy to hear the big old wooden wall clock with its two heavy weights (one of them was bound with an exquisite covering). Clang clang: boom boom, eight times. The religious books were closed, the hanging lamp extinguished, the children put on their jackets, the lanterns were lit and all together they went down the street - home.

It is easy to say “home”. But the night was dark, the mud or the snow was deep, (only in winter did they learn at night) and home was very far away. The school was on the Zamlinieh, beyond the mill, and they had to go carefully so that no one would encounter a shagetz [a non-Jew] or the crazy one, “Heniele”. Their greatest dread was going past the Polish Cloister. They stayed close together, and crept as though blind. They were afraid to lift their eyes up to give a look there, where the devils and “the no-good ones” played inside, the whole night.  But as if to spite us, our eyes were drawn there, as if by a magic spell.  Little by little we finally arrived at the right path, not far from where Mother sat and warmed up dinner.

With Feivel Melamed students learned three or four terms until they could learn for themselves in the Beit Midrash, that is, until they became Beit Midrash bokhers [young men].

When Feivel Melamed died, he was accorded the greatest of honors.  He was carried to the mikvah, washed with the water, and as it is said, it was as though he had immersed himself. The Hevrah Kedisha (burial society) quickly performed his rites. Purified, they wrapped him in his shrouds, put on his tallis and laid him in a coffin. Six of his closest friends from the Stretiner Hasidim carried him on their shoulders into the little shul and there they marched with him around the Bimah carrying the Torah scrolls in procession and said the prayer,“Ma'avar Yabbok”** [Yabbok Pass. This is a pass across the River Jordan, mentioned in the story of Jacob preparing to meet his brother Essau, Genesis 32 Verse 23]. The rabbi delivered the eulogy and the whole town, Belzer and Stretiner Hasidim alike, followed the procession all the way to the cemetery. Almost every one of his students stood by the grave and each one sprinkled a little bit of earth on the coffin , while shedding a tear.

For a long time after that, the children couldn't stop telling the story of Rabbi Feivel Melamed's death. They spent a lot of tearful and sleepless nights.

** [Editor Note: “Maavar Yabok” is the place where Jacob's family crossed the Jordan River to visit his brother Esau (Genesis 32:23). It is also where Jacob struggled with the angel and where his name was changed from Jacob to Israel when he prevailed. He fought with the angel for his very life, as we all do at one time or another.

There was a book written in Hebrew by the name of “Maavar Yabok” in the year 5386 (1625) in Montova, Italy, by Aharon Brachia son of Rav Moshe of Modna. “Maavar Yabok” is a collection of mitzvahs related to 'bikur holim' (visiting the sick), all that one must do for a sick person while he is incapacitated, and everything having to do with the dead until burial. In other words, the mitzvahs we are required to perform while a person is struggling with the angel and until he is laid to rest.]


[Page 163 (Yiddish)]

The Teachers of our Shtetl during the years 1900-1920

by Abraham Fischer (New York)

Translated by Myra Rothenberg and Melvin Schmier

For the new generation, I don't know whether these names will have any
significance, but for the older generation, these names say a lot.

Moshe Leib (teacher of young children)
Berl Spritzer (teacher of young children)
Eli Moshe (died in 1903)
Chune Meyer (Boontz)
Yossel Haber (Yossel Borsht)
Yehuda Haber (Yuda Melamed)
Reb Feivel (Fovil) Schmier (teacher of gamorrah and tosafot for adults)
Reb Yecheskel Auerbach (Chaskale Melamed, teacher of gamorrah and tosafot for adults)
Reb Zalke Kessler (Zalke Melamed, teacher of gamorrah and tosafot for adults)
Chana's Leibish (at the end of his days, he went to the land of Israel, so he could be buried there)
Chana's Dovid (teacher in Talmud Torah)
The Hivniver Melamed (teacher from Hivnov)
Nathaniel (Sani) Melamed (brother-in-law of Feivel Melamed)
Ephraim Fischer (Froyim Melamed)
Ezra's Uri
Pineli Lineal's son-in-law (who considered himself a modern teacher)
Naftali Altman
Shlomo Roth (From Romanov)
Moshe Kutzen (teacher during World War One)
Nachum Katz (Nacum Mazer)
Mordechai Yossel (loived in America and returned)
The Short Beard
In Boiberke there was a 'Talmud Torah' that saw to it that poor children had a place to learn. Who concerned themselves with this institution in the earlier years, I don't know. In the last years, 1915-1933, my father, Rav Michel Schmier, may he rest in peace, ran the Talmud Torah. He appointed the teachers, he was the inspector, and oversaw the learning. He tested the children and the budget was his concern. More than once, I went on a Friday, to make an accounting of the week's money for the Talmud Torah. (The Editor).

The Rabbi's personal assistants (shammeses or sextons) in shul, in the house of study, in small shuls and other organizations where studying could be conducted

Dovid Plager (Dudi Shames) The chief sexton in shul
Shmuel Yuzip Brandwein, the second sexton in shul
Chaim-Abbale, sexton in the Beit Midrash (house of religious study)
Yisroel Shames, Chaim-Abbale's son
Hersh Melech Kroithammer, shames in the little shul. He announced the new moon, on the Sabbath when the blessings for the new month were said.
Channa's Dovid, shammes at the “association”.
Yitzak Pepitz, shammes in the Shtortkever shul. (Besides, he proved his luck in business. Each year he bought garlic and kept it so it would increase in value; but he always kept it too long and ended up losing money because eventually he had to throw it out.)
Meier Danziker, shamash in the Belzer shul.
The shameses also occupied themselves with other “sacred” duties. Dudie Shammes was also a tombstone cutter. Meier Danziker was the grave digger for the town. He was also an expert in the kneading of dough for matzohs. He was not opposed to “the bitter drop” (liquor) either. He used to say: If I buy a bottle of brandy from the brewery on Friday night, I'd have barely enough till.... after the fish.

Ritual Slaughterers (Shochets) of Boiberke

Rav Hershel Shochet
Rav Moshe Nass- (Moshe Shochet)
Rav Michel Shochet- (Hershel's son)
Rav Kalmen Shochet- (Rav Michel's son)
He was dismissed however, from the practice of ritual slaughtering - because of “an incident”
Rav Moshe Avram Mehl- (Moshe Avram Shochet)
Rav Shloime Peltz- (Shloime Shochet)
Rav Aron Fruchter- (Moshe Shochet's son-in-law)
Rav Avramtzi Shochet, (Moshe's Shochet's son)
Moishe the ritual slaughterer (Rav Moishe Nass) had a sweet voice. He used to daven (pray) in front of the ark in shul, especially the musaf (afternoon) prayers on the “High Holidays”. He used to also say “mi she beyrakh” (prayer in someone's honor) and sing at weddings and circumcisions, or G-d forbid, sometimes he had to officiate at a funeral and say the prayer for the dead with an emotional and merciful voice. In the month of Elul (the weeks before Rosh Hashanna), he made his living with this emotional prayer for the dead at the cemetery, for the women who were coming to visit their parent's graves before the holiday.

A special part of the ritual slaughtering was the right to take a piece of lung and a piece of kishke from the slaughtered beasts. Two months of the year, Teveth and Shevet (approx. December & January), they had a right to take leg from every slaughtered goose.

 

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