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{379}

Reb Avraham Yaakov Weisenfeld of blessed memory
(The lion of the community of Maskilim in Zgierz)

by Y. A. M.

Translated by Doubi Swarc and Emanuel Frankel

Edited by Jerrold Landau

From P. H. Wetsztejn: “The Book of Correspondence between Reb A. Y. Weisenfeld and Sh. Y. R., Mizes, Sh. Z. Ch. H., Keller, Zwiefel, Yaffa, and others” (Krakow 5660, 1900), and from other sources.

Reb Avraham Yaakov Weisenfeld, who was one of the pillars of the life of the spirit in Zgierz during the 18th century, was born in Krakow in the year 5689 (1829) to pure and upright parents, honest with G-d and man. His father Reb Simcha Moshe, a learned man and honest merchant, sustained his household in an honorable albeit greatly restricted fashion. The worries regarding livelihood did not prevent him from toiling with all his soul to raise his son in Torah and religion. At the age of twelve, he studied with the sharp rabbi Reb Leibish, Reb Yoseles Bleicher, who also educated the children of the Gaon Reb Berish Meisels the head of the rabbinical court. About two years later, when he was learning Torah from his second rabbi, Reb Mordechai Blateiz the son-in-law of the Rabbi and Gaon Reb Shlomo HaKohen Bertram the head of the rabbinical court in the city of Szkucin and later in Krakow, he already excelled in the Talmud and its commentaries, didactics and reasoning, and his name went forth throughout all corners of the city as a genius of excellent spirit. When he reached the age of eighteen, he began to round out his knowledge with languages and science, like all of the Maskilim of the old generation, whose inner inclinations awakened in them the deep desire to delve into books of research and knowledge, even though the path was strewn with obstacles placed by the zealots and traditionalists.

Reb A. Y. Weisenfeld delved deeply into the wisdom of Israel, Talmud, Midrash, Jewish lore, Jewish law, scriptures, religion, philosophy, and the history of the Jewish people and its greats. With great concentration and strong consistency, with a refined and truthful spirit, pure from any prejudice, he delved into the depths of the opinions and ideas of the researchers and philosophers of the Jewish people and the nations of the world. He also studied for some years with the great scholar Reb Yitzchak Mizes of blessed memory, who helped him to venture into sublime matters.

It is self evident that the zealots saw him as the one who “peered and was damaged” [1], and they set their tongue and arrows after him to excommunicate him. Weisenfeld was summoned before the court of law of the Gaon Reb Berish Meisels. He, knowing the purity of heart and straightness of the path of Reb A. Y., invited him to his court to calm the storm of the zealots. The Gaon talked to him softly, and strengthened his heart to be one of those who accept embarrassment and not one of those who embarrass, for many of the Maskilim do not sit idly, but rather retort with curses to their detractors.

Still during his youth, Weisenfeld exchanged letters with the Gaon Reb Tzvi Hirsch Chajes and other greats of the spirit. When an impure spirit began to take hold of the hearts of the Maskilim, and they began to make breaches and expose meanings in the Torah that are not in accordance with Jewish law, and that blacken the face of Jewish traditions, Weisenfeld went out in a religious war [2] against the “destroyers and uprooters”. He also engaged in a vigorous battle against the group of Hassidim who hatched plans to remove the rabbinate from the Gaon Meisels and replace whim with one of their own group who did not even reach the ankles of the rabbi.

In the year 5620 (1860), Weisenfeld married an intelligent girl from Zgierz. She was the only daughter of an honorable family, who were all knowledgeable in Torah. Her father Reb Yosef Leizer Weilnad was an honorable and dear man, who knew the book and was also an honest merchant.

On the day of his wedding, his friends and pals, people of note from near and far, gave him great honor and feted him with songs and gifts. Rabbi Mizes gave him the book of the Ramchal [3] “Layesharim Tehilla” (“Praise to the Upright”), since this book was a gift similar to the composition that he wrote in honor of the marriage of his friend. Mizes inscribed the following words at the front of the book: “To my dear friend, wise and whole, Reb Avraham Yaakov Weisenfeld, may his light shine. Regarding whom G-d did not grant me the proper endowments, and the poetic talents were not with me to prepare for you the tasty morsels that I love; and as my soul approaches the day of your wedding and joy of your heart, I said that I would give you this dear poem as an eternal souvenir, and this honorable poet will be for me like the song of my mouth, for honor and praise is fitting for you. Things should go well for you al the days of your existence. To your soul like my soul, the soul of your friend who holds you in esteem, Yitzchak HaKohen Mizes, Krakow, Saturday night, the first day of the month of Bul [4] 5660.

Reb Nachman Keller of Tarnow gave him as a gift “The Guide for the Perplexed of the Time” by Ranak [5]. In the cover of his book, he wrote a special poem that he wrote in Weisenfeld's honor for his wedding day. We will bring down here a few stanzas.

A.

You, my friend, are not of the “Perplexed of the Time”
For I brought you this “Guide” on this occasion;
In this foggy land your eyes were opened,
To see clear light and know good reasoning.

B.

Indeed, among many perplexed blind people you are intelligent
You go in a straight path between the lame who limp;
With a glance below, foolishness and lies fly
Then the intelligent person is silent – for nobody is listening!
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
-- -- -- and now my friend who battles forever
With a strong arm against those who disparage wisdom
To build for you a house, you have now come:
To cleave to your wife and to marry her in faithfulness;

*

Look upon this “Guide” and gird yourself with strength!
This man Krochmal saw toil and anger,
And his spirit did not wear out, the night brightened for him
He worked on many things – and now, you go do so with your strength!

Do and you will succeed, for G-d helps you
And He will bless the fine man on the day of his wedding:
Your wife should be like a fruitful vine in your home
And the angels of G-d shall answer: “Thus shall the man be blessed!”


After his wedding celebration, Weisenfeld set up his home in Zgierz, and lived a life of peace and honor with his wife. His mother-in-law, who was an elderly widow, gave over her business to him, a medicine shop, as well as all the income from her stone house, which provided a large income. In establishing his residence in Zgierz, which was still a small city, where the spirit of enlightenment had not yet shone its light, he pined for Krakow and its people, its scholars and rabbis who were near to him in spirit and ideas. Therefore, he provided joy to his soul by exchanging correspondence with his far off friends, until he became accustomed to the place and found friendship and camaraderie also in Zgierz, with a group of people of Torah and thoughts, who would be faithful with him. Even the Orthodox Hassidim made peace with him, and valued him as a scholar and a Maskil, who was faithful to both his G-d and wisdom.

The rabbi of Zgierz of that time, the Gaon Reb Shalom Tzvi HaKohen of holy blessed memory, the student of Reb Bunem of Przysucha, who headed a large Yeshiva that educated great rabbis, became a friend and a brother to Weisenfeld. Their friendship lasted for seventeen years until his death, as can be seen from his letters, and from the eulogy he wrote about him in “Hatzofeh Lehamagid” (volume 2 from the year 21).

During his travels to Germany, Weisenfeld met with the wise men of the west, including Frankel and Graetz [6]. During his discussions with Graetz, he pointed out some of his errors in relation to various Jewish scholars. Graetz thanked him and promised to fix the errors.

Weisenfeld earned the friendship and camaraderie with many scholars and writers such as Zwiefel, Reifman, Fein, Frischman, Sokolow, Yisrael Yaffa and others. The writers of articles wrote the following about him: “Reb A. Y. Weisenfeld is like a man who took up his box and went out to the field, found barley and put it in, found wheat and put it in, as well as lentils and beans, and when he came home he sorted out each species. Weisenfeld went out to the field of our literature, to all of its domains and realms, found a word of Torah and set his eye upon it, found a word of secular wisdom and set his heart upon it, as with Midrash and research. When someone would visit him in his home, he would separate each genre, and discuss matters of Torah with a Torah oriented person, matters of wisdom with a Maskil, and matters of research with a researcher. His mind was fine and broad, and his manner of speech was pleasant and refined. His spirit was the spirit of wisdom, etc.”

In Nachum Sokolow's eulogy for Weisenfeld (“Hatzefira”, issue 272, from the year 1897) he said: “There are wise people who prefer that people not know them face to face, but rather should read and study their books. On the other hand, there are certain exceptional individuals who prefer that everyone knows them only face to face. One such exceptional individual was Weisenfeld. Those who knew him saw him as the symbol of a progressive Maskil, a treasury of knowledge and information, a living monument from the era of splendor and glory of the Haskala of Galicia, a monument forged from the honorable chair of the Ranak [5], the Gshir [7] and other like people. Those who knew him not only honored him with glorious honor but also loved him with a high degree of love, not only for his expertise, knowledge and thinking, but also for his sublime character, beauty of soul, and purity of spirit that warmed the hearts of those near to him. He was enthusiastic about and loved the Torah, literature, and the Hebrew language – with clear fervor, faith, enthusiasm, and emotion, – – – one of the remnants of the old generation of the wise men of Galicia, one of the “early ones”, of the generation of those that raised the flag of the Hebrew Haskala in Galicia.”

Weisenfeld lived in Zgierz for 33 years, until he was forced to leave. He then returned to his birthplace of Krakow. This exile that was decreed upon him pained him greatly, and he was sad to leave his many friends who “cleaved to him and hung on to him like a flame to a coal”, even though many of them set out on the journey to meet him and see him again. Even the fine and important people of Krakow, both Torah oriented and Maskilim, old and young, came to his door daily.

On the 11th of Kislev 5658 (1897) in the 69th year of his live, he was requisitioned by the celestial court. The following words are engraved upon his tombstone.

A sublime man rests in this grave
A great scholar, of mighty spirit
With great humility, fear of Heaven, and all knowledge
He went in the path of faith all of his days
Torah was his desire from his youth
Day and night he talked about it, and it was all his striving
Evening and morning scholars were among his household
Their faces became gloomy on the day of his death
The scholars ceased, the choirs stopped!


{383}

Reb Tovia Lifshitz of blessed memory

by W. P.

Translated by Doubi Swarc and Emanuel Frankel

Edited by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 383: uncaptioned. Tovia Lifshitz.}

One of the great luminaries of the city of Zgierz was Reb Tovia Lifshitz of blessed memory. He was born in 1843 in Siadi, of the Kovno region of Lithuania. He studied in the Telshe Yeshiva and excelled with his sharp mind. He was also a student of the Sirvintdai Rabbi, Rabbi Tzvi Szpiro, who was nicknamed “Hershel the Crazy” [8] due to the fact that he was always involved with mathematics and astronomy. This Hershel later became known as Professor Herman Szpiro of the University of Heidelberg, on of the founders and the directors of the Jewish National Fund.

Reb Tovia Lifshitz arrived in Zgierz around 1868. The poet Yaakov Cohen mentions in his memoirs (“Netiv Chayay” – “Paths of my Life” – in the “Haboker” newspaper) that in his youth, he became close with Reb Tovia Lifshitz, who displayed love toward him and brought him very near.

According to the memoirs of the poet, Reb Tovia Lifshitz was known as the head of the Maskilim of Zgierz after the departure of Mr. Weisenfeld in the year 5653 (1893). Aside from his expertise in the sources of Hebrew culture, he brought with him also a knowledge of German. He was conversant with the German classicists and philosophers. He conducted deep research into the Yiddish literature, both secular and religious, and the sources of the Semitic languages. He participated in “Hamelitz” of Zederbaum [9] as well as in “Hatzefira”. He wrote various articles in those periodicals. Along with this, he corresponded with various important personalities and writers such as Y. L. Gordon, Peretz Smolenski, Harkavi, Dr. Feilchenfeld of Posen (Poznan), Professor Hildesheimer [10], Mordechai the son of Hillel HaKohen, Zalman Lebuntin and many others. He also participated in the Odessa committee of “Chovevei Zion”, and was the first chairman of the Zionist union in Zgierz.

Reb Tovia Lifshitz was a deep thinker and knew how to present his words in a clear form, sometimes sharp and even a bit sarcastic. For example, in his book “Nitfei Tal” [11] in his commentary on the Torah portion of “Shmot”, when the leaders of people in Egypt come to Moses with the complaint “Why did you do evil unto this nation?” [12], Reb Tovia Lifshitz comments: “We hear this complaint even today from the opponents of Zionism. They fear that the political situation will worsen for the nation, and attempt to put an end to its motion. Thus is the manner of those small in faith and mind during all eras. Oh let it be that the end of their complaints during our day will be like the end of their complaints of that era.” (Nitfei Tal page 18).

And in another place, he states: “If the people who come up from Egypt will see..” [13] – how difficult is it for those born into slavery to be freemen, – – –“ (ibid, page 32).

In the memoirs of the poet Yaakov Cohen, Reb Tovia Lifshitz is presented as a man of average stature, with very handsome grayish eyes, filled with intelligence and the joy of life. He was a broker by occupation. Of the sixteen children that his wife bore him, five sons survived. Of them the poet knew Yitzchak who was the friend of my older sister, and Shimon and Leon, who were students of Katznelson.

Yaakov Cohen relates: “About one month after the Zionist Congress, the Maskilim of the city and the notables were invited to the home of Reb Tovia Lifshitz. The host lectured to them about the Zionist idea and about the duty of the nation to organize in order to give the needed to support to those who speak on behalf of the movement, and to collect the needed means. They decided to found an organization called “Bnei Zion”. “I myself proposed the name”, writes Yaakov Cohen. The host volunteered to give over the room in which the meeting was held for a certain period as a meeting place for the members of the organization. Thus a faithful core group was founded that used to gather in particular on Sabbath afternoons to read newspapers and Zionist literature, and to hear the discussions of the owner of the house about issues of the movement and his commentaries on the weekly Torah portion, which were also for the most part bound up with ideas relating to the nation, its qualities, and its roots.

In his book “Nitfei Tal” (page 136), the speech that he presented at the founding of this organization is brought down. We will bring down few sections that are worthy of being remembered.

In his logical commentaries on the Midrash in the Torah portion of Vayeitzei [14] regarding Jacob's dream, where in accordance with the Midrash, when G-d showed Jacob the ladder, he was showing him the history of the Jewish people and its spiritual power that would hold it throughout the generations – after an explanation that encompasses the entire Midrash, Reb T. L. states: “My masters, every prophesy that is written was written for the generations, in accordance with the words of our sages of blessed memory. Let us examine the status of Israel during the past thirty years, from when Alexander II opened up the door of freedom before us, how fragmented the Jewish people have become; The Maskilim among us went forward “to the place from where they will not return”, for they assimilated, forgot the Rock that forged them, and have become dry bones without the moisture of Judaism, neither religious nor national; on the other hand, the observant and Orthodox people have sequestered themselves into the four ells of the Beis Midrashes, and have become like the Egyptian mummies who would melt into dust if a wind were to blow upon them. Even the Orthodox, the last people who guard the walls of religion and the people, have become fragmented into small groups, dispersed and dry; the Western Jews – can be considered as those who dwell in the grave, for they have tasted completely from marriage [15], and have erased any memory and sign even from their prayer books: can we not way as Ezekiel: “Our hope has disappeared – for it has been decreed upon us” [16], four our bones have become dry and they cannot be revived?

However, please see one of the wonders of our chronicles, the wonders of G-d “who stands with us”, for thunders came and stripped the crookedness from our hearts. Thunders came to damage the remnants of the house of Israel. However, instead of causing all of the leaves to fall that have become worn out from the tree of Judah, we have seen the opposite, that the worn out leaves have awakened to a new life.”

Reb T. L. waxed long in his words, as he analyzes the vision of the prophet with reference to the current times and its course, with emotional words that awaken the national spirit amidst the Jewish youth, who had just previously been lackadaisical and narrow minded. “However the storm winds come, a general wind from the four directions of the heavens, which blow upon the four corners of the earth, and awaken all of those that slumber in the earth. All of them stood up upon their feet, not a scattered flock but rather “a very great crowd” from all factions and groups, from all nations and lands. In all of them one spirit is blown, the spirit of Zionism, “And I brought you into your land”, “when I open your graves, oh my nation.”

Reb T. L. concludes: “With Zionism, we return to the nationhood of Israel, but it is incumbent upon us also to return to the Torah of Israel and its spirit, as stated by the words of the prophet “And I will place my spirit upon you and you will live, and I will place you upon your Land, so that you will know that I am G-d, who speaks and carries through.”

Indeed these fiery words of prophesy delivered more than 65 years ago (“The Bnei Zion group” was founded in the year 5657 / 1897) by Reb Tovia Lifshitz in Zgierz, can be seen today as the words of the living G-d.

Tovia Lifshitz' book includes two compositions: a) commentaries and notes upon the Bible; b) “Nitfei Tal” (T. L. being an acronym for his name), which includes articles, speeches and articles of correspondence which were written by chance, or which were written to mark important events in the Jewish world. The book was published by Krinski in Warsaw (5664 – 1914).

Lifshitz was one of the most important and honorable men in our town, one of the notables of the city. His influence in cultural and Zionist life in our city was without bound. For a certain time, he also served as the treasurer of the first “Gemilat Chasadim” organization. He donated his rich library to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Reb Tovia Lifshitz died in the year 5676 (1916) at the age of 73, during the time of the First World War. Almost the entire city participated in the funeral. The mayor and wise men of the city eulogized him as a great Jew in his generation, who was faithful to his people.

There is a long epitaph on his gravestone, praising his deeds and activities. It was written in verse by Reb Moshel Eiger with the participation of Isucher Szwarc, and concludes with the old classic statement: “He loved Plato and Aristotle, and truth above all”.

May his memory be a blessing, and may his name flourish among the great people of our city.

One of his sons, Arieh (Leon ) Lifshitz, was a scholarly and learned man. From him, we obtained the details and main biographical details regarding his father of blessed memory. He was active in the fields of culture and education in Zgierz and later in Lodz. His name is remembered as a well-known pedagogue. He is also known as being the founder and director of the first school for the deaf and the mute in Lodz. Here in the Land of Israel, he was active as a volunteer for the teaching of Hebrew to new immigrants in development towns. For a time during the 1950s, he was on the board of the “Organization of Zgierz Émigrés in Israel”, and he donated his portion to the Book of Zgierz by writing an essay on his memories that is published in this book. Earlier he also lived in Gan Shlomo” next to Petach Tikva, and later in Upper Nazareth, where he died.

May his soul be bound in the bond of eternal life.


{387}

Reb Tovia Lifschitz

by Aryeh Lifschitz

Translated by Doubi Swarc and Emanuel Frankel

Edited by Jerrold Landau

Reb Tovia Lifshitz was born in Siadi, Lithuania in the year 1849. He remained in Zgierz for 70 years. He died in 1916 during the time of the German rule. He studied in the Telshe Yeshiva, and excelled with his sharp, analytical mind. He became a student of the rabbi of Sirvintdai, Reb Hershel Szpiro. (They called him the crazy Hershel because he delved into mathematics and astronomy. Later he became the renowned Professor Szpiro of Heidelberg, the creator of the Jewish National Fund).

Lifshitz was heartily involved in studying the Hebrew literature and language. He also explored the Yiddish, world, and religious literature of various hues, and became fluent in the German language, in which he studied the appropriate literature of Judaism and Semitic languages.

The researcher collaborated in and published articles in Zederbaum's “Hamelitz” , and in “Hatzefira” which was edited by Chaim Zelig Slonimski and Nachum Sokolow. He carried on a wide ranging correspondence with great Jewish personalities, such as Yitzchak Leib Gordon, Smolenski, Zederbaum, Harkavi, Dr. Feilchenfeld from Posen (compiler of works on Jewish memorials), Professor Hildesheimer, Mordechai the son of Hillel HaKohen, Zalman Levontin, (the first director of the Palestine Bank).

Lifshitz took part in the Odessa Committee of Chovevei Zion and was the first chairman of the Zionist union in Zgierz.

Reb Tovia Lifshitz left in his well his immense, variegated library, which for the most part consisted of works on Judaism and the wisdom of Israel, to the national library of Jerusalem. It was transferred there shortly after the First World War.


{388}

The Writer and Poet David Frischman of blessed memory

by Y. A. M.

Translated by Doubi Swarc and Emanuel Frankel

Edited by Jerrold Landau

Of the Educators and teachers of the generation

{Photo page 388: Uncaptioned. David Frischman.}

Deep in the Heart
Is the land of “Ophir” [17]
Treasures of gold are found therein
There, there are diamonds and emeralds
Memories from the time of youth.
(From the poem “Ophir”.)
Zgierz did not only produce rabbis and great scholars. It was also the birthplace and place of nurturing of scholars and writers, men of renown, who laid the foundations of modern Hebrew literature and thought. Among these writers was David Frischman.

Frischman was born in Zgierz on the 5th of Tevet 5620 (December 31, 1859). His father Reb Shaul, who was a merchant and a scholar, was known as “a person with both a strong and sharp intellect”. Frischman's mother as well, Freda Beila, was, as is described, an intelligent women with a poetic soul. Some of his relatives on his mother's side were renowned artists and sculptors, such as Henryk Glickensztejn, and Shmuel Hirshenberg (a national artist, and also a teacher in “Betzalel” in Jerusalem [18]). David's parents left Zgierz when he was still a child, and moved to nearby Lodz, which had a broader vista both for business and Haskala. Later, David was sent to Zgierz to study Torah, Talmud, and Jewish law from the Judge Reb Moshe Bennet of blessed memory. There he befriended Isucher Szwarc, for study and self-completion.

During his childhood, he was meticulous in the observance of commandments, and he absorbed his Torah from the cheder, the melamed, and also the Beis Midrash of Zgierz. His governess taught him European languages, and also customs and mannerisms that were accepted in the progressive circles. He was very diligent with his books. His power of memory was great, and he also had a good and quick grasp. He was quiet and silent by nature, closed and inwardly focussed; he was always thinking, envisioning, and dreaming. During his early youth, he worked greatly on the meanings and concentration in prayer, in order to bring near the end and bring nigh the redemption. Stories of wonders captivated his heart, as well as stories of morality and Kaballah. These sowed scattered seeds in his fertile mind, and filled his creativity with prose and song.

He wrote poems, stories and articles already during his youth. Aside from writing in Hebrew, he also wrote in German, and he translated from language to language. During his early youth, he translated the first section of “Et Tzavua” (“Colored Pen”) of Mapu into German, and also “The Count of Monte Cristo” of Dumas into Hebrew. His first book that became known was “Hamoreh Tzedek” (“The Righteous Teacher”), which was printed in Hashachar in the year 5638 (1878). Frischman said that it was in honor of his Bar Mitzvah. However, his era of creativity primarily began with the publishing of the story “On Yom Kippur” (printed in “Haboker Or” in the year 5641 – 1881) after he published a small satire “On a Rooster and a Hen” [19].

In the year 5673 (1913) the Hebrew writers celebrated his literary Jubilee (Thirty years), and in honor of the festival, they published the entire writings of David Frischman, and a selection of his translations in 16 volumes (published by “Tushia”, Warsaw, 5674). Four volumes of the selected writings of Frischman were already published in the years 5659 – 5672 (1899 – 1912). Later, “New Writings” of Frischman were published (published by “Sifro”, Warsaw, 5671-5672 1911-1912) in five volumes.

During the period of his youth, Frischman was attracted to the style of writing of the Maskilim of his era. On the manuscript of the translation of the book “Monte Cristo”, “Nakam Veshilem” (“Revenge and Recompense”), Frischman writes: “This fine composition was written by the exalted French writer, Alexandre Dumas in his native tongue, and received acclaim, and now has been translated in to the Hebrew language by myself, the young man David Frischman, who basks in the shadow of his forefathers here in Lodz (volume I), the year 5634 (1874) (that is to say, when he was fourteen years old).

He adds a dedication to his parents on the second page of the manuscript.

“A note of gratitude. In honor of my father, the prince, the intelligent, the dear one, honored and noble, a man of faith, with a dear spirit, pure of heart, sublime and splendid, my Father Shaul Frischman, may his light shine. And in honor of my modest and upright mother, the intelligent dear, honorable princess, may she be blessed over all women in the tents, and she excels over them all, Freda Beila may she be live. From their son the translator.” [20]

The era of Frischman's study in Zgierz under the judge Reb Moshe Bennet, left a deep imprint upon his soul, as can be seen. Its signs are evident in his many creations of prose and poetry. He always saw before him the elderly rabbi, and his leadership that decided the life of the community. He delved deeply into the souls and spiritual essence of the elders of Torah in a language filled with signs and symbols, that included both reverence and satire together. The following segment of his poetry is an example that demonstrates the resonance in Frischman's soul regarding his memories of Zgierz:

… And furthermore, I will recall for a second time:
Our rabbis taught!
Myriads of torches of sun, a pillar of grains of gold,
 Engraved pillars of light from the wonders of a wondrous world,
Come down through he window and shine upon the Gemara,
And also shine upon my cheeks; on the pages of the half diagonal
And I in the second half – and I am then a young lad,
Sitting before the table of G-d with my page of Gemara.
And from within a bright cloud that sometimes goes and then descends,
It sometimes dips down and disappears, sometimes dips down and appears,
An oval shaped head, flooded in a cloud of curls,
A twisting of gold sparkles – has the Divine Presence descended upon me?

*

It is possible to learn something regarding the connection of Frischman during his youth with Isucher Szwarc from the letter of Isucher Szwarc to the writer Mr. Getzel Karsel on the eve of Passover, 5685 (1925), in which he passes along a letter of Frischman to him, along with a copy of several of his poems that he wrote at the age of twelve.
“In order to remember!
Men who were very evil – they devoured me, they frightened me,
Wounded me, persecuted me – at the time they were jealous of me,
Or did worse than this, for they also loved me,
In their hearts there was only evil, at the time that goodness was expressed;
And what did I do them do to them that they have surrounded me so?
For they loved me so, they hated me so?
For they have frightened me so and surrounded me so with their entire mouth?
For they shut their ears to me, or did they hear?
Are you yourself one of them perhaps? –
My brother! I do not demand that you love my soul
Not friendship nor brotherliness do I request at this time
But only not to do evil to me and not to hate me
Do not create waters of the seas in a place of dry land
In order make me fall, in order to drown me…
“In the multitude of days and in every place where you are, remember these words that come from the depths of my heart, and may these words serve as a testimony for me that I did not ask anything that was not part of the circles of simple life, and remember that these ideas did not come from an abundance of good upon me. Your faithful friend.

D. Frischman”

From this outpouring of Frischman's soul , it is possible to figure out the status of his spirit, and the suspicion that was planted in his heart with regard to his circle of friends, whom he regarded as if they speak one thing with the mouth and another with the heart, without doubt from personal experience. He was seeking complete faithfulness and dedication, honest love.

Szwarc continues in his aforementioned letter, and write among other things: “I send you with this 'The Song of the Wine' that was written by the late man in the year 5631 or 2 (1872), when he was still very young, approximately twelve years old (Frischman was born in Zgierz in the year 5620 – 1860), unlike that which was published in his annals of 5625 (1865). His birth certificate (1860) can be found here in the home of the officials)”.

Isucher Szwarc writes the following regarding the family of Frischman:

“I remember from my youth his grandfather Reb Avigdor Frischman, an honorable man in our city, a merchant and a man of Torah. He had a large library with books of religion and research. He took great delight in this grandchild of his, who was a genius in the full sense of the word. He studied diligently the Talmud and its commentaries. He learned Hebrew in Lodz from the Hebrew teacher, the Maskil Tzvi Goldstejn of Piotrkow, who also was involved in the writing of poetry, and translated “Lehakat Hashodedim” (“The Band of Thieves”) into Hebrew. His parents moved to Lodz prior to his Bar Mitzvah, and sent David to the city of Zgierz to study from the local judge, Reb Moshe Bennet of blessed memory. Already then, he would read with me the books of Schiller and Goethe.

He wrote me many letters from Breslau (Wroclaw), but they are sitting in some corner, and I cannot find them now.

With greetings of peace, Isucher Szwarc.”

In the year 5680 (1920), the year of the war between Poland and Soviet Russia, Frischman left Warsaw and went to Berlin. In the middle of the year 5682 (1922) his gallstone and liver illness worsened. He was operated on in the month of Av that year due to a difficult illness. He died in Berlin on the 10th of Av and was brought to burial there.

Frischman was a complete world of Hebrew literature and its creations. Generations enjoyed his creations with a spiritual, esthetic enjoyment. They served as material for many books and researchers, to read and dissect.

In Zgierz, where he was greatly revered, they decided to honor his memory on the anniversary of his death with a reading in his name in the Jewish public library. That library was called “The David Frischman Jewish Library of Zgierz” until its final day.

His good memory will remain within his nation forever.

A rich and wide ranging bibliography on David Frischman and his creations can be found in the Lexicon of Hebrew Literature by Getzel Karsel and in the Lexicon of Jewish Literature by Zalman Reisin.


TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

  1. A reference to a Talmudic story describing four rabbis who 'peered' into the 'orchard' (a Talmudic euphemism for mystical realms). Rabbi Akiva came out whole, Rabbi Elisha ben Avuya was damaged (i.e. became a heretic), Ben Zoma went mad, and Ben Azzai died. The reference here was to the one who became a heretic. Back
  2. Literally 'milchemet mitzvah', a 'commanded war', referring to the situation in Jewish law where a war is mandated. Back
  3. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, a well-known 18th century Jewish philosopher. Back
  4. Bul is a biblical name for the month of Cheshvan. Back
  5. Rabbi Nachman Krochmal, a 19th century writer and philosopher. Back
  6. Graetz is one of the greatest Jewish historians. Back
  7. I am not who this acronym stands for. Back
  8. Hersh or Hershel is the Yiddish version of the Hebrew name Tzvi. Back
  9. For a short on-line biography on Alexander Ossipovitch Zederbaum, see http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=76&letter=Z . Back
  10. Rabbi Ezriel Hildesheimer was the founder of a rabbinical seminary in Berlin that taught traditional Torah in a traditional Orthodox style, along with secular studies. Back
  11. Literally, “The Drippings of Dew” – however “Tal” – dew, is also the acronym for Tovia Lifshitz, so it would mean “The Drippings of Tovia Lifshitz”. Back
  12. Shmot is the first Torah portion of the book of Exodus. After Moses and Aaron first attempt to speak to Pharaoh, the slavery is worsened in that the Jews were no longer given straw to bake bricks, yet their quota of labor remained the same. The leaders then ask Moses and Aaron “Why did you do evil unto this nation?” Back
  13. From the book of Numbers, where the 40 wandering is declared upon the Jewish people. G-d states, that it won't happen that “one man of those who went up from Egypt will see the Land”. Back
  14. Vayeitzei is a Torah portion from the middle of Genesis, opening with Jacob's dream, and dealing with Jacob's sojourn with Laban, his marriage to Laban's daughters, the birth of his children, and his disputes with Laban. Back
  15. I assume that this refers to intermarriage. Back
  16. A verse from Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones. Back
  17. Ophir is a land mentioned in the bible as the source of many of the precious stones and metals that were used for the building of Solomon's palace and temple. Its identity is unknown, and it has been surmised that it might perhaps be somewhere on the Somali or Omani coast. Back
  18. The Betzalel Academy is a very famous Jerusalem arts academy. Back
  19. There is a footnote in the text at this point, which reads as follows “He wrote many stories on the subject of the landscape of his birthplace of Zgierz, including 'Tikun Leil Shavuot' ('The Order of Shavuot Eve'), 'Kiddush Levana' ('The Sanctification of the Moon'), 'He Died', the poem 'Ophir', 'Three Who Ate', and many others.” Note: most of these story titles have references to areas of Jewish ritual. Back
  20. This dedication is replete with biblical innuendoes. Back

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