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[Page 95]

Figures in town

 

[Page 99]

In Memory

by Moshe Bar' Natan Akon

Translated by Ann Belinsky

Unfortunately I left my beloved town of Steibtz in 1897 at the age of 14. But I can still reminisce and recall those people of Steibtz, of blessed memory, whom many of the Holocaust survivors do not remember.

I always thought that the artisans were simple Jews, knowing at the most to read the Psalms between Mincha[1] and Maariv[2] and no more. I discovered I was mistaken. For example: A tailor named Mishka der Schneider, of blessed memory, lived in Yordzika Street. They called him Mishka der Rav. He studied laws of the Shulchan Arukh[3] every day before the minyan[4] of people in the Great Synagogue and explained them in good taste. I loved being with him and hearing his explanations of religion and law. Who from the people of Steibtz does not remember R' Yedidia der Shuster[5] of blessed memory, who they would always call by the name Rabbi Yochanan Sandlar behind his back? He studied Gemara[6] and Mishnayot[7] together with two more people, one of them my father R' Natan of blessed memory, and the other R' Yitzak Shmuel Epshtein of blessed memory, and, as the Rabbi the Gaon R' Shlomo Mordechai Brodny of blessed memory told me, they excelled in their studies.

Next to my parents' house there was the shop of another great scholar, a performer of good deeds, who lived in modesty, R' Moshe Melamed. Even in his shop he spent day and night “on Torah study and on service to God”. At the head of the first row in the synagogue sat R' Yisrael-Issar Eizenberg of blessed memory, and together with his sons Yosef and Chaim, we studied Masechet Nezikin[8] and although he was a great scholar he did not make a livelihood from the Torah, but dealt in selling beer. Every morning after prayers he studied the Talmud[9] until 11a.m. We studied with the Dayan[10] of Steibtz, Rabbi R' Yehoshua Midivitzky of blessed memory who moved to Baranovich, and at the age of seventy made aliyah[11] to Jerusalem where he died in 5695 (1934). Amongst us there was one pupil called Haim Tzornogovovisky who, at the age of fifteen, was already proficient in Nezikin. And I also remember well Mr. Zalman Rubashov, the President of the State of Israel, of whom all the people of Israel are proud.

Last but not least, I mourn bitterly the death of my dear friend Alter Yossilevicz, whom I knew well and who was a dear teacher who devoted himself to encourage Zionism and instilled Torah learning in young children in Steibtz.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Mincha is the afternoon prayer service. Return
  2. Maariv is a Jewish prayer service held in the evening or night. Return
  3. Shulchan Arukh: [The prepared table] – authoritative code of Jewish Laws, written by Yosef Karo (1488-1575). Return
  4. minyan is the quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations. Return
  5. der Shuster The Shoemaker. Return
  6. Gemara is a commentary on the Mishna (compilation of Oral Laws). Return
  7. Mishnayot is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the “Oral Torah”. Return
  8. Masechet Nezikin: Tractate on Damages (Torts). Return
  9. Talmud is the administrative body of Jewish tradition comprising the Mishnah and Gemara. Return
  10. Dayan: Religious judge. Return
  11. aliyah is the immigration of Jews to Israel. Return

 


[Page 100]

Nachum R' Elihas

by Getzel Reiser

Translated by Ann Belinsky

R' Nachum Elihas had an extraordinary personality. “Even a child is known by his deeds”[1] – and when he was of Bar Mitzvah age he already exhibited exceptional wisdom. Over time he become strange to many, a type of hermit and parush (one who leaves his home to study Torah), distancing himself completely from all the “mundane delights”.

R' Nachum'kah became elevated in this personality, and the people of Steibtz knew that he was great in Torah and in his piety, but his ways were hidden.

His life and activity were like a puzzle: he would seclude himself on certain dates, did not trust even of the slaughtering of R'Eliyahu the ritual slaughterer and would himself slaughter a chicken for Shabbat.

His relationship with the community was limited and his meeting with them was only whilst walking to the mikveh (ritual bath) to purify himself for Shabbat.

He slept little, and would study Torah for many hours at night.

He was a quiet person in his nature but in his few discussions with the great Torah scholars in our town, his tremendous knowledge was realized and there was always satisfaction in his administration of justice.

He was a pleasant person and admired by all the townspeople.

In an hour of sorrow or anxiety and on difficult days, many from the town would turn to him to receive advice and a blessing.

Especially at the beginning of the First World War, there was much panic among the townspeople. Many began to seek his statements, as they saw in him a God-fearing personage, great in Torah and during the riots they found much encouragement in his words. Many of those enlisting received his blessing.

R' Nachum lived in solitude and poverty. He owned a spare lot in the neighborhood of the Yursidkim and he donated it to the needs of the Talmud Torah.

One of the townspeople says that after the First World War they found him studying Torah in one of the synagogues in Minsk, since then nothing is known of his fate or the story of his life.

May his memory be blessed!

Translator's Footnote

  1. Proverbs, 20.11. Return

 

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