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[Page 183]

The Ravad Family

by Yisrael–Yaakov ben Yerahmiel Ravad of blessed memory

Translated by Martin Jacobs

Speaking of the beginnings, the history, of one family, from its known antiquity in Telsiai these many generations – the Ravad (Raivid) family, a large and multi–branched family: About thirty years ago a woman from America came to see us in Israel, introducing herself as being from a family related to the Ravads. She brought with her an interesting story, in writing, which sounded mythical. It had been recorded in Yiddish by Rabbi Jacob–Joseph Simonoff, who was unknown to us. The story was about the family of the late Velvl Ravad of Telsiai. Velvl Ravad had heard it from his mother and his grandfather, Abraham, who related it accurately and in minutest detail, identifying which names he could not remember. The story revolved around a strange and curious event which happened over two hundred years ago, but it is worthwhile affirming that those recounting it were very serious and trustworthy people, thus leaving no doubt as to the authenticity of the story. Now that the book about Telsiai is about to be brought out, a proper invitation has been extended to publish the account in abridged form, and to add the color of a very interesting occurrence within the city of Telsiai.

 

Yisrael–Yaakov Ravad of blessed memory

 

There were in Telsiai two Ravad brothers, young yeshiva students, respected, learned, and of good family. Only the name of the older brother is recorded, Eliezer. When one of the brothers died the entire city was left in great mourning, since he was loved by all and was young in years. Everyone accompanied his funeral procession and rabbis eulogized him. When the mourning brother returned from the funeral home, broken and crushed, he asked his wife to prepare his bier and to inform the rabbi and friends and relatives that he too was going to his eternal rest and they should come to take leave of him. He asked his wife to solemnly promise not to remarry but devote herself to bringing up their little one–year old daughter, Sheynele. His wife, who thought that this was all the result of depression and great grief, attempted to calm him; if he would rest and get some sleep the agitation would pass. To put his mind at rest she gave her solemn promise not to remarry. However he would not be calmed and would not change his mind, but, with much weeping, started his death–bed confession. Perhaps as an indication of how disturbed everyone was, the doctor was called. He, like all the friends who gathered there, tried to calm him and was of the opinion that this all came from agitation and grief, from an excess of suffering resulting from the tragedy. Every one tried by all possible means to calm him down. They said that after some rest his strength would return, but nothing was of any use whatever. Weeping, he began to say his farewells to everyone, with total confidence that he would die the next day, though he was just twenty–two years old. Only when they pressed him to tell

[Page 184]

how such an idea came to him and what basis he had for this belief did he reveal that when he returned from the funeral he went into an abandoned house to take care of his needs and there he heard a voice from Heaven announcing, “Today you went to your brother's funeral; tomorrow they will hold yours.”

And indeed so it came to pass. The next day at exactly the same time he departed this world. It is unnecessary to describe how great was the grief and how deep the pain of the family's tragedy and the impression it made on the whole city of Telsiai.

But “time heals all wounds”, and is it not decreed that the dead be forgotten? The widow was young, beautiful, of very good family, wealthy, settled in her own fine house. Now it just happened that in the neighboring city of Skuodas the rabbi's wife had died. The rabbi, a young scholar now a widower without children, was a man of perfect virtue. The parties came to an agreement, since in all respects the match was a most suitable one, and when they were introduced to each other they liked each other. The marriage stipulations were drawn up and a date was set for the wedding.

The wedding day was approaching and the preparations were proceeding when suddenly the bride fell ill. Day by day the illness grew worse. Specialists were called in, but they could not cure her. She stopped eating and taking her medications, and she even stopped speaking. The physicians concluded that the end was near, so that it was almost time to light candles; they were only waiting for the passing of her soul. Then suddenly she half awoke and in a whisper which could hardly be heard she asked for some water. With great effort she asked that a messenger be immediately sent to Skuodas to ask the rabbi's forgiveness and his agreement to cancel the marriage stipulations, as the marriage was not possible. Naturally what she requested was granted immediately. Because of her great weakness he did not even dare to burden her with questions. From that moment on her condition began to improve. She felt better and in a short time she had recovered completely and regained her strength. She then revealed that her late husband had appeared before her, while she was awake and not in a dream, as if alive, and asked her clearly about her illness and her preparations for her wedding. She grasped the significance of the question and answered, “Is it a sin for me to get married when I am young and have no male heir to say kaddish for me when I am gone?” He then asked her, “Have you forgotten the solemn promise you made to me not to remarry?” She answered that she had not remembered it, since she had not taken it seriously, as she thought that he would surely recover and not die, and it was only out of a desire to calm him that she made the promise. With weeping and entreaties she asked him to forgive her, but he would not be moved. He could not forgive her and in any event she could not get married. Only when she made the decision not to marry would she get better, and her daughter Sheynele would bring her much pleasure and many descendants, a large, extensive family which would attain long life and health. Her grandsons would provide her with a legacy of great honor. Out of faithfulness to the promise she had sworn with her total will she agreed to cancel the wedding and not remarry. And so it was: Sheynele grew up, married, and raised five learned and erudite sons, respected, wealthy, and long–lived; for generations in every branch of the family no one died young.

The conclusion of the story is that his mother was Sheyne–Leye, named after the Sheynele mentioned in the story.

And so in later generations the Ravad family constituted an extensive multi–branched family. The grandfather of my late father and master, who was Dov Ber ben Yaakov, father–in–law of the rabbi of Kelm, had six sons, Velvl Ravad of Telsiai; my sainted grandfather Zusman Klein in Skuodas; Abraham Rabinovitz; Moshe; Leib; and Chaim Ravad in Telsiai. The others were scattered in various towns, and some changed their name because of conscription into the Russian army. Similarly the “Raivid” families were scattered to many countries, as was the fate of a large part of the Jews native to Lithuania at the time. We know that they migrated within Russia, to Africa, and to America. My father and master, the late Rabbi Yerahmiel ben Zusman, diligent all his life in the study of Torah, a detail of his life[1], after his marriage taught for several years in a Kollel of the yeshivas of the time in the city of Slonim, and had the unique privilege of spending his Sabbaths at the table of the eminent sage of Israel, Izil Harif, known as Izil Slonimer, and thus to serve as Torah reader in his congregation. He died on the eve of Shavuoth 5692 [1932] and was laid to rest in the cemetery in Telsiai.


Translator's footnote

  1. Apparently a note from the author to himself to include some more detail from his life. The detail was not provided, but the editor never removed the note. Return

 

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