by Yekhiel MagidRosenberg
Translated by Tina Lunson
There came a wild water and it extinguished the illustrious Torahfilled town Ostrovtse, which had been called by the name of the teacher, rabbi and genius Rebi Mayer Yekhiel Haleyvi may his holy memory be for a blessing. Ostrovtse was full of geniuses of Torah, teachers, instructors and judges, and even plain Jews, householders, were experts and astute in Talmud and its commentators. There came a wild water and it extinguished the town… and all at once it was all exterminated…
There were twentysome Hasidic shtiblekh [prayer rooms] where people prayed as a community three times a day, studied a page of Talmud with commentaries and the page of the day; people there were engaged in piety: every shabes they made a kidush, drank a l'khaym toast, celebrated the third meal together, and observing the end of the sabbath; observed the yortsayts of various rabbis, sang zmiros and songs of joy. The congregation of the Hasidic shtibl was like one family. One helped the other with monetary support, arranging a loan.
There were two yeshives in town. The first was the Novorodok yeshive Beys yosef with its more than 200 pupils whom the town maintained with eating days. The older boys ate in their own kitchen and slept at various families' homes. That yeshive used the new besmedresh and the two small studyhouses of Rov Yekhezkel Shener and Rov Shleyme Tsheshler. The old besmedresh was free for the town's besmedresh boys. The yeshive boys were mostly
|The Yavne library of the Mizrakhi|
from the surrounding towns, and each family was happy to maintain a boy by giving food one day a week or a shabes. Those who were not able to offer food one day, because they themselves were hungry, took in a boy to sleep, just to have the mitsve.
|The kheyder Or Torah of the Mizrakhi|
The second yeshive, Bes mayer, named after the old Ostrovtse Rebi Mayer Yekhiel Haleyvi of blessed memory, had some 150 boys who were taken care of by the town proprietors. That yeshive was called the Hasidic yeshive. There they studied Talmud and commentaries with all the commentators, such as Shkh, Tz, Ktsushakhushan, Pney Yehoshua, Shita M'kubtses, Khidushey ha'Rm, some Mharsha, Mhrm, Mhrshl, Rash. We also studied the laws of slaughter [of animals for food] and rules of purity. Directing that yeshive was the young Rebi Rov Yekhezkel, the son of the old Rebi. He granted ordination for slaughterers and rabbis.
The laborers of Ostrovtse never had enough to eat but every day before dawn they hurried to pray together in the besmedresh and often they took time to add a few chapters of psalms. The same thing happened in the evening, after freezing a whole day in the market, trying to earn a few groshen. These were men such as the wagon driver, porter, water carrier, or even the tailor, shoemaker and other craftsmen after a day of work went to the besmedresh for the afternoon and evening prayers. Afterward to sat a the tables where they studied Ayn yakov, Orekh Khayim or even the page of the day. Each one had his group and each group had its table where they studied together every evening.
When a magid [itinerant preacher] came to town to give a lecture in the old besmedresh or the big shul, everyone came to hear the sermon and everyone
scraped together their last few groshen to toss into the plate for the speaker, who stood by the door. Often the laborers did not have money to buy a piece of bread or a few rolls and milk for the children. But they told themselves, God will provide tomorrow.
Shabes morning all the studyhouses, and the big shul were stuffed with laborers and craftsmen who had thrown off the weekdayness and were now free to pray were reciting psalms with enthusiasm. Beyond the study houses and the big shul the Hasidic prayer rooms were overflowing.
Poor children studied in the big TalmudTorah for free. Yellow Osher from Bodzekhov was a teacher there. The children there also learned to read and write Yiddish and Polish, and arithmetic. The TalmudTorah was in the middle of town, by the market, in the Vakhnes besmedresh, so that it would be close to the poor Jewish children. The headmaster of the TalmudTorah was R' Meshele Orenshteyn (R' Meyshe Henekh's) and the assistant headmaster was R' Yisroel Guterman) Marme Beylis). The teachers were misters Elieyzer, Shimeon Mordkhay, Leybl the yellow, Khayim Binyumin and Itshe Mayer.
The TalmudTorah began by teaching the alphabet with the elementary teachers and went up to Talmud with commentaries. When one graduated from the TalmudTorah one generally went to the yeshive Bes yosef, which consisted of a small yeshive and a larger one. Besides that, there were another dozen kheydorim in town with very good teachers who studied privately with students from families of means.
Pity the beauty that lies buried in the ground, pity those who are lost and will never be found.
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