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[Page 199]

The Profanation of Shabbat

By Yerucham Waks

Translated by M. Porat

The Kids Shabbat-bathing - The First Profanation

It happened in 1924, at the first Shabbat of Rabbi Hershhele Yayir's service as town Rabbi in Rayviets. The newly appointed Rabbi wanted to show, as usual, how well he protected his congregation from sinning.

It was a bright summer day. We, a bunch of shtetl boys, went, as always on warm Saturdays, to the Rishevo grove where we used to bathe in the “Wide Creek”, as the local shallow stream was named.

ten199.jpg - Yakov Blusteyn, Zishe Shpigl and Mordkhay (Motl) Foorer
Yakov Blusteyn, Zishe Shpigl
and Mordkhay (Motl) Foorer,
when they were Beys-Hamidrosh boys

The report about the Shabbat bathing reached the Rabbi on the next day, and provoked a big mess. It was a dark day in the Beit Hamidrash. He summoned the parents of the Shabbat bathing children (there were people who were willing to reveal the names) and admonished them for not supervising their offspring and letting them commit such a sacrilege.

The Rabbi required that the sinners apologize before the entire congregation on the Great Synagogue podium at the next Shabbat. They should promise that they would never again go to the “channel” to bathe on Holy Days.

However, as the children originated from “good and wealthy families”, their parents did not want to be embarrassed and ashamed in public. First, they claimed that their children were not among the culpable. It may be that they did not know.

After leaving the Rabbi, they agreed mutually that the victim to ask pardon on the podium would be Yankele the orphan, Reyzele Tolstak's grandson, who also participated in the forbidden bathing.

Yankele ascended the Beits Hamidrash podium at Shabbat before the Torah reading, and pronounced his remorse: “Please pardon my sin for the Shabess bathing. I will never repeat the Holy Day profanation by swimming in the Wide Creek”.

Some artisans pleaded, “Why should the entire guilt fall on the poor boy's shoulders?” They became silent when the wealthy parents promised to provide Yankele with a pair of boots with a capote for Shabbat.

At the end, the parents were glad, the Rabbi was satisfied, and Yankele was happy with his pair of new shining boots.

[Page 200]

The Second Profanation

Some years after the bathing scandal, a Christian religious mass assembly took place near the shtetl, and spitefully on a Saturday. Moreover, as a Jew might earn a bit of money at such a feast, and as it would be a pity if the earning were lost, some Rayvitsers could not restrain themselves and went there by cart.

As the news arrived, a gloom wrapped the town. The Rabbi ordered his attendant Itskhok Totl to summon the Rayviets Jews into the Synagogue, knocking on the doors with his stick and crying out “In Shool Arein”.

Hearing this urgent appeal, the shopkeepers closed the shops and the Bible teachers released the students. The shool filled with young and old Ravitsers.

The Rabbi gave a weeping speech about Shabbat profanation, from which, God forbid, little children might die.

From the upper women's section, laments broke out. Everyone present was reading psalm verses.

After the psalms were said, a committee was chosen. Its members were Yosef Zalmans, Mordkhay Perlmooter, Yankl Waks (my father), Avraham Greenberg, and some others, whose names I do not remember. The committee, headed by the Rabbi, were to judge the sinners and pass sentence.

The people that had left to earn money at the Christian feast did not know what was awaiting them. As the report of their return reached the shtetl, all Rayviets went out towards them. People stood along the way, from the bridge close to Yutshe's home, to the house of my uncle Eliyahu Bergman. Meeting those coming back from the feast, they insulted, humiliated, and cursed them strongly.

The committee decided to summon every one who had left. The first was the Woit (the congregation representative at the town municipality). When asked why he permitted his son to go to the feast, he answered that his son does not obey him, and if he criticizes his son, the son starts to beat him.

The son was called immediately. When he came in, the Rabbi slapped him twice hard on the face. “Do you beat your father?” the rabbi asked him. The rabbi fined him on the spot a large amount of money.

So the committee members sat at the small table for a couple of days. They questioned the participants on the Shabbat profit, and fined them, one after another. The Shabbat desecrators promised by handshakes not to repeat the sinful trade.

However, the remaining Poaley-Zion youngsters were not silent; they called a protest meeting “under free skies” near the Shool where the committee investigated and punished their comrades. Therefore, the entire shtetl was up in arms.

It resulted that Rayviets was quiet no longer.

[Page 201]

Elka Lederman

By Hayim Smuklerman

Translated by M. Porat

When someone recalled Elka, he would always add “R' Simcha Ledeman's granddaughter” (to differ her from other girls named Elka). Though she was not an orphan, her name nevertheless belonged to Grandfather, for good reason. Der Zeyde (Grandpa) Simcha and his Aynikl (Grandchild) Elka had much in common.

The most important trait was their great interest in literature. They would spend most of their time with books: reading, learning, and loving them. Nevertheless, there was a basic difference between the pious old scholar and his Aynikl.

Grandpa Simche found in his books strong answers to his longing and desires. He believed in the writings he read, and found in them confidence and safety. Elka did not discover such confidence in her lectures.

ten201.jpg - Elka Lederman
Elka Lederman

Elka was artistic and talented. She could distinguish the important details when looking at a general picture. Her sharp eyes were apparent in her paintings, as was her artfulness in her violin playing. In addition, she was blessed with creative power. Elka wrote in verses and in prose. Nevertheless, her writing had never seen the daylight.

She knew that to realize her many talents it was imperative to escape the shtetl, but she was not vigorous enough to accomplish it.

Therefore, lacking self-confidence, she buried herself in her books, in which she looked for deliverance that she never found.

Love and estimation for her Zeyde was also an obstruction. She could not leave the shtetl and doing so to stain his name. She had her own room at home--whenever you looked for her, she was there reading her books.

Once on a Saturday evening I met Elka near her house. To my question “Where are you looking and what do you see?” she answered, “I am looking at my shtetl at the conclusion of Shabbat. The youth are out walking in the street. Aged women are visiting their neighbors. The men are in Beys Midrosh during the afternoon--Mincha praying and preparing themselves for the Tree Meals – Sholosh Sheedes.”

Elka describes with excitement the Shabbat afternoon in the shtetl, the end of the holy day. She tells longingly of the soulfulness of its accompaniment, as desiring to lengthen the wonderful day.

I remember with emotion her sincere words. It was such a waste. If she would have the strength to leave the shtetl, perhaps a genial artist would survive. It remains a sorrowful and painful heartbreak.

To conclude, I wish to mention what Israel Shpizmann told. When the Germans cleansed the town of Jews, the Lederman family (Yossef) was captured and arrested. In the prison they divided people into those who were needed for work in Krichie, and the others to be sent to death. Elka Lederman was selected to work in the writing room, as she was intelligent and talented. She decided to join her family, who were sent to the Crematorium in Belzec.

She chose to switch with Shasha Roteker, who was selected to go to Belzec to be cremated. Elka said, “Where my mother will be burned I will also go there”. So she gave up her life.

[Page 202]

Henia and Shimshon Holtsblat

The Active Zionists in Rayviets

By Miryam Holtsblat – Horvits

Translated by M. Porat

“Be proud and free Jews. Live there where our entire life we have aspired to live”.

Those were the last words, which my father in his testament letter had told us.

Yes, his entire life he hoped, aspired, and lived with Eretz Isruel. Moreover, when I want to remember our parents and our home, it always appears bound with Zionist activity, with “Keren Kayemes”, with the Shekl, with the blue and white Star of David.

ten202.jpg - The Rayviets Keren Kayemet Committee
The Rayviets Keren Kayemet Committee
From left to right: Hava Shmuklerman, Niyuntshe Appletzveig,
Bashe Plusman, Abish Roiter, Yakov (Yankl) Eisenshtein,
Shendl Kraft, Mordechay (Motl) Furer

During those years, I did not understand its meaning, but I had enormous esteem for the work that was done; I had a feeling that we were doing a holy work. My parents implanted it in our soul, as in their own.

I remember my mother after a hard day of work, running in the evening to find a couple to empty the Keren Kayemet boxes. Not once, even being herself sick, would she neglect to go to a meeting, to remind some person the oncoming payment of the bill he underwrote for Keren Hayisod, to set up a team to learn Hebrew, to get a guest from Eretz Isruel or to organize an “evening” for a Zionist purpose.

I may say confidently that my parents worried more for the Zionist case than for their own well-being.

Moreover, when it was necessary to conduct elections to a congress or to influence people to choose a Zionist candidate to the Polish “Saym” (parliament), our parents were the initiators.

So in living, they planted the love of Zion in to our heart.

”Live better and happier than us” – was their last benediction – “in the Land of Israel”.

Their benediction was fulfilled. We live in Israel. but without them, without our heartily estimated and beloved parents.

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