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[Page 603]

I Thee Wed

by David Frishman

Translated by Janie Respitz

Donated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

Mr. and Mrs. Isadore Zbludovsky have the pleasure to invite you the wedding ceremony of their daughter Regina to the banker's son Stanislav Zilberberg, which will take place Friday April 11th,at exactly 12:30 pm at the synagogue on Tlomatzke Street.

“1:30 – a breakfast a la fourchette at the 'Bristol' restaurant, in March 1902”.

* * *

On Tlomatzke Street in front of the synagogue, from one end to the other stand a wide and long row of magnificent carriages. The silver trim hangs down from the black coaches. The coachmen are dressed in livery with gold braided trim. The horses are stamping their feet impatiently. Around 100 people are standing on the street and pushing toward the steps of the synagogue but are not permitted to enter.

It is a day of sun mixed with rain. For two or three minutes the sun shines brightly in everyone's eyes and everything around shines, and then for two or three minutes

David Frishman – one of the best known Hebrew – Yiddish writers from among the classics – poet, story teller, essayist, critic, journalist, translator, editor – was born in Zugersz in 1865; he lived, studied, wrote and edited in a few cities in Russia and Germany – until he settled in Warsaw around 1898, where with interruptions he lived until 1920 when he moved to Berlin and died there in 1922. Frishman is one of the most intense satirists, even critics of Jewish society, literature and theatre of Jews at the time. He would “tear” from right to left, at the very least he took care of Y. L. Peretz, but Peretz, as always, replied with friendship and good nature. Warsaw is a recurring subject tin Frishman's writing. We published here the story “Thee I Wed”, as sharp as broken glass, about the once assimilated Jewish plutocracy in Warsaw. The background is the “Synagogue of Tolmatske Street”.

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there is a spray of warm rain that suddenly stops, and then a transparent rainbow appears. Every minute another new carriage appears. The coachman jumps down from his seat rips open the door and the lady and gentleman climb down and rush up the steps of the synagogue.

Inside the synagogue a half darkness looms: there is a combination of restrained daylight with light from the lamps. Through the high windows with covered panes columns of light dust break through like transparent clouds, in which you can see each speck of dust. A stillness and holiness can be felt in the building. Behind every pillar, from every corner and from behind every dress and near every branch of a lamp there is a breath of sacredness and celebration.

Shining eyes and shining diamonds and shining top hats are everywhere the eye can see. The white sparkling shirts spread an agreeable, mild scent. The women and young maidens are immersed in silk and lace, as they walk around decollete holding bouquets in their hands. The gems are sparkling from their heads, hanging from their ears and necks. There is an odd scent everywhere: vera – violet, and others.

The groom is standing under the wedding canopy slightly bent, a strikingly tall person. The flowing light shining exactly on his face. His cheeks are slightly sunken and sallow and he looks weary and tired; the snowy whited frame of his shirt his pulling. The black top hat on his head is shining, but under the top hat, on both temples one can see grey hairs. Standing there he holds a silk handkerchief in his hands and often brings it negligently to his mouth, trying to conceal yawns.

Before him stands the bride – a young, fresh juicy girl like freshly fallen dew; practically still a child. She comes up to his shoulders. Her eyes look up to him often from behind her veil. Her eyes laugh and are large and naïve and filled with curiosity and desire – the eyes of a young believing child.

The organ plays and allows its magnificent tones to be heard: deep serious tones filled with piety.

And he, Isadore Zilberberg stands bent and listens. He hears the notes and tries to absorb them. Oh yes, a beautiful holy chorale. He begins to dream and allows himself to be carried over the waves of these flowing notes. He gets carried away further in his dream, no longer hears anything and forgets where he is and everything that is going on around him: here is the calculation: two times one hundred and sixty thousand cash.

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Until June he has no payments to make. True, June will be a bit difficult: there will be a payment every day. But two times one hundred and sixty thousand! And besides this the mortgage on Vspulne Street, and by the way, the two mortgages in Praga. Besides all this the first installment of taxes which he has to recover in May. It seemed to him these were the terms set on the 8th. It's too bad he could not check his notebook. The main thing, he has to begin the process with Regina's brothers concerning one seventh of the inheritance on his father's side…

Suddenly he caught himself. The organ suddenly cut off a long note.

The cantor and the choir respond. The soprano voice is especially sweet. And she, Regina is standing with lowered open eyes. She can hardly understand that this is not a dream! She feels a fever in all her limbs. Here is the big secret, laying in front of her. Oh, only one more day, one week. In eight days she will be a “wife”. A wife, a wife, a wife. A wife that has a husband. She trembles. It's good that in four and a half hours they will leave Warsaw. She can't stand Switzerland. Stanislav can't stand Switzerland either. And any decent person cannot travel to Italy today: every tailor and shoemaker travels to Italy these days. That means Sweden and Norway remain…oh, if the month would finally be over! If she can only go to sleep and wake up in a month from now! - - she feels her foot tapping on the floor.

The organ begins again roaring its deep heavy notes and the notes are pulling, pulling and pouring.

But this time Stanislav does not hear any notes. He's thinking about the letter he received yesterday from Leipzig. “Blond Mitzi” wrote to him that she is not well and that is why she hasn't written: but the “youth” is healthy and strong. The “youth” looks just like him, like two drops of water. He believes her. But she is wondering, on the twentieth, which was the deadline, why she did not she did not receive the installment as she does every month. She believes that he thinks that gradually he can slip away and eventually completely free himself. However this will not be profitable for him. She warns him: she will have to speak out against him with a lawsuit about “alimony”…

The organ roars with powerful extensive notes. Many new guests push their way toward the wedding canopy: low cut backs, yellow silk dresses and sparkling diamonds! Brand new shining top hats, dazzling white gloves and red ties! And the cantor sings…

And she, Regina stands and listens and listens. It is after all her wedding and she must listen. Today she must. And truthfully love is one thousand times better than everything she read in D'Annunzio and Prevost. This is it, pure

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true love. She never saw an individual like him. The first time she laid eyes on him, last winter at the flower stand, she new this was her fate. He said wonderful things to her, words she never heard before. He said her eyes were like violets and her fingers were like lilies. There is no one in the world with such pure endearing eyes. She trusts him and his endearing eyes, and that she is his “first love”. Besides, he told her so. And he also knew at that minute to be attentive to her! It never happened even once, that he would come to her without even something small, always bringing a keepsake. Once jasper stones for three thousand five hundred ruble, once five metres of lace, pure wool for nine thousand ruble. A satin dress with tips which is not ugly. Also the green and lemon yellow ornament which suits her face…

Suddenly her ears are touched by waves of heavy deep notes followed by a sudden pause – and she catches herself.

Her cheeks are glowing, her eyes are glowing, her breathing is heavy, and she's panting.

Countless candles are burning all around. The guests are pushing closer: their eyes are also bright for the young joy which is receiving its holy sign. Oh, how long does the ceremony last! It would be alright if it lasted 100 times longer. The ceremony is sweet agreeable and pleasant…

And he, Stanislav is standing tall, straight and completely restored.

Oh the ceremony how long it is lasting! It should finish already…

And suddenly we hear the voice of the preacher.

“---here you go out in the month of spring. You go out in the spring, you go out into the spring and the spring comes to you. And you are spring and spring is all around. Your entire life is one big spring… - and he quotes a line from the Torah – charm is a lie and beauty is foolishness – but when there is such a large amount of charm and beauty as we see here in front of us, it is still merely a lie and foolishness when we compare it to real joy, with love…and the passage says, wealth does not help – but if there exists a great amount of wealth as we see here before us which is helpful and worthy, when we compare it with real joy, with love, love is greater than all. And what is pure love, if not that what is the foundation of family life? And what is family life if

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not that which the people of Israel always excelled and other nations have been jealous?”

The organ resounded, the cantor sings, the choir responds and the notes are carried like waves throughout the building.

Another minute.

And… “with this ring, I take you as my wife according to the laws of Moses and Israel!”

And the organ plays “Sanctify” and the choir responds “Sanctify”.

Sacred! Sacred! Everything is sacred…

He and she are now a couple, man a wife, a couple!

Sounds of kisses can be heard from all sides. Everyone is pushing toward the bride and groom to congratulate them.

A happy couple!

* * *

Outside it was pouring rain. A wet crow was flying from one roof to the next groaning: Sacred, sacred.

Oh, how sacred!

At the end of Bielanske Street a street girl was walking around with wandering eyes and searching…the world is spoiled. Even by day there are no morals anywhere.

From the book: Stories – published by Lily Frishman – Mexico, 1949.


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