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Tales and Legends

 

“Stoyontse” The “Upright” Burial

Translated by Libby Raichman

The members of the Chevra–Kadisha used whatever means possible to extract as much money as they could from bereaved families. We could tell a lot about these tricks but here we will relate just one incident.

On a frosty Sabbath day, Pessel Cohen died. On that Sabbath evening, when the shops were opened, Pessel's son Duvtshe (Dovid), went into the store of Chaim Pesach, who was at that time the trustee of the Chevra–kaddisha. Duvtshe began to cry to him about the death of his mother, and started to tell what a precious mother and modest woman, she was.

Chaim Pesach, who was an ardent Radzin Chassid, and long–standing trustee of the Chevra–kaddisha, stood calmly, warmed his hands at the fire–pot and added to the praises of the son, for the deceased mother.

When Duvtshe began to talk about practical matters, that means, when was the Chevra intending to arrange the funeral, Chaim Pesach placed himself before Duvtshe and glared at him and asked: –– and have you taken care of the Chevra? – Duvtshe stood there stunned and called out: –– Chaim Pesach, my mother bought a cemetery plot while she was still alive.

Chaim Pesach did not flinch, but calmly explained to Duvtshe the matter of the plot, that his mother had bought.

–– Listen here Duvtshe – he began – it is indeed true, that your mother, may she have a bright future in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden – paradise), bought a cemetery plot, but one is permitted to tell the truth, even about a deceased. You know however Duvtshe, may it remain just between us, that your mother was stingy, so she paid us for a small plot and we can bury her in that plot, but only “stoyontse” (standing/upright). If you wish, and are agreeable to burying your mother “stoyontse” so be it. However, if you wish us to bury your mother lying down, you must pay an additional amount towards the cemetery plot that your mother bought.

Duvtshe remained standing dumbfounded. He did not expect a story like this, at all. He began to put in a word to Chaim Pesach about justice and righteousness, but it did not help at all. Chaim had one answer: –– what do you want Duvtshe? What your mother, of blessed memory, bought, we are giving back to her. If you agree to bury your mother in a standing position, then go in health and peace and tomorrow everything will be done in the best possible way.

And, when Duvtshe saw, that Chaim Pesach was not at all impressed by his moral talk of justice and righteousness, so he began to ask Chaim Pesach: –– what is the cost? – and now Chaim Pesach drummed up a sum that left Duvtshe in shock. His mother, he was thinking, left a small inheritance, but what kind of in–laws are these Chevra–kaddisha people? But allowing his mother to be buried in a standing position, did not appeal to Duvtshe. So, he had no choice other than to pay the necessary sum of money so that his mother could be buried in a Jewish cemetery, like all Jews.

(This article was published in Podlassier Life – but it was not possible to get a copy)


Without Success

Translated by Libby Raichman

Shayme Shnider (Bekkerman) became very friendly with the members of the tailors' society. They were a group of professional tailors who sewed shrouds for the dead, in the home of the deceased. But all Shayme's requests to be taken into their society, brought no result.

It happened in the town, that the wealthy Chaim Yoske Kashtenboim died. The tailors' society demanded a high price for sewing the shrouds, to which the family did not want to consent. So they started to look for a way out. A few brothers from the so–called “Tsherske” family undertook to sew the shroud but they were looking for some sort of tailor, that would at least cut the linen, so they turned to Shayme Shnider. The people of the tailors' society heard about this and let Shayme know, that if he would not get involved, they would admit him to the society. So Shayme remained sitting at home, and the “tsherske” brothers managed somehow to find a solution without him. (the tailor's society then spread a rumour that the “Tsherskes” sewed Chaim Yoske's riding breeches [trousers]. )

After this Shayme began to demand more boldly from the tailors that they should allow him into the society, as they promised, but again without any progress. Sometime later, Shayme told acquaintances, that the reason that the tailors would not take him into their society, was his own fault. And this is how it happened.

When he, Shayme, nagged the tailors even more strongly to take him into their society, then one evening, in the synagogue, Nechemyele Yossl Vetshikkes (Gottfried), called him into a corner and said to him: –– Listen, Shayme, do want to come into our society? – of course I do – Shayme

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answered. Hearing his answer, Nechemyele pulled out a large glass from his pocket and asked Shayme: –– Shayme, you see this glass? Tell me, can you undertake to drink such a full glass of 59 in one gulp? When Shayme saw the glass, and heard 59, he became confused, and with downcast eyes said: –– I do not know if I can do it. – If so – said Nechemyele – you are not fit to be in our society. –– And Shayme was again excluded from the tailors' society.

(Heard from Ya'akov Aron Rozenboim – M.Y. Feigenboim)


The Dead Man

by M.Y. Feigenboim

Translated by Libby Raichman

This incident happened many years ago, before the First World War. At that time Biale did not yet have electric lights to light up the streets at night. The couple of gas lamps at the corners of a few streets, hardly helped to expel the darkness, that fell on the town at nightfall. Most streets and lanes were not paved and in the middle of the autumn rains, people waded through the mud, up to their knees. It is understandable, that in these autumn nights, no one was seen walking in the streets and lanes. People sat in their homes and as most of the Jewish population, were far from a Torah or from a book in those days, they occupied themselves by telling various stories and happenings about ghosts, spirits, demons, not good ones, and about the dead, that come to the synagogue every night to pray. For these tales, there was no shortage of witnesses, who confirmed that they themselves managed to be present at these bizarre events ….

On one autumn Sabbath night, a woman went out with her slop–pail on to the threshold of her house, and threw out the dirty water. At that moment, a white figure floated by. From shock the woman dropped the slop–pail from her hands, went back into the house and began to faint.

The people in the house tried to cheer up the woman, wanting to find out what happened, but the woman did not wake up. With that, a lamenting cry was heard from outside, and one could distinctly hear the words of the crier: water was poured on my clothes, how will I now reach the grave….

For the household, it became clear, what happened here and a terrible fear fell upon them. The woman did not stop fainting and lay almost unconscious. The lamenting cry outside, did not stop and one could constantly hear, quite clearly: –– water was poured on my clothes, how will I now reach the grave? … The neighbours also heard the wailing outside and they too fell into shock. Through the walls, they communicated what happened here, and for each one it was clear that a neighbour poured water on a corpse that was surely going to pray in the synagogue….

The shock was so great, that those on the top floor were even afraid to go close to a window to peep outside. The neighbors began to deliberate about what to do. Some suggested that a few men should go outside and ask for forgiveness from the corpse. But there were no volunteers among the men, prepared to take such a step. Even the bold Shmuel Shuster, who had completed his service in the Russian army, sat at his shoemaker's bench, truly paralyzed.

The corpse did not go away and his lamenting cry carried in the stillness of the night and increased the fear of the residents of the house. As there were no daring men to go out to the front of the house and ask forgiveness from the corpse, they began to recite psalms everywhere. This was no simple reciting of the psalms but a heart–wrenching cry from people who know and understand how great is their sin. The corpse continued to lament for a time and then it became quiet outside. The people in the house however, did not calm down and with full confidence, awaited the severe punishment that would befall them.

It is understandable that in that house, no one shut an eye that night, even when it later became quiet outside. They recited the psalms with crying and pleading voices, the entire night.

As soon as the day began to dawn and there was some movement in the little street, the residents of the house peeped outside and saw nothing unusual. The men went to the Rabbi and told him what had happened at the end of the Sabbath, next to their house. The Rabbi ordered that a minyan of men, [a quorum of 10 men required for communal prayer] should go to the cemetery, pray, and ask forgiveness of the dead. Time passed quickly and the people of that house, could still not forget that terrible night. If something bad happened to a family in that house, they were convinced that this was punishment for that night.

Since then it became a custom in Biale that when pouring out dirty water at night, they would go in pairs and to add, they would call out 3 times: beware, beware, beware.

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Years later, one evening, Shmuel Shuster sat in the synagogue before the Sabbath, amongst a group of Jews and told them heroic stories from the time when he was a soldier in the Russian army. Just then the baker's boy Shaloime, who was nearby, called out: –– Reb Shmuel, if you are really such a hero as you say, why were you afraid to go out of the house that Sabbath evening, when they poured water on the corpse? That was me, Shaloime, I was the corpse, walking then in my white work–clothes, to the bakery.

(published by me in the “Biale Weekly” under the pseudonym “Bialski” and not having a copy, I have written it anew – M. Y. Feigenboim)


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The Muddy Neighbourhood

by F. Gold

Translated by Libby Raichman

Everyone in Biale knew where the earthen huts were located. Officially the street was called the French Street, because that area belonged to a Frenchman and was not town land. Jews could not buy plots of land there (according to the old Russian laws). As a result, the Frenchman leased pieces of land for 99 years. About 40 to 50 families lived there.

The Biale “skyscrapers” were in the earthen huts, in Japanese style – deep, because they were built into the ground and from this, the name earthen huts is derived.

Most of the mud was in the earthen huts. This happened for two reasons:

  1. when the Russian engineers built the tarred highway to Brisk, they forgot to construct a canal through the tarred road, that would carry the rain water to the river.
  2. because the wagon–drivers and cab–drivers lived there and the street led to the large nobleman's court. When the wagons drove up in the water, they would make the mud wider and deeper.
In Biale they used to joke that the area belongs to a Frenchman because, when Napoleon fled Russia, he arrived in Biale to the earthen huts, in the spring, when the mud was in full swing. The French were then unable to leave and the Russians could not enter. And so, this remained French territory.


Stories

by M.Y. Feigenboim

Translated by Libby Raichman

The Biale Rabbi. Rabbi Shmuel Leib of blessed memory, was completely removed from the external world. Once a lady came to him with a question concerning religious law – while she was cooking meat in her kitchen, she went outside for a while leaving no one in the house. When she returned, she found a Christian man in her kitchen.

The Rabbi, not knowing what a Christian was, asked the lady: –– where was this Christian, in the pot or on top of the pot.

*

The Biale Rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Leib of blessed memory, was informed that Avrom Urmacher the photographer works on the Sabbath. The Rabbi did not have to think long and sent for Urmacher.

When Urmacher came to him, the Rabbi began to reason with him, not to work on the Sabbath.

–– but Rabbi – Urmacher defended himself – I don't work, I just give a squeeze.

–– only a squeeze? –– the Rabbi snapped – so you can take a gentile woman and she can give the squeeze….

*

Chaim Pesach (the trustee of the Chevra Kaddisha) had a shop that sold drinks and dairy products and employed a few girls. Chaim Pesach's wife, wanting to ensure that the girls did not eat the milk products, thought of an “original” idea. As soon as the girls arrived at work in the morning, she treated them to meat grits….

*

Mendl Goldfarb (also known as Mendl Spokoyinne) was known in the town as a big joker and jester.

Mendl lived in Shedletz for a few years. One winter's day he came to Biale and on meeting Ya'akov Velvel one of the firefighters, proposed this business deal:

Seeing that the winter in Shedletz is a mild one, that there is no ice and no hope of there being ice, and seeing that Biale has a quite a severe winter, he suggested the following plan to Ya'akov Velvel – that he should engage a non–Jew from amongst the firefighters, fill train wagons with water that Mendl would provide at the Biale train station. By the time the wagons reach Shedletz, they will be full of ice (Shedletz is a few train stations away from Biale). In addition, Mendl described what a good business this could be.

Ya'akov Velvel grabbed at the proposition and as a pledge, invited Mendl to have a drink with him. They got drunk, parted amiably and Ya'akov Velvel remained standing and waiting for Mendel's arrival with the wagons ….

*

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Mendl Spokoyinne once went to a restaurant late at night with an American visitor and wanted something to eat. The restauranteur suggested only a small roasted goose. Mendl turned to the American and told him that all there was to eat, was a roasted crow. The American pulled a face and answered, that he did not eat crows. Mendl however, agreed to eat the roasted “crow” and the restauranteur brought the “crow” to the table. Mendl calmly ate the “crow”, the American looked at him with pity and – paid.

*

Once Mendl went to the barber and saw a religious young man, a very idle person, sitting in the chair. Mendl glanced at him and called out: –– you, shlimazl (person with bad luck), do you also need to have a haircut with an uncovered head? – the young man became confused, and embarrassed and began to ask – Reb Mendl how is it possible to have a haircut any other way? How is it possible any other way? – Reb Mendl repeated the question and said – when one side of your head is being cut, you can hold your hat or your yarmulke (skull cap) on the other side, and with that Mendl demonstrated for the young man how to cover half his head with his hat. The young man remained sitting as if he had been struck, and quietly defended himself, promising that in the future he will do that.

*

Once an antique dealer came to Biale and met Motl the son of Peshke (Rozmarin). They spoke and Motl promised the Jew that tomorrow morning early he would show him a rare antique. On that account, the antique dealer gave Motl a proper shnaps (brandy).

Chaim Pesach's wife had a habit of walking around in her house in the morning in her panties. It was there that Motl took the antique dealer the next morning, and showed him the antique….

*

In Biale one often heard the expression “a dish of groats with a yarmulke”. Where did this come from?

On the first night of Slichot (days preceding the High Holy Days when penitential prayers are recited)

they would cook groats In the Chassidic prayer houses. After the penitential prayers, after midnight, the Chassidim would seat themselves at the tables and have the meal. Usually they would cook such a dish in large pots, at the home of one of the Chassidim and in addition there was also a chassid who knew about such things.

It happened once, that a chassid who was overseeing the pots of groats, did not notice at all, that his yarmulke slipped off his head and fell into the pot of groats. When they began to spoon out the groats from the pot with a large wooden ladle, in the Chassidic prayer house, the person serving felt that the ladle had become very heavy. He thought that he was scooping up a large piece of meat. But when he turned the ladle over into the plate, he saw a cooked, fatty yarmulke….

(This was heard being told in the “Tarshish Shtiebel”)

*

The town's wealthy–man, Shmuel Pizshitz (a Kotsk Chassid), was travelling home on a Friday, on a rainy autumn day, from his saw–mill on the Volye. As he sat in his closed coach, he noticed the village man Mendl Rososher, also a BIale Kotske Chassid, walking on the tarred road in the rain.

Pizshitz instructed the driver to stop the coach, and when Mendl came closer, Pizshitz called: –– Mendl come in; and then added: “there are those who achieve their goals in one hour”.

What? So cheaply you, Shmilke (Shmuelke), want to buy a place in the world to come? Mendl asked and remained standing.

So, what do you want Mendl? Shmuel Pizshitz asked.

It costs a gold coin – was Mendl's answer.

Pizshitz resented such cheek and told the coach driver to drive on. He travelled a little further, it was raining harder, and Pizshitz, it seems, felt bad about leaving a Jew in the street in such weather, and one of his own chassidim too. So, he asked the driver to stop. When Mendl again came closer to the coach, Pizshitz called: –– Mendl, you will receive a gold coin, and come in.

Mendl came closer to the coach and said: –– have you got the gold coin? When he received an affirmative answer, he called out: –– then pay! When he received the gold coin Mendl entered the coach.

(Heard from a grandson, Koppel Pizshitz, son of Dovid Pizshitz, former Warsaw synagogue warden)


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In the town they used to narrate the following legends

by F. Gold and Gedalyahu Braverman

Translated by Libby Raichman

That Napoleon visited the Biale synagogue during his march to Russia.

*

That in the Biale cemetery there should be the graves of a daughter of the Prague Maharal and of a son or son–in–law of Hagaon Harav Yom–tov Lipmann (17th century commentator on the Mishnah).

*

That when the Jews of Biale had to carry a few dead persons from the tarred highway, they found two corpses in the cemetery that had already been dead a couple of hundred years, not touched and still in their shrouds, as if they had just been buried.

*

That the Biale Rabbi Yitzchak Ya'akov Rabinovicz conducted a lawsuit in his synagogue, between a living and a deceased miller.

*

That at night, dead people called a Jew to the Torah who was passing through Biale, near the synagogue. He went to the Rabbi, who told him to go to the synagogue, and gave him his prayer shawl and his walking stick (as a child they showed me the person who was called up, but he was not allowed to be questioned).

*

That a dead mother took a son of hers who had fallen asleep between the afternoon and evening prayers, out of the synagogue through the railings, before the dead come and pray in the synagogue.

*

Reb Berish Landois's wife, used to sell wine for Kiddush. Once, when she did not have money to buy fresh wine, she asked her husband, Reb Berish, if it is possible that there is no money. He answered: –– you will have wine. – From that little bit of wine that was at the bottom of the large bottle. For years she sold all sorts of wine, and the bottle was full. With the money that she gathered from selling wine, the courtyard on Kshiver Street was purchased, that was later known as “Reb Aharon Landois Courtyard”.

*

I happened to hear the following legend, that had a connection to the old cemetery on the Brisk highway.

Many years ago, the person in charge of Biale was an enemy of the Jews. One fine day he decided to erect a cloister in no other place other than alongside the Jewish cemetery.

He began to build the cloister, but every time they finished building a wall, it would sink into the earth, and the building of the cloister never ended.

The Jews, seeing that they would not be able to prevail upon the evil man to stop building the cloister, decided not to continue to bury the dead there, and they established a new cemetery, at the end of the present day's Proster street. Only when the Jews ceased using the earlier cemetery, did the enemy of the Jews manage to complete the building of the cloister.


The “Hero” from Biale

by A. Litvin

Translated by Libby Raichman

The Biale Jews remember well the name of the person they called “Samson the mighty”. The name was faithfully handed down from grandfathers to grandsons, from father to son, for generations, and served as a topic of synagogue conversations in the long winter evenings.

His name was Shimshon–Leib – this wonderful man, who was a water carrier or a tailor. He could only live under the marvellous Radzshivils, those noblemen, who at the very end of summer made “montshkes” (paths for sledges, from sugar–flour) and their coach was harnessed by bears.

And it happened that the nobleman Radzshivil came through the town, in the middle of Tammuz on a “montshke”. As if in a real shevat–frost, his sledge rode on a sugar–sledge path, carried by a trio of eagles–horses.

Shimon Leib approached slowly from the side, caught the side of the sledge with his hand, and the three eagles from the Radzshivil's best horse–stable, suddenly stiffened, as if rooted to the earth.

The sledge–path was good: for many weeks, the farm–hands toiled; the sledge was even better and lighter, but swifter than the sledge, were the eagle–horses, but it did not help: Shimon Leib put three fingers into the sledge and the three eagle–horses came to a standstill.

Radzshivil turned around and saw something that his forefathers would not have believed, a

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slovenly Jew with a torn peak cap, took the liberty of making fun of Radzshivil.

But instead of being angry, the nobleman came down from the sledge, and slapped the Jew on his shoulder: you are a bold man Shimonke! I like people like that! You are strong Shimonke! But I will show you someone stronger than you: a Russian soldier, a Katsap (nickname of a great Russian soldier) actually from Moscow. If you bring him down – you will receive 5 gold coins.

A week later they brought Shimon Leib to Radzshivil's court. One of the most splendid forms of entertainment for the Polish nobility at that time, was supposed to take place there: a battle between two opponents, a boxing match between two mighty men – between the thin “zshidek” (Jew) Shimonke and the fat, red katsap of Moscow.

The katsap immediately approached Shimon Leib and without preamble, and without questions or complaints, pushed his five fat, red fingers into Shimon's face.

Shimon's whole head was turned to the side.

Without saying a word, Shimon Leib took a step firmly and confidently towards the katsap, grabbed him by the head, lifted him up high and dropped him to the ground. There was no longer any katsap…. scattered bones lay on the ground.

No harm was done to Shimon. This was a boxing match…

One can easily imagine that “Shimonke” was a treasure for these insane noblemen, like Radzshivil. Sitting in company somewhere in Paris, amongst other such crazy noblemen like him, he had something to boast about. Nobody had in their court, such a remarkable “Shimonke” like him.

And “Shimonke” actually felt like the darling son, somewhat specially privileged by the nobleman. He was allowed such “tricks” – that if it were anyone else, and not “Shimonke”, it would have cost him his head.

Once the nobleman Radzshivil, in his usual manner, travelled over the sledge–path in his sledge, pulled by bears. “Shimonke” was there, not at the back of the carriage but in the front. He ran ahead and teased the bears.

The bears began to yield. The nobleman could go no further. He told the coachman to use all his strength to stop. He crawled out alone from the sledge and said to his Jew.

“Listen Shimonke, do you think that it's a great feat to tease bears, when they are harnessed? Now, prove yourself – I will unharness the bears and then tease them”.

This was not said in jest, this was an order.

“Shimonke” had to position himself as before, opposite the bears; the bears were unharnessed and one hastily set upon Shimon Leib. Other Jews stood at a distance: some on fences, some on roofs, hardly alive from fear and horror. One blink and ….

“Shimonke” was already riding on the bear. With both hands, he bent the bear's head to the side. Then with the right hand he delivered a blow to the head and jumped off.

The bear gave a jump, wounded. He could no longer bite: his whole lower jaw, with his teeth and tongue were lying on the ground….

It is not known what role Shimon played in the town itself, amongst Jews. But all the gentiles were terrified of the burly hero. In all the surrounding villages, the toughest gentile youths fled when they saw “Shimonke”, even from a distance.

But in one village apparently, the gentile youths did not know “Shimonke”. When he once passed through their village, the gentile youths ran after him and cursed him: Jew, Jew….

“Shimonke” continued calmly on his way but when he was sick of the youth's abuse, he turned around, took one of their hats, approached the nearest house, and with one hand, lifted the house from its foundations and with the other hand, he put the hat underneath – and continued on his way as if nothing had happened.

They say that the hat is till lying under the house to this day. But since then, in that village, they also knew who “Shimonke” was….

(“Jewish souls”, volume 1)


In the series “Legends and Tales of the former Biale”, that I published in the Biale weekly under the pseudonym “Bialski”, amongst others, I also published, the legend “The Wedding steps at the Synagogue”. There it is told about a Biale hero with the name of Shmuel Zbitkever. One can assume that, this legend actually has a connection to the mighty Shimon Leib. It is possible that over the generations, the real name was forgotten and it is difficult to establish which of the two of us, A. Litvin or the writer of these lines, has provided the correct name. It is worthwhile noting that the name Zvitkever has a connection to the wealthy Warsaw family, that is mentioned in the history of Warsaw, already in the 18th century.

We will briefly relate the legend about “The Wedding steps at the Synagogue”.

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One day, when Radzshivil was travelling behind the town, his coach stopped before a barricade of two gigantic round wagon steps and could not go any further. These two steps were placed on the highway by the wealthy Zbitkever.

Radzshivil ordered that all travelling farmers be stopped and challenged them to remove the steps from the highway. The farmers made an enormous effort but were unable to move the steps from their place.

Just then Shmuel Zbitkever, who set up these steps appeared and began to move them in the direction of the town. Radzshivil stood and marvelled at the strength of the Jew.

Shmuel Zbitkever moved the steps to the synagogue and fitted them close to the entrance of the synagogue. On these two steps, they would place the canopy for every wedding. Even if the wedding was arranged to take place at the distant Volye, they would bring the bride and groom for the ceremony in front of the synagogue on these two gigantic steps. Even in winter, in the most severe frost and deep snow, the weddings would take place on these two steps in front of the synagogue. During the First World War this custom ceased.

M. Y.Feigenboim


A Blood Libel
[a case of Blood Libel]
A False accusation of Ritual murder

by M.Y. Feigenboim

Translated by Libby Raichman

As soon as the Jewish festival of Passover drew near, there were notices in the press of blood–libel against Jews in various lands and towns. It would therefore be interesting to report on a case of blood–libel that actually occurred in our town many years ago, that ended quite tragically, although the event is perhaps, unknown.

I have not managed to establish the exact date of this occurrence. It appears that it took place under the rule of the former Poland.

And this is the story. The eve of Pesach amongst the Jews was in full swing. Suddenly, like a thunder on a bright day, the rumor spread on the Jewish street, that in the synagogue courtyard, in an oven of an abandoned house, a body of a child was found.

The Jewish population immediately understood what this meant and what it smelt of. But before they could react, the police were already going around looking for the lost child, and they actually found it in an oven in the synagogue courtyard.

It is understandable that they did not take too long to look for a party guilty of the murder. It was clear to the police that a dead child in the synagogue courtyard, on the eve of Passover, meant that the Jews murdered for ritual reasons.

Suspicion fell on the cantor, still a young man, much loved by the congregation, whom they arrested.

Terror enveloped the Jewish community. The impending festival was forgotten and there was a fear of the approaching market–day, when many Christians arrive in the town, so they locked themselves into their homes and waited for the unknown terrible end.

They did not have to wait long for the judgement. Already three days after the occurrence, the cantor was sentenced to death by chopping off his head.

The suffering of the Jewish community was terrible, knowing that a young man was paying with his life for a death he did not cause.

In those moments of immense despair in the Jewish community, an old Jewish resident presented himself to the police, an elderly man named Uziel, who took upon himself the guilt, in order to save the young cantor from death.

The cantor was allowed to go free, and having the “right” criminal in their hands, they treated him cruelly. This Jew Uziel, endured the most severe torture in the short time that remained of his life, but he did not for one minute, show any sign of despair and dejection.

On the fourth day after the occurrence, they beheaded Uziel in the synagogue courtyard.

Legend has it, that it was decreed, that if the Jew Uziel was sentenced to death then, however far his head would fall after they beheaded him, that place would never be built on. And therefore, a piece of land on the eastern side of the synagogue was never built on. It was also decreed that his family should not live within 10 cubits around the area where his head would fall, after being beheaded.

The hero of the Biale blood–libel was buried in the old cemetery (near the Brisk highway). Many people still remember how on the anniversary of his death, a woman from his family (his wife was a relative of Motl Rozmarin's family) would take herself off, with a little pot of paint, to refresh his gravestone, of which there is no memory today.

Since then, there is a custom that dates back to that time, that after preparing for Passover evening in the home, one heats the oven.

(Revised anew according to my article in “Podlassier Life” number 14/79, of the 10th April 1933.
From the series “Legends and Tales of the Former Biale” that I published under the pseudonym “Bialski”. – M. Y. Feigenboim.)

Additional details:

In the first edition of the publication “The Jews in Poland”, published by the committee for the publication “The Jews in Poland”, New York, 1946, the historian Dr. Rafael Mahler, in his treatise “Jews in Former Poland”, page 277, amongst others, writes about the bloody theme of blood–libel: “… in the year 1710, a Jew from Biale, paid with his head for a similar “discovery”.

In his treatise, Dr. Hendl also mentioned in the book, the case of blood–libel in Biale in 1710, that ended with a death sentence for a Biale Jew.

A. Litvin's book: “Jewish Souls” it is told about “the holy one in Biale and his last will”. In this chapter, A. Litvin tells about cases of blood–libel in various towns in Poland and Lithuania, and about those holy ones who died because of the blood–libels. Amongst other cases he writes: “Biale has forgotten the name of this holy person”, who gave up his life for his people. I do not know if the memorial prayer is said for him in the synagogue but the legend remained alive amongst the people.

After the beheading of the holy one – so the legend goes – the head spun around on the spot where the bloody sentence was carried out and called out: many, many generations should be aware of this place and no one should build a house, where innocent Jewish blood was spilt.

For hundreds of years Biale observed this testament, no one dared to desecrate the remembrance of this holy person. This gloomy place is a monument for him, who sacrificed himself for the entire community.

Fyvl Gold (New York) writes: “the body of the holy person was stolen during the night and buried in the cemetery. Overnight grass covered his grave and it was not possible to locate the site of the grave.

Yeshayahu Eliezer's (Shai Lazer the writer) wife, Hinde Muzshinek, told me that when her eldest daughter Golda, married and was supposed to take a dwelling in the house of Binyomin Leibele (Mandelboim), in the synagogue courtyard, Hinde's father, Reb Moshe Chayes, did not allow it, saying, that they are still obliged to observe the message of the holy one, who was a relative of theirs, not to live in that place.

 

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