Lizhensk (The synagogue, people, and events) {cont.}

by Y. Rotman

Holidays and Festivals

Tisha B'Av
The city changed completely already on the eve of Tisha B'Av, prior to the concluding meal before the fast. The children were freed from Cheder, and spread out in all the fields and gardens to gather thorns and thistles. They would bring them in bags, with each one competing with the next to fill up a larger bag, as ammunition to throw onto the heads of the girls.

The girls wore their curls in headscarves, and wandered about as if to prove that they were not afraid of these antics, with their heads were covered up like this.

The concluding meal prior to the fast was finished and the city was enveloped in silence. Sorrow descended upon everyone. The street lamps were lit on the streets, however their light was eerie, as if the disaster of the destruction of the temple had happened just then. The houses were dark, and all of their inhabitants had left and went to the Beis Midrash or the synagogue to weep over the destruction of the temple. Their heads were bent, they wore slippers and their steps were not heard.

The Beis Midrash was very dim. The benches and tables were overturned, since one was not allowed to sit normally at that time. The prayer leader intoned the prayers in a sad voice, the tunes were mournful, and groaning voices accompanied the reading of the Book of Lamentations, which was recited in a tune devoid of any joy. The pranksters could not tolerate this sadness, and they wished to lighten up the somberness. They would catch some heretic who came to the prayers with his shoes and force him to remove them. Then they would make sure that he would not be able to find them later.

The mourning continued the next morning. After the recitation of the dirges, everyone went to the cemetery to throw cloves of garlic upon the graves of their dear ones who were no longer here, so that their repose would become bitter and they would also feel in their graves that this was the day that the temple was destroyed. When the fountain of tears dried up, they would arise from the graves and go to their homes... However who knows, perhaps G-d would have mercy on his nation of Israel, and we would be among them.

The Month of Elul[1]
The Shofar sounds morning and evening, and from all corners, all of a sudden, the number of Shofars and Shofar blowers multiply.

The wind blows, and the cold forebodes difficult days. From the windows one can hear voices singing, as prayer leaders test out their “vessels”, and the trustees (Gabbaim) fix every broken bench. The days of awe are beckoning, and many Jews would come to pray, so there had to be a place for them all. The stores began to sell the needs for the holy days, honors were sold such as Aliyot (Torah honors), Shofar blasts, the Psalms prior to the Shofar blasts (Lamenatzeach), and other such honors which were appropriate for the occasion.

Selichot (Penitential Prayers)
It is very cold. The shammas bangs with his wooden hammer in order to awaken the worshippers. The teeth rattle from the cold and from the trepidation. It is still dark on the streets, and people do not want to get up, however the days of judgment and introspection are approaching, and it is appropriate to purify oneself and to pray at this time when one could concentrate fully.

Those who wake up light dim oil lamps in order not to awaken the members of the household. The old and worn out Selichot books were prepared from the evening before. Generations of heads of families prayed from them, and they were already well used.

Suddenly, the streets fill. Footsteps break the silence and darkness. Jews rush to the ritual bath (Mikva) in order to purify themselves before the recitation of Selichot, so that they would be pure before the Creator. Here and there, there would also be women as well as children who had already reached the age of thirteen. In the midst of this great solemnity, pranksters leave the Kloiz and run to the gardens of the neighbors to secretly steal nuts.

Hatarat Nedarim (The Ceremony of Annulment of Vows)
This ceremony is conducted in groups of three. One recites the annulment, and two answer. These ad hoc courts of law annul the vows of each person. At time, the reciter does not understand the text he is reading, which is written in Aramaic interspersed with Hebrew, and even the two listeners do not listen to the reading themselves. This is the way of the ceremony of annulment of vows. Now is the propitious time to release vows and become free of blame. The days of Elul break the heart and inspire people to search their deeds and to improve their path of life.

Tashlich (Ceremony of Casting off of Sins)
One does not sleep during the day of Rosh Hashanah, for it says that anyone who sleeps on Rosh Hashanah, his luck will also sleep. Once people finish the afternoon meal, they return to the Beis Midrash for the recitation of Psalms, and when they finish the recitation of Psalms, the Mincha service is recited immediately, and then ... people go to the creek of the priest in order to empty their pockets of all sins and iniquities that are stored there. Many go. Some go due to piety, others due to curiosity, and most go due to the desire to be together. If you see people going, you also go. Nevertheless, people are not all together. There are no barriers here, but people gather in groups, and each group gathers together in its own corner along with its prayer leader. They are careful not to intermingle the groups, even though everyone is reciting the same text.

In the latter years the gentiles purposefully dried up the creek, so that the Jews would not be able to recite Tashlich there. What did people do? They went to the well. Behind the bathhouse, there was a well that was steeped in its own thoughts. Suddenly crumbs rain down upon it and disturb its peace. There is no better place to cast sins than in the depths of water.

Yom Kippur – Sukkot – Hoshana Rabba
At noon all activity already stopped. Even if that day was a market day which was awaited eagerly in order to earn one's livelihood, once noon came everything stopped. It was enough, for this workaday world no longer exists. Even the gentile farmers knew that on this day, the eve of Kol Nidre, one must hasten to finish their work early.

The first thing that happened was that people went to the Mikva, and immediately thereafter to the Mincha service. Bundles of grass were spread out between the prayer leader's podium and the reader's desk. Everyone lied on the ground, and the shammas stood with his long whip, and administered to everyone two high lashes, and two low ones. Thirty-nine lashes remove sin and soften the heart.

In the long corridor, a long table is set up with many collection plates for various charities. The plates of the Gabbaim are first. The dues owing to the house of prayer are first. Next there was a large money tray for the honorable and important poor, and afterward there were various trays for the trustees of various organizations and groups.

Beggars of all types and appearances stood outside. They collected what was to be given. In these moments, charity was given in fulfillment of the adage “charity redeems from death”. Large Yahrzeit lamps were also set up in the corridor, thick wax candles with rope like flax wicks. The Gabbaim placed them in special containers filled with sand.

The final meal before the fast was concluded. The head of the family arose and put his outstretched hands on the heads of the children, and blessed his children and grandchildren. He would start with the older ones and conclude with the younger ones. Tears were not lacking as well, for Heaven knows that there was what to weep about. Mothers, grandmothers, older girls, and even men wept. People went to the Kol Nidre service with eyes worn from weeping.

The trek to the synagogue itself instilled fear and trepidation in the hearts of the people. Everyone was dressed in white cloaks (Kittel) and white socks. Large Machzorim (festival prayer books) were in everyone's arms. Large woolen prayer shawls covered everyone's head, and the silver and gold prayer shawl bands sparkled with rays of light.

In a short time, everyone was gathered. The cantor began the Kol Nidre prayer in a voice that was filled with prayer and lamentation, lamentation and prayer.

Jews sing and weep. They are very serious. The gentiles also gather around to witness the trepidation of the Jews. For them, this was a spectacle.

The awesome day was over. On the very next day, the marketplace was filled with Sechach. The gentiles from all the neighboring villages knew to seize the brief opportunity when they would be able to amass money from shoots and branches. Wagons were laden with bundles and packages. The prices rose. On numerous occasions they raised the prices so high and the Jews did not agree to purchase. As if by command, not one person would purchase the shoots in such a circumstance. The gentiles stood for half a day, and then gave in and lowered the price.

In the meantime, the Jews ran around to gather boards and planks for the walls of the Sukkah. They would borrow from stockyards and old warehouses and build their Sukkot.

There were some Jews who built their homes from the outset with a ready-made Sukkah.

Everyone ate in Sukkot. The children concerned themselves with the beauty of the Sukkah. Hangings made of eggshells and feathers, colored by singeing with a flame, hung from the ceilings.

The Last Day of Sukkot
Only very few people of means, as well as the heads of the community, had Etrogim. Of all the four species, the poor were only able to obtain the willow branches, known as Hoshanos. On all the days of Chol Hamoed, the Jews would stand and peer through the cracks in the windows to see if guests would come. All of them were dressed in festive clothes as they waited for guests, who would generally come to honor their friends with a visit during Chol Hamoed.

On the last day of the Festival the shammass would bring bundles of Aravot or other branches for Hoshanos. They made a little bit of extra livelihood by selling them, and this was also for the good. On this day the Hoshana bundle is beaten during the services, and afterward, it was a festive time for the children, as they received the palm strands used to tie the Hoshanas, and made woven rings from them.

Many Chanukah Menoras of various types were displayed in the windows. Children accompanied their parents to purchase candles, and they chose the type that they prefer. There was no house that did not have a Chanukah Menorah burning. The Menoras were all different and of various forms; they were heirlooms passed on from father to son to grandchild.

The gentiles knew the time of the festival, and they came to town in the days prior to the festival with flax wicks and flasks of oil for sale.

Fathers would stand and unwind the wicks from the flax bundles. At the time of candle lighting they would recite the benediction with enthusiasm, as well as chapters of Psalms, and particularly they would sing the “Maoz Tzur” hymn which was the height of the celebration.

This was a very joyous holiday for the children. The lessons stopped at the eve of the festival. They were free from Cheder, and they went together with their parents to the synagogues, frolicked about and enjoyed the miracle of the Maccabees in their own way. The first candle in the great synagogue glowed from the burnished brass candelabra and spread the light of joy to the children who were gathered around its base. Reb Yosef the shammas sung the benedictions with his sweet voice. It was pleasant to hear, and if the day was snowy, the festivities would be doubled. The children would throw snowballs at each other during the time of candle lighting.

In the house, everyone was patient until the end of the ceremony, at which time they would receive their Chanukah money (Gelt), spread out on the floor and to spin their homemade tops (Dreidels) made of wood or lead. The older children would wander around the women's gallery and they would play cards. On Chanukah it was permissible to play cards. Outside it was frozen and icy, and inside the house there was warmth of the soul. The home was pleasant on Chanukah nights, which left impressions of light and pleasantness for many days

On the next day, they slaughtered geese, and prepared fat for the whole year. The smell of the fat was strong. Granite bells were displayed from every Jewish window and door. On the long nights of Kislev, women sat around with their heads covered with large kerchiefs, and softened feathers to make down for the pillows of the girls about to be married, so that they should remember their mothers as they put their heads down on their warm, soft pillow. The house was white from the flying feathers, and the street from the snow and ice; this was a white world in the darkness of the exile.

21st of Adar
It was difficult to determine if this was a day of joy or sadness. For the children it was a happy day. One week prior to this day, the train would daily bring in new Jews who were not local; horse drawn wagons filled with men and women covered with snow and ice plied the streets; and large colorful busses came from near and far; Jews came in brimmed hats, wide hats, Hassidic hats, home made velvet hats and even colored modern hats, with long Kapotes or short Hungarian cloaks, white socks, shoes without laces, heavy wagoneers boots, or captain's gaiters. There were Jews with long white beards or short trimmed beards, short payos or curly payos. The eyes were red from tears, tears due to family troubles, and the hearts were heavier than stones, laden with many requests. They came to weep and to pour out warm tears on the grave of the Tzadik at the time that they kiss the gravestone.

They would come yearly to place their notes which detailed in trembling writing their list of woes. They prayed, supplicated, danced solemnly and jumped, gave charity and donations, and pushed themselves to pour out their woes.

In the midst of all the sobbing, they danced, made noise, sang, and sang enthusiastic Hassidic songs. They took pride in themselves, in their Tzadik, and in the breadth of their spirit.

The 21st of Adar, the Yahrzeit of the Noam Elimelech, was a day of happiness and sadness combined.

Purim was multifaceted: From the religious perspective, it was filled with laws and statutes, such as the reading of the Megillah and the requirement to hear it, the benedictions before the reading, along with the special melody.

From the nationalist perspective: The victory of Mordechai the Jew against Haman the Agagite. Even on this day, tears were shed for the suffering of the oppressed Jewish people, with the faith that the Jews would eventually be victorious and overcome their enemies.

From the joyous perspective: In particular for children, they would bang when they heard the name of Haman, wander about freely in the synagogue, make noise with their noisemakers (Graggers) as much as possible, and the day was turned over, for they would admonish those who made the least noise.

The main joy was in the afternoon of Purim, when children would dress up and carry their gifts of food (Mishloach Manot) in glass plates covered with beautiful napkins. Sometimes the cake would be transferred from house to house and would eventually find its way back to its house of origin. Engaged men would send gifts of value to their brides, such as bracelets, clocks, earrings, etc.

Poor people would go from door to door to receive gifts.

The true joy started in the late afternoon, when the houses were illuminated very brightly as they prepared for the Purim feast. Some Hassidim managed to catch one more Megillah reading privately, accompanied by all of the usual noise making when they came to the name of Haman, may his name be blotted out.

The “costume parade” began, threadbare cloaks, faded Kapotes, worn out Streimels, with braided belts around the waste, masks made in the form of Jewish heroes, fake beards, and long Payos made of hyssop. These were the hidden poor people who were embarrassed to beg during the day when they would be recognized, but would do so at night when they were dressed up, as nobody would recognize them.

Occasionally, the toddlers would be frightened on account of the costumed people, women would be angry about the tricks played on them; but nevertheless Purim was a lighthearted holiday, one day a year when the typical Jewish seriousness would be lifted, and people would be happy for what will be. Purim was a wonderful holiday.

Shabbat Hagadol[3]
In the neighboring villages, the fear of the gentiles would come upon the Jews. The non-Jews[4] made up stuffed bags in the shapes of Jews and tied them with string near the homes of the Jews. In the town, this Sabbath caused much joy. Everyone sent to his friend ships, trains, and tickets “direct to Egypt”. For the most part, these things were sent to enemies a day or two prior to the Sabbath, so that they would be received on the eve of this Sabbath. They had addresses such as “Boils fly to Egypt”, in verse and song. Stuffed bags in the shape of enemies were put up in the marketplace as well, and gentiles were hired for this purpose, to go on this Sabbath to the home of their enemies and bring them at the time of the conclusion of prayers the stuffed manikins which publicized the enmity. Nobody knew who arranged this, and who connected Shabbat Hagadol with the publicizing of enmity. No matter, for on this Sabbath, hatred was permitted toward those who caused problems for the Jews as well as for Jews...

Passover Preparations
After Purim, the preparations for and anticipation of Passover began. The sun began to shine in the streets. The snow began to melt, and people began to clear out their humble homes. They would throw out straw mattresses, old beds, heavy engraved items, and worn out books. They would clean and hang up their old clothes to air out. They would prepare to whitewash and clean out their houses.

They would bring whitewash from the pit of Zshishele Greenberg or Yosef Guzik, and some paint from Shmuel Langzam, for they would not simply whitewash, but would add some colored paint and decorate the house with various designs and flowers, in modern fashion. Outside, small feathers flew around that came out of the blankets and pillows that were being aired out on the windowsills.

The stalls in the marketplace began to stock fattened geese. They would slaughter them, to prepare rich gourmet food for the festival of the spring. The aroma of frying oil wafted from the houses, the basements were filled with potatoes, the glassmakers went door to door and sold glass pots and bottles to store home made wine. They would make the wine from raisins. Black raisins could be more easily obtained, they were cheaper, however the white ones were larger and sweeter. Everyone prepared according to his means. They would bring down boards, knives, and Kosher Passover utensils from the roofs. Every family cut up raisins. The toddlers would sneak some of the raisins, eat them and choke on the pits.

The gentiles brought wagons laden with straw to refill mattresses with fresh straw, and the old straw would be put into the old patched mattresses.

Bakers Kashered their ovens[5] and prepared them for the baking of Matzot. They hired women as kneeders, removers of Matza from the ovens, and rollers of Matza. The positions that received the highest salary were the remover of Matza from the ovens, and the shaper of the Matza. People would set an appointment with the baker as to when their Matza was to be baked, and they would bring their flour beforehand to the baker, wish each other best wishes and that they should be well for the next year...

The family members would also wish each other a good year. Everyone was busy with the baking of their Matza, and the bakers would bless the customers and wait for the numbered coins, as everyone came to take their Matza.

The kneaders and rollers would be scratched occasionally with broken glass and warned “to roll the Matza very thin”. One would shout “roll it thinner”, and the other would shout “pour more water”, the one who puts the Matza in the oven would shout “put the Matza in the oven”, and the baker would shout “the fire is too high”. The children would see themselves as part of this activity and would shout “wafer-like Matzot with many indentations”.

A giant baker's basket would be lowered from the dusty roof. It would be cleaned, and the Matzot would be placed in it so that they would not break. They would quickly be weighed, and the porters would hurry and carry them to the owners. The owners would receive their Matzot and shout “good year, good year” to the porters.

Passover Arrives
What would be considered a menial task all year is considered an honor on the eve of Passover. In the night prior to the day before Passover, people would go toward the well in song in order to draw the water for the baking of Matza, as it is said “they run to where the Matza water is”.

On the next day, on the eve of Passover they kneed their dough by hand and sing songs, Hallel, Psalms, as they baked their Matzot[6]. The Hassidim would only eat Matzot that were baked on the eve of Passover.

The houses were spotless, and the raisins were already squeezed so that there would be an abundance of wine.

After Mincha and Maariv of the evening prior to the day before Passover, they would go about with large wax candles, goose feathers that would serve as a brush, and they would search every corner and crack in the house. The remainder of the leaven (Chometz) would be swept into a spoon, and the spoon would be covered with a linen net so that the crumbs would not fall from it. The next day they would go to the Mikva in order to burn the Chometz.

There was a procession toward the Mikva: One went to immerse his new vessels for Passover, for without this immersion they would not be considered fit for use, and others would go with older utensils in order to purge them in the boiler of the Mikva. The boiler was ignited the night before for this purpose.

The tables, kitchen counters and closet shelves would be covered with new liners, nice and clean.

The ovens were cleaned with cleanser, and then glowed with a hot fire. The Passover utensils were brought down from the roof and the Chometz vessels were brought up to the roof for the duration of the eight days.

After the morning prayers, the first-born would be redeemed from their fast[7], and the joyous and glorious festival began to appear. Everyone was attired in their new festival clothes, the generally dimly lit rooms were now lit with bright oil lamps and torches, and the table was covered with a white tablecloth and chairs for reclining. Children who lived out of town came home to be with grandparents or parents on the night of the Seder. The tables were set spaciously; they were adorned with a large Seder[8] plate; a large Matza plate; wine glasses of various colors; and Haggadas of various sizes which were passed on from generation to generation, enhanced by various commentaries and illuminated with various illustrations, embroidered covers and beautiful borders.

People ran around in a hustle, were busy, and everyone waited for the night of the Seder with awe and trepidation. They concerned themselves with who would be given the role of asking the questions, and worried that the children would not get mixed up in the asking of their questions. The fathers worried that they should not get mixed up with when to wash hands and when not to wash hands. The mothers worried that the Seder meal would not be spoiled. Everyone waited...

“Ma Nishtana” brought joy to the heart, as well as the traditional tears – because of blood libels, frights, evil decrees, etc. The tricksters opened the doors of the houses during the recital of “Shefoch Chamatcha” and placed into the house a small straw manikin like a scarecrow, dressed up as Elijah, and stole and drank the Cup of Elijah.

There were homes where the Seder continued until 1:00 AM or later. The children took naps during the day so that they would be able to stay up for the long, drawn out Seder, however the eyes shut nevertheless, and heads nodded backwards. “Woe to the child who falls asleep”, as the children were afraid of the chastisement of their father. The mother would take her young children into a separate room to doze off so “father would not be aware”.

The father was like a king in his white clothes. He ate while reclining and discoursed without stopping, in words that only he, as a scholar, could understand.

Everyone fixed his or her eyes upon him.

He would often read the Yiddish commentary of the Haggada so that the family members including the women would also understand. The wife did everything according to the wishes of the king.

This was the only time during the year when the father would sit as a king at the table and set out the courses of food, and give command as to when to eat and when not to eat, when to cover the Matza and when not to cover the Matza, when to drink the wine. On this occasion the mother, generally the master of the table, would wait for his command.

[Page 156]

Lizhensk of Rabbi Elimelech

by Shalom Yam[9]

It was apparently a town like all other towns
Inhabited by boors, people of means, and Torah scholars
Householders, merchants, poor people, affluent people
Merchants of forest products, middlemen, and merchants of the fairs
Clergy, prayer leaders, ritual slaughterers, and rabbis
And ordinary Jews of pleasant demeanor.

Nevertheless, this town was one of a kind
Like a dwelling place for the Divine presence:
The gravesite that was famous
In the region as well as the world
Of the Tzadik Rabbi Elimelech, and the splendor of his holiness
All the households of Lizhensk basked in his influence.

The cave in which was found the grave was located close the synagogue and Mikva
It implanted in all who cared for it hope and expectation,
By means of a “kvitel” left at the grave
One can express one's wishes, and the soul of the Tzadik will assist.

The gravesite was bustling on weekdays and Sabbaths,
Everyone comes together with his troubles to the gravesite;
One is barren, or finds it difficult to give birth,
Another was abandoned by her husband,
Still another has been struck by financial difficulties,
A couple needs to marry off a child,
Another requires a match for himself,
For since he became a widower his world has darkened;
All of them turn themselves,
Turn to the gravesite.
The gravesite is always bustling
Something is always taking place there.

Such was the case on an ordinary day, on a day like any others,
Imagine for yourself what it was like on the Yahrzeit on Adar 21.
The entire city was hustling and bustling
Jews and gentiles would move around noisily
Jews from far away, from morning until night
They came to utter prayers at the gravesite in Lizhensk
In Lizhensk they did not have to worry about a hotel or guesthouse
For every Jew in Lizhensk knew
That people would come to them as they would to a restaurant.
Every Jew in Lizhensk was prepared
To receive them with food, drink, and lodging.
Even the synagogue, the place of prayer
Changed its nature on the day of the Yahrzeit
It functioned day and night as a cafeteria
Selling food to the guests at cheap prices,
And if a beggar were to ask food for free
He would be given, and not turned away empty-handed
He would receive his food honorably, as everyone else
As well as some coins for his pockets, and a respectable place to sleep.

On the day of the Yahrzeit, affairs would be conducted,
Matches would be finalized, debates would be resolved,
Distant friends would suddenly meet,
They would be reunited in friendship, and relations would be renewed.
The town was then like a sea, stormy and noisy
Everyone was rushing, everything was burning.
Everyone searched for lodging or bedding
For friends, individuals or groups.

And in this place, this honorable place,
We should always remember our teacher Reb Yosel
Whose house was open to every poor person
And he served them as a servant.
His fatherly concern added color to the city.
The name of Lizhensk was well known and adorned
In an adornment of goodness, of heartfelt simplicity
Thanks to the Tzadik and his followers.
We should also mention here Reb Yechezkel the rabbi
The last rabbi of our city, who lived here for many years
The honorable Rabbi Yechezkel Landau of holy blessed memory.
In those days, he served the public,
And opened his home to everyone who was hungry and thirsty,
He invited everyone, and brought everyone near
Thus did he serve as an example of brotherly Judaism
They are remembered with love by every Jew of Lizhensk.

Even the gentiles would say
And know how to relate
About the miracles that occurred, and of which they were witnesses
In the merit of the holy rabbi of the Zhidim.[10]
Therefore, they also believed
That the merit of the gravesite of Rebbe Elimelech offers protection.
And once a strange and unusual event occurred,
A gentile from a neighboring village dirtied the walls of the cave
And this gentile[4] died after a day or two.
They said, “Is this not a miracle from heaven”.
Even a left wing newspaper such as “Unzer Express”
Described the story of this miracle at length.

Lizhensk may have been like any other city
Ordinary and simple, a city of dark days,
However the spirit of Elimelech its rabbi of holy blessed memory
Raised it up to the heights, raised it above all.

And in our holy memory, our eternal memory
We also remember his great and kind self
May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life forever
We remember our martyrs as well as him forever.

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  1. The month prior to Rosh Hashana. Elul fall in August / September. Various laws, customs of Elul, which are referred to in the next few paragraphs are as follows:
    1. The Shofar is sounded on each weekday, to prepare for Rosh Hashana;
    2. During the week prior to Rosh Hashana, special penitential prayers, known as Selichot are recited in the early morning prior to the regular morning service. The first Selichot service takes place in the middle of the night on the Saturday night prior to Rosh Hashana (or if Rosh Hashana falls early in the week, one week previously);
    3. On the morning of the day before Rosh Hashana, the ceremony of the annulment of vows (Hatarat Nedarim) is conducted. An ad hoc court of law (Beis Din), consisting of three people is formed, and people take turns reciting the text of annulment of vows before this ad hoc court of law. This ceremony releases a person from unintentional vows that are made rashly during the course of the year, and thus deflects the punishment for their non-fulfillment;
    4. People search their ways, improve their level of spirituality, and make amends to people that they have wronged during the year.  Back

  2. Sukkot is a major Biblical festival that occurs five days after Yom Kippur, and lasts for nine days (eight days in Israel). Several Sukkot observances are noted in the text, so I will summarize them here. The two major observances mandated by the Torah are as follows:
    1. Dwelling in a temporary booth or tabernacle called a Sukkah. In warm climates, one eats and sleeps in the Sukkah, but in colder climates, it is generally customary to only eat in the Sukkah. The Sukkah must be made of a roof of vegetation material (tree branches, wooden or bamboo poles, etc.). This thatched roof is known as Sechach;
    2. The taking of the four species, which consist of a palm frond (Lulav), citron (Etrog), myrtle branch (Hadas), and willow branch (Arava). The bundle of species is waved at various times during the festival services. This bundle is carried in a procession while Hoshana prayers are recited. The seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabba, meaning the Great Hoshana, due to the multiple circuits made that day. On that day, a special bundle of Aravot, known as the Hoshana bundle, is beaten on the ground. The eighth day is known as Shemini Atzeret, and the ninth day is known as Simchat Torah. On Simchat Torah, there is much singing and dancing, and there are processions made around the synagogue with the Torah scroll. The first two days of Sukkot, as well as Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, are observed as full-fledged festivals, with abstention from work as on the Sabbath. The intermediate days of the festival are known as Chol Hamoed. Technically, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are a separate festival, so later in the text, where it refers to the last day of the festival, it is referring to Hoshana Rabba, the seventh day. Back

  3. The Great Sabbath, the Sabbath preceding Passover. Back

  4. The term used here is the derogatory term: Shkotzim (singular Shegketz). Back

  5. Utensils that were used during the year for leavened products, or even for products which might contain traces of leaven, must be prepared in a special manner (Kashered) for use on Passover. Back

  6. On the eve of Passover, it was customary to bake the Matzot that would be used for the Seder. The Matzot described above, baked prior to the eve of Passover, would have been for general use during the eight days of Passover, as it was only possible to bake small quantities by hand on the eve of Passover itself. Hallel is a selection of Psalms (Psalms 113-117) that are recited on various festive occasions during the year. Back

  7. First born are supposed to fast on the eve of Passover, in commemoration of being saved from the plague of the destruction of the firstborn during the exodus from Egypt. However, it is customary to waive the requirement to fast by attending a festive event, such as the conclusion of study of a Talmudic tractate. Back

  8. The Seder (literally order), it the ceremonial meal taken on the night of Passover, accompanied by the recital of the story of the exodus from Egypt, the eating of Matza (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs, as well as many other rituals. The story is introduced by questions that are asked by the children, called “Ma Nishtana”: “Why is this night different from all other nights ...”. Haggadas are the books that contain the order of service for the Seder; they are often adorned with commentaries and illustrations. “Shefoch Chamatcha” is the section recited after the meal when the door is opened to symbolically welcome the prophet Elijah to the Seder, and a request is made for G-d to “Pour out his wrath unto the nations who do not know You...”. The cup of Elijah is a cup of wine poured toward the end of the Seder for the prophet Elijah, but not drunk. Back

  9. This piece is a poem, with every two lines ending in a rhyme. The translation preserves the line breaks, but not the rhyme. Back

  10. The Slavic word for Jew. Back


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