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[Page 137]

Traditions and Customs


[Page 142]

Shabbat and Holiday

by Yisrael Shtainman, Tel-Aviv

Translated by Esther Snyder



Erev Shabbat, Friday eve just before the sun sets. Fishel, the beadle (“shamash”), is walking down the long street, “Shulhoif” (street of the synagogues), with his hands crossed behind his back. He walks slowly and calmly, wearing his Shabbat clothes.

Fishel is tall, full-bodied with a thin yellow beard, almost pointed and combed to honor the Shabbat. His boots are well polished. He walks slowly, step after step and you can feel his pride that he can stop the routine everyday matters in the town with one call, “Everyone to go to Shul.”

All the everyday work, the business in the workplace and in the stores is stopped by the call of Fishel, the beadle. The women who haven't yet brought the pot of “cholent” to the neighbor's stove now hurry; some bring their pot to the baker's oven where the challot for Shabbat were recently removed and the oven is still hot from the whole week of baking. Perhaps one woman remembers that she has no candles for Shabbat and she hurries to the nearest store which will soon close for the whole Shabbat according to the beadle's call.

During the beadle's walk he stops at each of the four corners of the town square, because from each corner branch out the side streets. His voice reaches each street and every house and the people hurry to finish their preparations for the Shabbat.

This happens each week and every Holyday eve, when Fishel gives the sign to put away their material work and receive the holy Shabbat or Holyday.

All this was in the past. It's not known how many generations and how many years this custom existed, but unfortunately we know when it stopped. Regrettably, no Jews remained in Sarnaki, as happened in most of the cities and towns in Poland and there is no remnant of the Jewish way of life.



The river that flows by the fields of Yankel Nahums, which had a small wooden bridge, was used all year round by the residents of the town for various purposes. In the spring and summer, the youth enjoyed themselves on its banks. The housewives rinsed their laundry in the waters of the river after washing them. These waters had a special quality: they softened and improved the white wash. Although the distance from the town to the river was not small, the women were not lazy and walked the distance.

In the winter, when the snow lay on the surrounding fields and the water was frozen, the lads would sneak away to the river, without their parents' knowledge, and ice skate, especially on Shabbat. This was a pleasant sport and some of the youth knew how to really enjoy themselves.

However, the most important day for the river was on Rosh Hashana. The Jews of the town went to Tashlich (a virtual throwing away of sins into the flowing water.) All went, old and young, Hasid and Mitnaged, Orthodox and free thinkers, young men and women – and out of respect for the Holyday, the boys and girls walked separately. Oh, the painter who can paint this colorful scene, the beautiful mosaic of different types of clothes of the town's residents as they festively walked to the sanctified ceremony! The whole town was in one street – Tashlich !

The Hasidim went from their “shtiblech” – small shuls, with a “mahzor” – prayer book for Holydays – in their hands, and their children, big and small, alongside, wearing an “atlas” “kapota” – long caftan. The regular people went, the Mitnagdim who had recited a few chapters of Psalms in the synagogue before going out. The old women walked slowly wearing shiny “tzipkes” – head scarves and also women wearing “sheitlach” – wigs. Of course, each one was carrying the “Korban Minha Siddur” – prayerbook. Younger women wearing kerchiefs and holding a prayerbook in a small bag or wrapped in paper, were a bit embarrassed when meeting the young men on their way to Tashlich.

Groups of youth stroll back and forth. They are not going to throw their sins away into the river's waters but come out of curiosity and to meet other groups of youth also strolling along and they exchange winks as they remember other walks.


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