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[Page 7]

People of the Book

Translated by Adam Prager

Eight years ago a group of people from Buczacz came up with the idea of commemorating our venerable community, whose history and influence go farbeyond its narrow borders. During these eight years – with some interruptions – this book was prepared.

The editor of this volume understands that much remains to be done and that ourwork will probably never be complete. With the destruction of the magnificentcommunity of Buczacz and the death of its inhabitants, information and memories were lost together with those pure souls, making it impossible to gather all the historical facts needed to portray the town in full detail. It was necessary to collect material from remote places, to order the most varied bits and pieces and to encourage individuals from near and far to contribute to the preparation of this book. The editor and other members of the Book Committee spared no labors in trying to find both public and private sources for the completion of the book plan. Nevertheless, many gaps in both the near and distant past could not be bridged with the material that accumulated by chance.

We were aware, however, that this would be the last opportunity to erect a sacred memorial for Buczacz, to collect what we could from the mouths of thetownspeople and to recover documents that were left scattered about. For with each passing year fewer remain who remember and who are of connecting strand to strand, fragment to fragment, story to story,description to description, picture to picture and memory to memory so as to revive the image of the community of Buczacz, to leave a record and give it a name.

The literary criterion was not the only one for determining what to include inthe book; value and usefulness also played a role in its arrangement. For thebook's sole purpose is to collect material from wherever and whomever possiblein order to reconstruct Jewish Buczacz. Therefore, certain repetitions dealing with the city's cultural and civic life were not omitted, even if they failed to introduce any novelties or add a personal touch. The editor especially followed this principle in the section describing the ruin of the town and the acts of destruction by the soldiers of Hitler (may his name be blotted out!). The editor had no intention of editing the style of sections dealing with bloodshed and heroism, but simply allowed the speakers to tell in their own words what they saw and what they experienced. For all the descriptions were written close to the time of the events, shortly after their writers succeeded in saving themselves and finding asylum in Israel, the United States, or Europe.

Although responsibility for the book lies with the editor alone, he has thegreat pleasure to add that he consulted S.Y. Agnon at various stages in thebook's preparation. Not only did Agnon write a unique bibliographical studyespecially for this volume, as well as several stories of Buczacz; he also gavelearned and fascinating advice to the editor; his remarks are diffused throughout the book and for this the editor is grateful. It is only natural that the name Agnon is mentioned so often in the book. Agnon has contributed to Hebrew literature a kind of celestial Buczacz, having for decades nurtured and been nurtured by this source. Agnon as a writer is no longer associated with and of interest to the people of Buczacz alone; he plays a major role within the Jewish people and its literature. However, if the special pride the Buczacz survivors take in Agnon is too apparent, may they be forgiven – it is only human to take pride in one's townsman.

*   The reader will probably notice the various spellings of the town's name. This cannot be avoided. Due to the form of the name and its differentpronunciations, especially by Jews and Christians, different spellings have been used since the time the town was mentioned both in old and new Hebrew and Yiddish books. Therefore the editor has decided to follow the rule: thestandard spelling is Buczacz, although in cases where the name is mentionedfrom different sources, it will be given as in those sources.
** Prior to the publishing of the book Mrs Chaya Roll (may she rest in peace), passed away. Chaya was the moving spirit of the Book Committee. Out of herlove for this town and its Jewish life, she worked with great enthusiasm for the writing of this book, encouraging others to do the same. Much of the credit for the publishing of the book is due to her. Blessed be her memory…

Israel Cohen

Photo Captions:
General view of the town, the Stripa River encircles the town
General view from the West
The famous Lipa known by the name Soveyski Lipa, near the estate of Count Potocki
The fortress (The Empty Castle)
Historic building in the town center (Ratusz)

[Page 9]

In My Town

Translated by Adam Prager

One Chapter of One Story

In memory of my teacher and friend, the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel Bialovlotski. hy"v
[May the Lord watch over him and restore him to life]

a) At the entrance of my town

There is a best place and a best time to tell a story, and so I will talk elsewhere of the day I left my hometown, why I did so, and what I discovered in all those places for which I left my town. Here I will describe what I encountered on my return, as well as relating to what happened in Buczacz during my absence. I will begin with my town, then talk about my townspeople, and along the way I will say a little about myself as a townsman would speak of a fellow townsman.

Mine is the town of towns. As to its age, it is most venerable, being one of the oldest communities of the Jewish Diaspora in Poland. As to customs, it is blessed with fine customs received from its forefathers, exiles from Ashkenaz, who received them from the scholars of Rome, who received them from the Gaonim of Erets-Yisrael, who received them from the great Talmudists, all the way to Moses who received them on Mt. Sinai. Concerning wisdom, there is no department of knowledge without its base here, especially the study of the Torah – the highest wisdom of all. Alongside wisdom, allow me to mention humility. In all of its history, Buczacz never chose a rabbi from among its own townsmen even if he were expert in all matters of Judaism.

While I was away from my town, it lived through stormy days, breaking a calm that lasted through most of the period from after the atrocities of 1648-1649 until my emigration to Israel. I don't know whether the gentiles were the cause of the eruption or whether the Jews were to blame, or whether these two explanations are actually one. For as long as we follow God's will, all gentiles in their lands see that we are the people of God and fear us. Once we cease to follow God's will, God ignores us, leaving us subject to persecution and humiliation by the gentiles. This has been so through the ages, from the days of Egypt till now, when our estrangement from God has grown.

From the pure joy of thinking of my town, I ignored the grave rumors that reached my ears on the way to Buczacz. These rumors described gangs of idlers returning from the war who were about to enter our town. Was it possible that something had changed in our town? This is what I asked myself. I sat up in my bed after a short summer-night's sleep and was ready to go further, feeling confident as in the days of my youth when our town was safe and tranquil and all the gentiles saw the Jews as the source of all livelihoods and no one would even think of the possibility that anything could change there till the coming of the Messiah.

Before the pillow under my head could wrinkle, I was out of bed, dressed and off to see the town. I had not seen it for quite a few years, except in my dreams.

b) The picture of the town

Since my town is not well known to you, I will try to draw it for you, at least insofar as one can describe a place inspired by the heavenly spheres themselves.

My town lies on hills surrounded by and intertwined with rivers and lakes. Pleasant springs flow down to forests thick with trees and full of singing birds. Some of the birds are natives of the land; others are foreign and have chosen to stay, for only a fool would give up so blissful a paradise. Whoever can distinguish between the different bird songs can tell the native from the foreign birds.

The streets and avenues in the town lie in contrast to the hills. They are the work of both man and nature, each complimenting the other. This is one example where the makings of God and those of man join together peacefully in a complementary manner. One can imagine that those same streets and avenues go back to times when peoples' hearts were pure and uncorrupted.

Along the main thoroughfares, houses of worship were established. Actually, they established themselves. After 1649 when the riots ceased, things began to return to normal; survivors of the Khmelnitski horrors trickled home. The town was mostly in ruins. Gentiles had occupied those houses that had remained intact; synagogues and study halls were devastated; the Great Synagogue was turned into a church. While Jews were searching for a place to build a house of worship, a fragment of a scroll from one of the ruined Torah scrolls started to flutter in the wind. Some say it fell from the heavens, for all knew that the spot on which it had finally fallen was sacred. A house of study for prayer and learning was built on it. This is the old Bet Hamidrash. When they prospered, the Jews built the Great Synagogue, a great monument, stronghold of the Jews, for in times of trouble – May we not see such again – Jews would come there to pray to our merciful Lord, guardian from all evil.

When the town had grown and developed, and the house of study proved too small for everyone, a second one was built, financed by a few homeowners. It consisted of one room for prayer and study, with books, a table, benches and a sink. People called this the New Bet Midrash as opposed to the already existing old Bet Midrash.

Past glory was restored to that generation. They were honored with a permanent rabbi, the true gaon, Rabbi Tsvi Kara, who left behind him as a blessing his book of responsa Neta Shaashuim, and was buried in the town cemetery. All the gaonim who preceded him were recruited to serve in other towns. But not R' Tsvi Kara. He resided in Buczacz till the day he was called to his residence above.

In order to make him feel as comfortable as possible, a spacious house with two rooms, plus a kitchen for his wife, was built for him. One room was called "the summer house" while the other, in which an oven was installed, was known as "the winter house." R' Kara was also given a spacious area for his sukkah, on which very spot, years later, a large bet midrash was built. I shall speak of it later on. After it was observed that R' Kara walked daily from his house to the Great Synagogue, the townspeople lay square stones along his route. Square stones were also laid around the synagogue, creating a floor of sorts around its walls. I knew an old man who knew an even older one who recalled that as a child his father pointed out to him the Gaon, with pipe in mouth on his daily walk. While walking, R' Kara would reflect upon the many questions he received concerning the halakha. Our teacher, the Gaon, was an affable person, always ready to respond to scholars, except those who turned to him in order to brag of their own knowledge. These he would send on their way in a jesting manner, his eyes smiling, constantly puffing on his pipe. Scholars would come to visit him to discuss problems of halakha and if they remained until the time for afternoon prayers [minkha]), they prayed there in the study house, except in the month of Elul and on the High Holidays. In line with the practice of our forefathers, from the first day of Elul to the night of Simkhat Torah, R' Kara conducted all prayers at the Great Synagogue.

Following the death of our rabbi, the Gaon, head of our rabbinical court, his position was inherited by his son-in-law, the Gaon , the pious R' Avraham David, a holy man of God, a gaon in revealed as in secret matters, venerated throughout the land , who illuminated the way for many through his books of sacred knowledge. I have already hinted in one of my books at how he came to be our rabbi, how he was commandeered in the middle of the night at his home in the town of Yazlovits where he served as rabbi, and how he was literally carried from his bed all the way to his house in our town. I will not repeat what I have written, even though it is only hinted at. I will, however, add this: it is to his credit (may it protect us) that he built a small temple and instituted the Sefardic rite in his prayer service. This rite was already in use by the Bet Khasidim [House of Hasidim] that was built a generation earlier. Most of the people called this hasidic center "the clowns' chapel" ["leytsim shilikhl" – Yiddish shilikhl 'little shul']. The new hasidim, the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov of blessed memory were looked upon in our town as a bunch of clowns due to their strange movements and dances during prayer and due to their dress. Townspeople felt no compunction about speaking of their house of prayer scornfully.

After the death of this tsadik there was disagreement as to who would inherit his place. Some wanted his son to replace him, while others opposed this. The deceased himself had stated before his death that he did not want his son to inherit his position, though he held him worthy of it. Our tsadik was said to fear it would become a custom for sons to inherit the positions of their fathers. A situation could arise whereby the rabbinical chair would not always pass to the most worthy candidate, which in turn could lead to the position being desecrated.

The son did not inherit the position; however, he and his family lived in the chosen rabbi's house. The rabbi chosen was our teacher, the true Gaon, R' Avraham Teumim, author of Khesed leAvraham. The tsadik's son lived in the rabbi's home and expanded his righteous father's study house, which was called the Rabbi's Study House. In recent generations people have been calling it "America," since most of those who come there to pray stem from different places, just as in America the inhabitants originate from many different countries. Before the Rabbi's Study House was built, there existed the Tailors' Synagogue. If you want to know why the tailors had their own synagogue, read my book Oreakh Nata Lalun [A Guest for the Night]. Once the town was larger and its inhabitants more numerous, other houses of study and prayer were built. If you wish to know more about them, this too you may find in Oreakh Nata Lalun. However, there I altered my town's name. But now, after those profane madmen have annihilated its Jewish inhabitants and the town is no more, I call it by its name Biczacz, as our forefathers of blessed memory did, or Buczacz as it is written in the history books.

Now I return to the Great Synagogue.

c) The Great Synagogue of our town

From my love for the sacred, I will spare no effort in describing our Great Synagogue. Our Great Synagogue is shaped like an erect ark and has a stone floor on all sides. It is narrow on three sides and wide at its front, its walls are smooth and look like old parchment, When I was a small child, I thought the Great Synagogue was a hand phylactery. But because it was larger than a man's phylactery and even of a giant's, I wondered whose it was. That was the first wonderment of my childhood. One day a relative took me to the old study house where I saw old men sitting with books before them, and one man among them was teaching them as a tutor teaches little children. I heard him say, "How is it that the Almighty [hakadosh barukh hu] puts on phylacteries [tefilin]? And what is written in those phylacteries? And who are like the people of Israel, one people in all the land?" And I knew what I knew.

Now that I have discussed the building's shape, I shall go into further detail. Part of it is sunk into the ground, for "from the depths I cried out to God" [Psalms 130: 1]. It has twelve windows for the twelve tribes, one of which lies above the Holy Ark on the eastern side. It is made of various pieces of glass through which a spectrum of light passes. Because those lights are constantly in motion, I believed as a child that one gleam of the sunlight of the Land of Israel glowed within them. And even today, after reading science books and studying about the sun, I find it most difficult to set aside this notion, even though it does not go hand in hand with the laws of nature.

Four quill pens on each and every finger are not sufficient to describe the splendor of the Great Synagogue and also that of the old study house and of all the other study houses in our town. As to height, there were taller buildings among both the gentiles and the Jews. As to illumination, lights from other buildings shined more brightly. However, past midnight, when all the lights in town were extinguished, the lights of our study houses shined with the light of the Torah. As regards height, tall and solid buildings collapse, but he who raises the Torah raises himself and continues to grow. This was said of previous generations that loved the Torah.

d) From Torah to Tefilah

When the sun has begun to shine and it is time for prayer, all arise from their places. The aged gird their loins and wrap themselves in prayer shawls and adorn themselves with their phylacteries. The young men gird their loins and adorn themselves with their phylacteries. Small boys, below the age when it is obligatory to put on phylacteries, gird their loins and recite blessings and prayers and say "amen" and "vayehe shemaya raba." No one stops praying to hold a friendly chat or for conversation of any kind. If you witnessed a man distracted from his prayer, you could be sure he was not from our town. It is not an accident that after the congregation's "mi shebeyrakh," the sheliakh tsibur [cantor] blessed the congregation. And how did he bless them? That God Almighty hear their prayers and make all their wishes come true. These are the words of the prayer: "He who blessed our forefathers, Avraham, Yitskhak and Yaakov, will bless all those who abstain from speaking during prayer in the synagogue from the moment the cantor commences with the words 'baruch sheamar' until the end of the prayers." This blessing was brought from the first exiles of Ashkenaz. And why does it not mention the reading from the Torah? There is no need, for never has any man thought of interrupting at such a moment, not even a whisper to his neighbor. Why do I mention all this? For if one will say that it is impossible for people to assemble together and abstain from conversation, I will say that in our town that was the custom.

e) Messiah

A tale of Elijah the prophet, of blessed memory, that happened to visit our town during a circumcision [brit mila]. In those days a baby was circumcised at the Great Synagogue immediately after the morning service [tefilat shakharit], before reciting the "Aleynu" prayer. A large chair beneath a canopy of red silk cloth was situated at the western side of the synagogue, below the women's gallery. This was the chair of Elijah the prophet, the angel of the circumcision. On the day of a circumcision, the chair would be carried down by ladder and placed beside the ark. Everyone would then wait until the infant was brought and it would be circumcised.

One day the son of a pious and modest scholar, a splendid man of good deeds, was to be circumcised. Father Elijah who loves the people of Israel, especially the humble, arrived an hour before the ceremony in order to stand among the Jews while they prayed to their Father in heaven.

On his arrival, Elijah found that the Jews had finished their prayers, for they would pray from the first signs of dawn. However, they were still standing, and were reciting the Thirteen Principles, as is the custom before a circumcision when the baby's arrival is delayed, a custom intended to prevent prayer from turning into conversation.

Elijah saw them standing together in one group reciting in unison: "I believe in the coming of the Messiah and will wait for him no matter how long he tarries." Elijah reflected on this and decided it would be a good idea to tell the Messiah about it.

After the circumcision, Elijah flew off and went straight to the Messiah. On his arrival, he turned to him and said: "Our righteous Messiah, if you were only to see how the townsmen of Biczacz await your arrival, you would immediately rid yourself of your shackles and hasten to redeem them." The Messiah heard these words and said to Elijah, "I shall go and see." He covered his wounds with shackles and his shackles with rags and set off for our town.

On his way he came across a place where it was time for the afternoon prayer. He entered the synagogue to pray and found it full of congregants, with a cantor standing before the ark and repeating the prayer. But most of the Jews were talking, their voices drowning out the prayer. The Messiah shook his shackles out of pure misery, but they could not be heard since the conversation was louder. He turned away from them and returned to the gates of Rome.

He still sits at the same spot while we await his arrival each day.

S. Y. Agnon

[Page 14]

Stories about Buczacz

Translated by Adam Prager

Concerning one mitsvah

The Gaon R' Israel, blessed be his memory, head of the rabbinical court of Swierz and of half the Lvov District, lived in the days of the Gaon, author of Turey Zahav [Pillars of Gold], who also began there as a rabbi. In Swierz there is a fair which is held right after Passover. The tavern keepers would brew a large quantity of beer for Passover. They would sell the beer on the eve of Passover to a gentile by means of a bill of sale in order to have enough good beer for the fair after Passover.

The Gaon R' Israel heard of this and said: "Why this is sheer trickery – preparing unleavened beverages [khamets] for themselves and cunningly selling it to the gentiles." He then declared at the synagogue that no one was permitted to brew beer shortly before Passover. Any man who defied his words would be ostracized. The tavern keepers heard him and all obeyed, except for one man who did not take the threat of ostracism seriously, since the great gaonim, the author of Bayit Khadash and R' Aryeh Leyb, the rabbi of Krakow and the author of Turey Zahav, who reigned in Swierz, did not declare such a punishment for this crime. So the taverner went and secretly prepared his ale.

That same tavern keeper was a moneylender to the villagers. On the first intermediate day of Passover [khol hamoed], he took his debtors' records, some provisions and rode towards the villages on his horse. On the way he was attacked by peasants and felt that they intended to kill him. He had a good horse and urged it forward, and was able to escape from them.

At mealtime he felt hungry. He had no water with which to wash his hands and did not wish to eat before doing so. He kept on riding till he was too tired to continue. Recalling that there was a spring that ran out of the mountain, he thought to himself that if he reached it he would be caught by the murderers and killed; if he did not get to the spring he would die of starvation. For he had no water with which to wash his hands, and he could not defy the Jewish custom of washing hands before eating. "Whatever will be will be," he said to himself, "for I must eat." He went down to the spring and washed his hands. Peasants came and murdered him.

The Gaon R' Israel used to have his prize student stay at his house. He would awaken two or three times a night, each time washing his hands; he directed the student to do likewise, and on each occasion they discussed the halakha. On the night of the murder there stayed with him his student, the great rabbi R' Natan, who later became famous among the Jews. A great preacher, he settled in the sacred community of Buczacz and was known there as R' Natan Melamed.

Past midnight a knocking was heard at the door. The Gaon called out, "Who is there?" A voice behind the door answered, "I am a tavern keeper." The Gaon thought it odd to be visited at such an hour. He ordered his student, our teacher R' Natan, to open the door. The tavern keeper stood at the entrance, but they did not notice that he was dead. "Why do you stand there," asked the Gaon, "come inside." "You think I'm alive, but I am dead," said the tavern keeper and he told them of all that had happened to him.

The Gaon turned to him and asked: "What is it that you want?" The dead man replied that it had been announced in the upper world that he was not to undergo a trial. God Almighty had already forgiven him for all his sins, for he had sanctified the name of God at the cost of his life while obeying one of the secondary commandments [mitsvot] ordained by oral tradition [divrey sofrim]. His soul was allowed to return to its place of origin, undetained by adversary or angel. When he arrived at the gates of heaven, an angel said: "Halt until I have inquired, for you have been ostracized by R' Israel." The angel was informed that the dead man could enter on condition that he obtain a writ from the rabbi canceling his punishment. "I am here," said the tavern keeper to the rabbi, " to request a writ of confirmation to win release of my soul from ostracism."

The rabbi asked: "Am I so important in that world? I am neither rich nor rabbi of a large town. The dead man replied: "Not every man merits two tables." [Berakhot 8: figurative expression of dual success, in Torah and in fame]. The Gaon asked: "How do you know how to speak in this manner?" For the tavern keeper was uneducated. He answered: "Now ask me about any Torah passage and I shall interpret it." And he added that when he was told to bring a writ from the rabbi, they spoke of the latter with two R's, respectfully saying R' R' Israel. The rabbi revoked the ostracism.

The rabbi asked the dead man who had killed him. He told him it was three peasants from a certain village and named their names. He added that his debtors' records were hidden in a barn of one the murderers. The rabbi said, "Rest in peace" and bade him farewell.

The following morning the rabbi asked to see the dead man's wife and told her that her husband had been hurt near a spring by the mountain, He instructed her to send a wagon with two men to bring him home. The wife wept and hurriedly rented a wagon and sent two or three men to fetch him. On their arrival they found the man dead. They laid him in the wagon and brought him to town.

His wife cried out in anguish and came weeping before the rabbi exclaiming, "My rabbi said he hurt his thigh, but he is dead." The rabbi replied: "I knew it was so, but I wanted to spare you the bad news. That is why I told you to send a wagon with men to bring him home." He added that the killers were three men from a certain village and his debtors' records were hidden in one of the men's barns and his name was such and such.

When the news reached the castle, the governor ordered that the dead man's body be displayed in the market square. According to custom, anyone knowing the identity of the killer(s) was asked to come forward. Such a man was not found and so they proceeded to bury the murdered taverner.

The dead man's wife then visited the governor and told him she knew the names of the killers and that her husband's debtors' records were hidden in one of the men's barns and that his name was such and such. The governor immediately dispatched horsemen to arrest the murderers and to find the debtors' records. The killers, knowing they had no other choice but to confess, did so. The governor wrought vengeance upon them and executed them. May the Lord take vengeance for the blood we have lost.

Everywhere he went and preached, our teacher, the great rabbi and preacher R' Natan of Buczacz, the student of the Gaon R' Israel, would reprove all those who took lightly the matter of washing hands. At the close of each sermon, he would tell the same tale. At the end he added: "If a man's soul is pardoned and given entrance to heaven for only one secondary commandment based on oral tradition, how much more so will he who keeps all the commandments of the Torah gain a place in the next world." (I give the origin of the story in Betoch Ha'Ir).

“And he will judge the poor righteously”

On the first day of the holiday, the day that our patriarch, Abraham, visits the sukkah, or perhaps it was on Hoshana Raba [the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles], the day the Messiah, King David, visits [these are folk beliefs], there gathered in the sukkah [booth] of Rabbi Meir of Przemyslany about thirty hasidim from various places. Rabbi Meir of Przemyslany asked," Is there anyone here who knew Rabbi Avraham David of Biczacz.

Rabbi Alter, son of the Biczacz dayan [religious court judge] (who rests in honor on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem) replied and said: "I was born thanks to the prayers of that tsadik [Hasidic rabbi] and I was brought up in his house. For my father, may he rest in peace, at sixty years of age still had no son, and therefore he would ask the tsadik to pray for him. Once, on the night of the Day of Atonement, when father went to the tsadik to receive his blessing, the Rabbi of Biczacz congratulated him, saying, "Mazal tov, this year your wife will give you a son." And I was born. And when father went to his eternal rest, the Rabbi of Biczacz took me into his home and raised me, and I knew him very well.

Rabbi Meir of Przemyslany said: "You say you knew the Rabbi of Biczacz, and Meir says there is no one who knew the Rabbi of Biczacz – except Meir. You will not see such a rabbi until the coming of the Messiah. Meir once talked with the Rabbi of Biczacz for eight continuous hours. You don't have to know what we talked about, but there is one part of that discussion that I will relate.

Meir asked the Rabbi of Biczacz why it is said of the Messiah, "And he will judge the poor righteously." And what is remarkable about the Messiah, our salvation, judging righteously? Moreover, it is said that he will judge only the poor and will not judge the rich. For it is said of Moses that he would discern from among all the people the valiant who are god-fearing and truthful, haters of corruption, etc.; all large matters will be brought before him, whereas they will judge the small ones. This means that great matters are brought before the great and little matters before the little. And why in the passage is the Messiah burdened with matters of the poor, since most matters of the poor are menial? And the Rabbi of Biczacz made no reply to Meir. And Meir said, "I will answer."

When Messiah the King arrives – may he soon come – when God appoints him for our time, immediately the seven shepherds arrive, and the presidents, and the high priests and the kings and the prophets, and also the Tannaim [talmudic teachers] and the Amoraim [talmudic interpreters], and all the talmudic sages ["khokhmey shas"], and also the Saboraim. and the Gaonim and the great First Poskim [religious arbiters], and all the rest of the righteous tsadikim, until the temple is filled by them and there is no room for the rabbis.

But the righteous rabbis are allowed to sit outside in front of the temple. And to sit near to and next to the temple of the Messiah is a great privilege. At that time, everyone that wants to have a dispute judged upon, wants it brought before the Messiah, the King. The rich come first, it being their nature to lead. When they arrive at the threshold, they behold the rabbi of their city sitting there. "Rabbi, are you here? We have a dispute to settle. Perhaps you can be of use to us." Immediately, the rabbi hears their case and renders judgement. Poor people whose disputes involve pennies see the cases of the great and rich being settled, cases involving thousands. They become ashamed to put forward their disputes. The Messiah, the King calls to them and says: "My beloved brothers, who feel with me in all my suffering, come closer to me." They come near to the Messiah, the King. The Messiah, the King says to them, "My brothers, what do you want?" They reply to the Messiah, the King: "We have such and such disputes and wish to have judgements." The Messiah, the King replies: "You have disputes, and if you wish I will render judgements on them." They reply: "Messiah, the King, our cases involve pennies. The Messiah, the King answers: "My brothers, you have no need to feel ashamed. Your pennies are kosher; you toiled greatly to earn them and they are more significant than all the gold and silver in the world. Put forth your arguments. And immediately the Messiah, our salvation, heard their disputes and rendered judgements righteously. And thus it is said: "And he will judge the poor righteously" [Isaiah, 11:4].

S. Y. Agnon

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