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Krynki Melamdim [religious teachers]

By Betzalel (Alter) Patshebutski

Translated by Eszter Andor and finished by Judie Goldstein

Two Reb Shmuels

Reb Shmuel Tentser the melamed had a heder [religious grade school for boys] where once hundreds of young boys studied. He had several assistants.

The Heder – a huge room with a clay floor, three large wooden tables set up in a “U” shape. On both sides there were long benches so that the students sat face to face. The rebbe [teacher] sat across the table..

The assistants would stand around the table or go around among the children and make sure that they stayed quiet and listened to the rebbe.

In the second room – where the rebbe lived – it was dark and squalid. The walls were soaked with dampness. The damp and steam from the cooking pots poured down them. There were no windows.

The teacher's wife, Paya, was, the poor thing, blind in one eye and it ran all the time. She would yell and curse and would invade the heder. She was dirty and the seams of her blouse were split. With a loud voice she would let out her bitterness to her husband. Shmuel Tentser would not even move. He did not even turn his head to her and would continue with “kometz alef oh, kometz bes, bo.”

There was a special punishment corner – a “prison” that was closed with a door as high as a child's head. The sinner would have to hold in one hand a poker and in the other a broom. The child would stand and yell: “beh, beh, a busha!” [beh, beh, a shame!]. After a couple of minutes he would go back to studying. The duration of the punishment was decided by the melamed.

[p. 165]

Reb Shmuel “ der rebetsin's”

Reb Shmuel “der rebetsin's” was a “secular” rebbe. He was famous not only for his knowledge, intelligence and for his ability to teacher grammar, but first of all for this; several weeks before Passover he would produce wine. The heder boys were glad to help, at the expense of studying less.

The wine “production” was an interesting trade. It was necessary to pay very careful attention to the small boys so as not to arouse the wrath of the rebbe's wife who was worse than the rabbi's ethics lessons.

In the dark evenings the students would go back to the heder with lanterns in hand and snow creaking under the feet. One frozen hand holds the holy books and the other the lantern, rocking in the wind. Behind it sways the figure of the student – the Jewish zealot.

Shmuel “der rebetsin's” did not beat the students – as he had physically weak children. He had a blackjack, but did not use it. The parents of his students were more or less sure that their children were in no great danger that Shmuel “der rebetsin'sheder would beat them.

Yishie Drayzi: Reb Shmuel Glembutski

We, all the Krynkers, who have since spread through out the world, while still in our hometown went through and studied in heder. It was in Rabbi Reb Shmuel son of Yosef haTzadik [the righteous man] Glembutski, or as he was called, Reb Shmuel “der rebetsin'sheder where we studied.

kry164.jpg - Reb Shmuel 'der Rebetsin's'
Reb Shmuel “der Rebetsin's

With him we wandered the paths of this great and dear asset. There were Jewish teachings and ethics, based on the most beautiful and glorious principles of the Torah, the rich baggage of light and knowledge, of virtue, the deep spirit of Jewish traditions, morals and honesty.

My great uncle, Reb Shmuel “der rebetsin's” did not use the torah as a “spade with which to dig” – he kept the rule of “love work, hate domination.” Therefore he dedicated his entire virtuous life, body and soul, to educate generations of Jews, taught them the way of knowledge and anonymity, to plant religion in the hearts of his young students.

Reb Shmuel's heder was in its category the highest in Krinik and grown up boys from the best families studied there. They had already gone though other heders of “khumesh” [Pentateuch] and the books of the prophets – the degrees. Reb Shmuel taught the students traditional scholarship, such as gemore [the part of the Talmud that comments on the Mishnah] with toysefes [critical glosses on the Talmud], the way of ha-p'shat [a literal translation of the Torah] and cabala. It was an honor for parents and pride for the children to study with him. And we who sat for many years on the benches around his table soaked up Torah and wisdom from him as well as his love of Judaism and belief in the triumph of Israel.

[p. 166]

The model, clean, virtuous life of the rabbi served as an example for all his students. Reb Shmuel “der rebetsin's” (Reb Yosele's son and spiritual heir) was a good-natured man, of stately appearance and great scholar and at home in secular knowledge. People came to him from all walks of life to ask his advice, to charm away an evil eye and to pour out their heavy hearts. And everyone, when they left, had more faith. Reb Shmuel was respected and loved in the city.

Reb Shmuel prayed in the “Kavkaz”synagogue. His place was at the Holy Ark. The cantor always waited to start the “main” Shmona Esrah [the eighteen benedictions, a daily prayer] until Rabbi Shmuel had finished the silent prayer. The respect for him was immense.

How dear and since Reb Shmuel was to people – so strict with his pupils. Every minute was precious and holy. One had to exert all his sense in order to follow what he said. The students truly thought of him as the pillar of fire. He not only instilled in his pupils a love of learning and the love of Judaism, but also a sense of Hebraisism that has stayed with each of them.

Thursday might Reb Shmuel prepared for the Sabbath. He paid careful attention to everything so that it would be done according to religious law, in honor of the Sabbath Queen and prepared the snuff himself.

When he was finished his work, he would pay the first tithe to the Odelsker rabbi who then lived in Krinik and to other scholars. And I had the privilege of carrying out the “holy” mission of carrying the little boxes of tobacco to them.

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