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[Page 195]

From the Distant and
No So Distant Past of Strzyzow


The Man Who Was No Coward

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Rabbi Alter Zev Horowitz lived in one of the apartments in my grandfather's houses. Reb Shlomo, my grandfather, was one of his staunchest admirers and always stood by him. But personal relationship was one thing and business another. When my grandfather was marrying off one of his daughters and needed the rooms, he asked the rabbi to move. The Rabbi was not anxious to move and took his time. Reb Shlomo kept pressuring him, but the Rabbi kept postponing his move. Behold, the wedding date arrived. The daughter was marrying Reb Joseph, the son of the famous genius, Rabbi Menashe Eichenstein, a son–in–law of the Rabbi from Dzikow, Rabbi Joshua. The wedding took place in Strzyzow, and besides the groom's father, a whole party of holy Rabbis related to both sides came to participate in the happy occasion. My grandfather sat near Rabbi Joshua, the Rabbi from Dzikov and, when he drank l'chaim to the Rabbi, the Rabbi said to him: “I hear that your reverence is evicting my relative from your house.” He emphasized the word “eviction.” “Eviction?” Replied Reb Shlomo, “If the Rabbi calls this eviction, I cannot help it. I do not want to evict him. I want him to give me back the apartment willingly because I need the rooms.” The Rabbi looked at my grandfather's face and into his clever eyes, and told him in a commanding voice, “If your reverence will evict my in–law from the apartment, you may be forced to sell the house.”

My grandfather Reb Shlomo, who greatly revered the righteous Rabbis and frequently visited with them, had a strong character and was not subservient enough to the Rabbis to change his mind when he was convinced that he was right. He thought for a while, figuring out his financial situation in his mind and concluded that normally he was far from needing to sell his house. He girded himself and said in a low voice. “Forgive me, Rabbi, I think I feel secure for this year and maybe for another couple of years that there will be no need to sell my house.” When Rabbi Joshua heard his resolute answer, a smile appeared on his face. He turned to Rabbi Alter Zev and said: “I thought that I was dealing with a landlord who is a fool and timorous man, who could easily be intimidated. Since he is not afraid, I suggest you look for another apartment.” The result was that my grandfather gave the Rabbi all the wood he needed to build a house, and Rabbi Alter Zev built a three story house in the center of town.

A Proper Answer

by Shlomo Yahalomi

It was customary in Galician towns to send the Rabbis monetary gifts before every holiday and also for Hanukkah and Purim. My great–great grandfather used to send money to both Rabbis in town. Once he forgot to send Hanukkah–gelt to Rabbi Moshe Leib Shapiro, of blessed memory. After some time, when the Rabbi saw my great–great grandfather, Reb Yacov Kanner, he told him that he owed him a debt. Reb Yacov asked him, “What kind of a debt do I owe you?” The Rabbi replied that he did not get the Hanukkah–gelt gift. Reb Yacov was amused, and said to the Rabbi, “Oh, and I thought that I was sending the Rabbi a present because I wanted to, and now I found out that I owe it to you.” After this incident, he ceased sending him any gifts until the rabbi realized the reason, and he apologized to Reb Yacov.

A Clever Jew

by Shlomo Yahalomi

When Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro from Blazow passed Strzyzow on his way to a small town where he was invited for the Sabbath, a large crowd came to greet him at the railroad station. I was also among the crowd. I was nine year–old then. When the Rabbi reached out his hand to greet me, someone mentioned to him that I was the grandson of Reb Shlomo from Zyznow. Said the Rabbi, “Shlomo from Zyznow? He was a clever man.” and told the following story.

Once a woman handed me a donation with a written note to pray for her husband who was in trouble with the law. Knowing that Reb Shlomo from Zyznow has connections with the authorities, I turned to him and said, “Nu, Reb Shlomo give me an advice.” (Meaning that he should see what could be done.) Reb Shlomo responded: “The Rabbi took the donation and I should advise?”

The Merchandise is Already Packed

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Once, the Rabbi Joshua from Dzikow came to a shtetl and something unpleasant happened. Namely, nobody came to see the Rabbi with a “Kvittel.” The Rabbi joked about it and remarked. “I never saw such a smart town.” When the Rabbi was about to leave town and was already at the train station, Reb Hershel Tenzer found out about it, he rushed over to the station to find the Rabbi, and to apologize. When Reb Hershel reached the station and found the Rabbi, he pulled out a “Kvittel” with a donation and handed it to the Rabbi. The Rabbi refused to accept, and said with a smile, “My merchandise is all packed.”

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A Powerful Word

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb Menashe from Lutcha was known to everyone as an ignoramus. People close to him said that he barely knew how to read the prayers. All his life he worked the land and traded cattle. When he bought a calf, it was for him a child's play to carry it home several kilometers from where he bought it. Indeed, as strong as he was physically, so weak was he in matters connected with the printed words and things related with the “educated Jews.” On Yom Kippur, he used to come to town to pray in shul with the “S'chidim” meaning the Hassidim. And, since noble young men knew his qualities, they hid behind his seat in order to hear what he was saying, while looking in his prayer book. And behold, they discovered that Menashe was saying the same word repeatedly.

They stood and wondered why he suddenly favored the simple word “Laasot?” Until Reb Moshe Adest came and explained to the young men the logic. Menashe used to sit near the washstand where the worshippers washed their hands and recited the prescribed blessing ending the word “laasot” loudly, which he had memorialized, and therefore, kept repeating it during the prayers, not knowing anything else to say.

Everything Has To Be Her Way?

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Somebody was sued by Reb Baruch Berglass before the Assistant Rabbi, Yacov Shpalter. After the Assistant Rabbi decided that the defendant had to pay or take an oath that he was telling the truth. The defendant asked for a delay of two days to consult with his wife. When he appeared on the third day before the Assistant Rabbi, he told courteously: “Honorable Rabbi, my wife advised me to pay the money and not to take an oath.” Said the Rabbi cheerfully, “If so, than both parties will be satisfied. You will not have to take an oath and Reb Baruch will be paid.” The litigant responded softly. “What do you mean that I should give money?” Although my wife advised me to do so, but what about me? Don't I have anything to say about it? Behold! It is written ‘He shall rule her.' She wants me to refuse to take the oath, well, I cannot afford not to listen to her entirely. After all she is my wife. But to pay money, this I refuse. I too have something to say about it.”

What was Reb Hersh Ber the Sexton Doing?

by Shlomo Yahalomi

When Reb Hersh Ber the sexton was critically ill, Reb Joseph Mordechai, the Assistant Rabbi, came to pay him a visit. “Hersh Ber, vos Machstu?” (How are you doing?) The Rabbi asked Reb Hersh Ber, who all his life was a jester, even then, in time of illness, he did not forget his humor, and responded without even blinking an eye. “Well, ichmach yesoimim.” (I am making orphans, meaning that by his dying he will create orphans.)

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The Rabbi's Insinuation

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Again, there was an incident with the Rabbi Baruch Halberstam from Gorlice, the son of Rabbi Chaim from Sandz, who came to Strzyzow to visit his daughter, the righteous Chana, Rabbi Moshe Leib's wife. He too did not receive a venerable reception in Strzyzow. (The Hassidim of Sadigora saw to it.) When he was about to leave town, he was sitting in a carriage harnessed to four horses, and some townspeople were standing around and gawking at the Rabbi. The Rabbi looked once at the people and once at the horses and remarked, “I just now noticed the horses of Strzyzow.”

The Righteous Who Never Sinned

by Shlomo Yahalomi

When Reb Shmuel the tailor became ill, the Assistant Rabbi, Reb Joseph Mordechai, went to visit him and, when he saw that Reb Shmuel, an illness was serious, he tried to persuade him to say the confession. Reb Shmuel refused and said: “I have nothing to repent, I have never sinned, I never had time to sin. I always worked and that is all.” Reb Joseph Mordechai saw with whom he was dealing, and asked him, “Perhaps you once forgot to recite the evening prayers?” “No!” “Perhaps did you spoke evil?” “And what are those?” “Well,” Reb Joseph Mordechai said, “Words that you should not have said.” “No!” Reb Joseph Mordechai realized that the sick considered himself completely innocent, righteous, and without a defect. He stood up and opened the door to leave. Outside the door, he said to Reb Shmuel: “If you are that righteous, you have nothing to fear. You may die in peace.”

(I heard this story from Reb Moshe Adest.)

Good Morning

by Shlomo Yahalomi

On Hanukkah, the young men use to hide in the women's gallery to play cards all night. Reizl Reicher came in early one morning, kissed the mezuza and announced loudly: Good morning Your Holiness, blessed be thou…

The Story About the Treasurers
Who Were Forced to Resign

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Once, a few congregants were dissatisfied with the treasurers of the Beit Hamidrash, and decided to teach them a lesson. One cold winter night, they demolished the oven completely. In the morning, when the worshippers appeared in the Beit Hamidrash and saw what happened, they said: “There is nothing we can do. The treasurers have to go.” And that was exactly what happened, they resigned. Remarked the clever Reb Meir Deutch: “Shoiver Oyvim, Umachniya Zeidim.” (Quotation from the silent prayer.) They broke the oven and the enemy surrendered.

Reb Baruch Diller Explained
That the Willingness is the Essence

by Shlomo Yahalomi

One of the rich men in town used to be called to the Torah for Maftir on Shavuot year after year. Once happened that he was called to the Torah not for Maftir but for another aliyah. Reb Baruch Diller was the treasurer at that time. The rich man hesitated at first to answer the call. “Why he thought to himself, should I forego my traditional part?” Nonetheless he went, but he decided to get even in some other way. When he was asked how much he was donating, he angrily replied, “Nothing!” Reb Baruch tried to explain to the insulted rich man that he part of the reading that he was called to is as important as the Maftir. But the man did not accept any apologies. So Reb Baruch said to him, “Look, you wanted Maftir, in heaven it is considered as if you had it. Because you demonstrated your willingness, you will be rewarded for it. But I did not want you to have it, so you are not to be blamed for it, and you should not blame yourself, because the willingness is the essence.

The “Dreadful Story” about Mother's Earrings

by Shlomo Yahalomi

There was a long–lasting family feud between two sisters over an heirloom inheritance. The dispute was over their mother's earrings that were adorned with diamonds and precious stones. The earrings were in the hands of one sister, Pearl, Benjamin the tailor's wife. She claimed that she was willing to pay her sister Bashi, Mordechai Rosenbaum's wife, half of what the earrings were worth. Bashi refused to relinquish her claim to her “mother‘s earrings” which she considered priceless. They brought this matter before the Rabbi. It went to court and nothing came of it. Subsequently, they agreed to rely on arbitration by mutually acceptable persons. My father was supposed to represent Pearl who had in her possession he earrings, and Reb Hersh Gelanded was the other sister's representative. A Rabbi, the righteous Reb Shmuel Schiff from Niebylec, was to have the decisive vote. My father refused to act in the dark, which meant to judge about earrings without knowing their value. He was also puzzled about where did Reb Itzhok the butcher, the sisters' father, who was known to be poor and destitute all his life, obtain money to buy such expensive earrings for his wife. . . Therefore, my father insisted that Reb Benjamin the tailor travel with him to Rzeszow, the closest big city, to obtain an appraisal from a diamond dealer. Benjamin was also required to keep the trip secret even from his wife. At first, Benjamin suggested that my father go by himself, but he refused. When they arrived in Rzeszow, they went to Mr. Schiff, the famous jewelry dealer, who appraised the earrings at half a gulden. They went to another dealer, Mr. Cuker, and he appraised the earrings at sixty groshen. My father kept his secret for a few weeks and, in meantime, the sisters kept up the dispute. At an opportune time, my father divulged the secret all over town. It appeared that Pearl quickly relinquished the earrings, and Bashi no longer claimed that all she ever wanted was “her mother's earrings.” And that put the dispute to rest.

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With or Without a Permit

by Shlomo Yahalomi

There were in town two merchants who dealt with a certain kind of merchandise. We will not name the merchants or the merchandise out of respect. One merchant, when a shipment was supposed to have arrived on the Sabbath, arranged a permit from the Rabbi for unloading the goods. The other did not bother to ask the Rabbi. They both unloaded the shipment. Said Reb Moshe Adest: “There are two who desecrate the Sabbath. One with a special permit from the Rabbi and one without.”

What is a Mitzva
and How Did Joshua's Spies Cross the River Jordan

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb Chaskel Gorgel the melamed, was teaching ten to twelve–year–old students. He used to ask his students all kind of misleading questions in order to sharpen their wits. Once he asked how did Joshua's spies cross the River Jordan? One student volunteered and said, “I know, they were fish.” Another time the melamed asked what is a mitzva? The student replied. “A female.” He meant to say what we just learned a week before that in married life there were many mitzvot involved.

The boy was nicknamed “female,” that name followed him for many years into his adulthood.

He Used Hands Without
Having Said the Proper Blessing

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb Moshe Reicher, Reb Yacov Kanner's son–in–law, was a pious honest man. He was G–d–fearing, and a strong believer in the righteous, especially in the Rabbi of Belz. Reb Moshe was a taciturn person and never spoke in vain. He owned a grocery store which provided his livelihood. He never spoke ill about anybody and, if he was compelled to say something negative about somebody, he shivered, his face changed, and, at the end, he did not say anything. He used to say, “What is there to say, it does not help.” Reb Moshe was quiet, modest, and humble, but once I saw him very distraught, and it amazed me. That was when one of the townspeople called him before t he Assistant Rabbi for litigation. The claimant had angered him so much with his lies and false claims that Reb Moshe could not restrain himself any longer. He rose from his seat, approached his opponent and…hit him with his umbrella. Behold! Wonder of wonders! Not a word came out of his mouth, even though he hit him. Still, he did not utter even a single word. The claimant stood up and yelled, “Have you ever seen such an audacity? He used his hands and did not even recite the proper blessing. Not even one word. He could have at least said “Liar.” But hitting without words that is a chutzpa.

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The special “Sabbatical Inspiration”

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb M. Z. came from a good family, an offspring of Rabbis and scholars. However, he himself was not a great learner, not in the least. He was a great joker and loved to make fun of everything and everybody. He also liked to get involved in all the problems of the town, to express his opinion everywhere, and oftentimes, he scolded people he did not like. All this took place on weekdays, when he was busy making a living, whereas on the Sabbath, his temper reached its peak. Already on Friday afternoons he became possessed with the Sabbatical inspiration and, if somebody induced him to speak, he said: “Stay away from me. I am already in the murderous Sabbatical inspiration.”

The Father and Son's Card Game

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb A. Z. was a great scholar and very witty. We will not stop here to give his full description and tell a few things about him because it belongs in another chapter in this book. Here I will only tell a funny and petty story. A.Z. and his sons were involved in a card game in which the players had to beat each other by raising the stakes (in Yiddish “Shlugen”). One of the sons threatened his father and said, “Don't do it! I will beat you.” (Ich will dir shlugen.) The father responded by scolding him. “Shigatz! You will dare to beat your own father?”

The Son Sued the Father

by Shlomo Yahalomi

A certain person was very rich. (Out of respect to him and his family, we could not name them.) The man supported his son who often came to visit him to ask for money. Once, the son decided that he would be better off suing his father and claiming part of the property. He claimed that he and his father bought the property in partnership but the father registered the property in his own name only. When the father and son entered the Rabbi's house, the Rabbi, astonished, asked: “What are you doing here with your son?” Replied the father who was distinguished and old, “My son is suing me because I live too long….” As fate would have it, the son passed away before his father.

Reb Hershal'e Schiffs Eye Glasses

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb Hershal'e was a veteran Hassid of the Rabbi from Sadigora. He was called Reb Hershal'e B'li Neder.* Because everything he said he added the words “B'li Neder.” “Without a Vow.” (In this way he avoided ever to say a lie.) For instance: “Tomorrow, B'li Neder, I will get up early. Or, “Tomorrow, B'li Neder I will go to shul. Etc. Etc…. Once Reb Hershal'e lost his glasses. He exerted himself to find them without success. Even after a year had passed, he did not despair, and he continued to search for the glasses. One day a few people were standing in a circle and talking among themselves. Reb Hershal'e approached them

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innocently and asked, “Are you by any chance talking about my glasses?”

*B'li Neder was a common expression which the pious used in their conversations in order to avoid promises not able to keep.

Reb Israel Gertner Opposed Buying on Credit

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb Israel Gertner was a rich man with a capital “R”. He excelled in doing good deeds. When somebody came into his store to borrow money, he would leave his customers and go and bring it to them. However, his son, Reb Menachem Mendel, who lived in Brzozow, was unlucky and always under pressure of his debts. He always owed for merchandise which he purchased on credit, and sometimes he signed his father's name to the notes… His father was angry and complained that he did not care about the money he had to pay. What made him mad was, he said, “Where, and from whom did my son learn to buy merchandise on credit? Why can't he buy for cash like I do?”

Such a “Repentant Sinner”

by Shlomo Yahalomi

There was in town a man who, in his youth, was not very righteous. When he became older, he turned into a “Good Jew” and wanted to be respected. Remarked Reb Moshe Adest, the clever and acute Jew, “This man forgave himself all his sins that he committed in his youth, and he now demands respect for it…”

Yacov or Yacov Chaim

by Shlomo Yahalomi

During the election to the Kehillah Committee, the man in charge of the elections made all kinds of falsifications to prevent the opponents from voting. When Reb Yacov Ziegel (His nickname was “Yacov the Beanstalk” for having an extraordinary long neck), came to vote, it appeared that he was listed Yacov Chaim Ziegel ad could not vote. The Jokers in town joked about him, that by the next elections, his name would not be “Chaim” which means life, but it will be “Yacov Met” which means Yacov the dead…

Every Rabbi Specializes in a Different Sickness

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Elazer the “Guttural” was a simple man, short in intelligence and understanding, but was very honest. He simply believed in G–d. He prayed for the Jews, worried about the sick, and made others write notes to Rabbis with or without the consent of the sick person. He himself did not know how to write. However he knew how to tell about the many miracles performed b y the Rabbi from Tyczyn, the Rabbi from Dukla, and by the Rabbi from Munkatch. And here s a story about one miracle that Reb Elazar used to tell. “Reb A.D. had diarrhea. What did I do? I wrote the Rabbi from M. After a few days, I received a reply that the Rabbi had blessed the sick with speedy recovery, and that was exactly what happened. The sick recovered.” Reb Elazer ended the story with

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An expression of success. “Apropos, why do I tell this story?” He continued, “Because every Rabbi specializes in a different sickness, and the Rabbi from M. is good for diarrhea…”

Which Fast Was the Best?

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Asked Reb Alter Nechemiah, one of the clever Jews in town. He asked, and answered, “The best fast was the fast of Esther. Why? Because on that day the baking of all kinds of pastries for Purim were done, and during the entire day, out from the ovens came fresh baked cakes and hamantashen, and you could taste each of them to resurrect your lusting heart…”

And What is Called a “Ruined Holiday”

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb Alter Nechemiah continued with an ironic wink of his eye. “A ruined holiday is, when it is not raining on Sukkot… “

“We Implore Thee, O Lord, Prosper Us”

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb Yacov Eisner was a venerable Jew, pious and kind to fellow men. He was employed as a clerk in the lumber–mill of the partners Johannes–Kracher. After working there for thirty years and reaching his old age, the owners decided to close the mill because it was not profitable anymore, and to keep it going meant losing money. Reb Yacov, seeing his livelihood slipping away, his world darkened around him and his face became thinner day by day. It was true that there was no shortage of good people who tried to encourage him. But no one was able to find an answer to the terrible and simple question. “How will such a dear man live, and from where will his help come?” About two weeks before closing the lumber–mill, on the eighth day of Passover, Reb Yacov was honored with chanting the “Hallel” service. He chanted pleasantly, sincerely, and from the heart. This time he outdid himself. It was obvious that he reached the point of resignation. I still remember the heart–rending melody in which he say the “Pitchu Li.” When he got to the words: “We implore Thee, O Lord, prosper us, “he began to cry so bitterly that it tore our hearts. One person who was not such a strong believer said, “If there is a G–d in this world – He has to help Reb Yacov after such a warm prayer.

Well, a miracle did occur. Reb Yacov played the lottery all his life, to his great and happy surprise, he won fifty thousand zlotys. The whole town was in an uproar. Everybody said that when he sang, “We implore Thee O Lord, prosper us,” he won the lottery.”


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