_The Mendele Review_: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to _MENDELE_)
Contents of Vol. 04.014
20 September 2000

1) Reading Kotik: "der reyekh fun a yid" ['the smell of a Jew'] (ed.)
2)_Mayne zikhroynes_, band 2, kapitl 2 [_My Memoirs, Vol. 2. Chapter 2]
  by Yekheskl Kotik, translated into English by Lucas Bruyn

Chapter Two of Volume Two of Kotik's memoirs in the Yiddish original
is archived in both romanized and Yiddish-letter form.

Romanized Yiddish text: http://www2.trincoll.edu/~mendele/tmr/tmr04002.htm

Yiddish-letter text: http://www2.trincoll.edu/~mendele/tmr/kotik1.pdf

Date: 20 September 2000
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject: "der reyekh fun a yid" ['the smell of a Jew'] (ed.)

Subject: Reading Kotik: "der reyekh fun a yid"

How should we understand Kotik's expression "der reyekh fun a yid" ['the
smell of a Jew'] in this chapter of his memoirs?  Is this a figure of
speech, a kind of synaethesia (substition of one sense for another) or a
hyperbolic expression -- e.g.  I like Jews so much that I even like
their most insignificant or, perhaps, their least likeable feature.  Or
is the expression to be understood literally as an objective olifactory
response -- real or projected?  Or, a final possibility, is it somehow
several of these simultaneously?  In this chapter, Yekheskl Kotik also
tells us that his father once told him "that according to the
Lekhvitsher Rebbe, Jews have a special sense that only can be satisfied
on the Sabbath with onions."  Kotik's father was thus amenable to the
pre-scientific notion of a distinctly Jewish sensory endowment.

In the realm of cleanliness, there is almost always a hierarchy based
largely on wealth.  In earlier years, being clean meant having servants
(to draw water, heat water, wash clothes and bed linens, etc.)  The poor
everywhere have difficulty being clean, and everywhere at some time or
other have been associated with dirtiness.  Some ethnic groups are
tagged as dirty regardless of how careful they may be in regard to
cleanliness -- Romanies in particular are stigmatized in this respect.
In the writings of Mendele Moykher-Sforim, where nineteenth-century
Jewish life in Eastern Europe is by and large faithfully reflected, we
learn that if one saw flowers neatly growing outside a house in a shtetl
it was certainly the residence of a gentile; piles of trash were a
customary sight in front of Jewish homes.

In "Vi kum ikh," a quintessential poem of nascent modern Yiddish
letters, Avrom Reyzn writes:

Vi kum ikh tsu sheynkayt? Fun vanen, mayn kind?
Der veg tsu di felder -- durkh goyim un hint...
Di gas iz geven azoy orem un vist,
Bay itlekher tir nor -- a bergele mist.*

In Leonard Wolf's able English translation,** these lines read:

What have I to do with beauty, child?
I went past gentiles and dogs to the field,
Through streets that were desolate and poor,
And a foothill of dung stood at every door.

Yekheskl Kotik himself touches on the issue of Jews and cleanliness
in _mayne zikhroynes_ [Vol. II, Chap. 18, p. 201-2 (in second ed.]:

in di zumerteg fleg ikh farfirn vikukhim mit di kristn, vi mayn
shteyger, vegn yidn.

eyn feler hobn zey demlt oysgezetst oyf yidn:  yidn haltn nisht fun
reynkayt. kiev iz a tsikhtike shtot, un yidn konen nisht zayn tsikhtik.
zey hobn mir, als a bayshpil, ongevizn oyf a yidn fun a halbn milyon

bay dem dozikn yidn in hoyf ligt a bergl mist. di trep zeynen farshmutst
un di luft iz a shvere.

nokh fun vaytn ken men derkenen, az do voynt a yid.

dos rov fleg ikh take nisht hobn vos tsu entfern deroyf. ober az ikh bin
gekumen keyn varshe, hob ikh mir etvos getreyst. vorem ikh hob mikh
ibertsaygt, az di oreme varshever yidn firn zikh tsikhtiker far di oreme

di letste veysn gornisht fun reynkayt.

[On Cleanliness (Vol. II, Chapter 18, pp. 200-1)].

I knew the Russian bakery shops well and I was even on friendly
terms with them. During the summer I would get into discussions with
Christians, a habit I have, talking about Jews.

In their opinion there was one thing wrong with Jews: they didn't care
about cleanliness. Kiev is a tidy city and Jews don't know how to be
tidy. As an example, they pointed out to me a Jew worth half a million.
This Jew has a heap of dung laying in his courtyard, the stairs are
filthy and the air is foul. You can tell from a distance that a Jew
lives there.

Generally speaking it was true, I couldn't gainsay that.  But when I
came to Warsaw I was relieved to see that the poor-class Jews there were
tidier than the poor-class Poles.  The latter have no idea about
cleanliness.]  (translated by Lucas Bruyn)

Well-established Jews in countries of immigration often regarded the
later streams of fellow Israelites as "dirty" -- such cognomens were
never the prerogative of antisemites alone.  A large monograph could be
written on the subject of hygiene among Eastern European Jews; special
organizations (e.g.  OSE) arose to ameliorate sanitary as well as
medical conditions.

The Jews, thanks to the _bod_ ['bathhouse] and the _mikve_
['ritualarium'] and the frequent ritual of washing the hands (among
numerous other religio-ethical practices of hygienic significance) were
far more fortunate than most of their non-Jewish neighbors.  Kotik's
father would literally have developed olifactory associations between
the often non-bathing peasants he worked with and the Jewish men he
sweated with in the local Jewish bathhouse.  If it is true that Warsaw's
Jewish poor were cleaner than its Polish poor, a possible explanation
would be the pervasive Judaic codes of ritual cleanliness.

Yet again I ask, is "der reyekh fun a yid" rhetoric or sociology?

**** * In both German and Yiddish, _mist_ is both 'dung' and 'rubbish',
and it is difficult to be sure how to translate this word here.  Aside
from prosodic considerations -- which can be crucial -- my own choice
would lean towards _rubbish_ or _garbage_.  (ed.)

** Abraham Reisen, "What Have I to Do With?" translated by Leonard
Wolf, in _The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse_, ed. by Irving
Howe, Ruth R. Wisse and Khone Shmeruk, New York: Penguin Books,
1987, pp. 88-89 [English opposite Yiddish! -- ed.].

Date: 20 September 2000
From: Lucas Bruyn 
Subject: Mayne zikhroynes, vol. 2. ch. 2 (Yekheskl Kotik)

Yekheskl Kotik, _My Memoirs, Vol. 2. Chapter 2 [first half]

Chapter the Second

My father's gloom.  -- His longing.  -- The necessity to pray with
misnagdim.  -- Longing for the Rebbe.  -- The losses.  -- Hasidic joys
of those days.  -- Rebbe Avremele.  -- His coming to Kamenits.  -- His
grand arrival.  -- Hasidim cook and bake American style.  -- The
bathhouse.  -- The Rebbe's delivery of the 'lekhu---neroneno' prayer.
-- The meals.  -- The Rebbe sighs.  -- 'shirayim' -- Reb Yisroel does
not want to sing.  -- The power of the Rebbe.  -- Reb Yekheskl divorces
his wife.  -- Hasidic pastimes.  -- They give my father a thrashing.  --
I cry.  -- Having fun.

Living in the village without hasidim and without [his brother]
Yisroel(1), father had lost the calm and happy expression that used to
be his most characteristic feature.  It was obvious that inside, in his
heart, he hankered after his hasidim, that he felt lonely, lonely as a
stone in a sand desert.  Especially during the Sabbath [Shabes] he used
to suffer and a sorry sight he was.  He would of course make merry with
his young children on Friday nights -- about thirty candles would be lit
all over the house; he would sing and try to raise our spirits, but his
heart was not in it.  I even used to give him my support with the
singing.  I remember knowing lots of hasidic songs.  (A fact that even
contributed to winning over my future in-laws while getting engaged.  A
point was made of the fact that one of my accomplishments was knowing
about two hundred songs.)  But after I got married and gave up being a
hasid myself I could no longer be there for him.  Moreover, I had come
to dislike those hasidic tunes, except for those composed by Reb
Yisroel(2).  His songs never failed to move me.

So I sang along with father, but with little enthusiasm; in order to
kindle my inspiration, he would sing songs by Reb Yisroel.  But his
jovial attitude was forced; he pretended, like a good Jew eating the
'bitter herbs' [morer] at a Passover seyder.  In this manner we used to
"make merry" [mesameyekh geven] until about twelve at night.

On the Sabbath, father usually prayed at home, although all the
villagers in a range of one to two verst would traditionally form a
quorum [minyen] and gather at the house of one villager for the Sabbath
prayers.  In such a group of ten they would also read the weekly section
of the Torah; two villagers, the 'gaboim' or caretakers, would call the
others to the Torah.  Even in this setting there would be jealousy about
being called up.  Everyone wanted to take one of the more important
turns and the 'gaboim' never succeeded in giving each his due(3).
Sometimes this would lead to big feuds, resulting in court cases
claiming someone else's liquor license or contract.

Father never felt like praying in the company of the misnagdic
villagers.  Only if they could not get a quorum together would he be
obliged to go.  But even then he could not bring himself to pray with
them in a group.  He used to keep a Midrash or _Zohar_ at hand and when
the villagers were praying he would be looking in his books.  Praying he
did at home alone.  He would always pray in silence; the folds on his
forehead and the distant look in his eyes showed the depth of his
absorption [kavone].

Having finished praying he would enter our quarters, pronounce a general
"gut-shabes," then enter the living room where mother(4) would be
sitting with a prayer book or her _Tsenerene_, to say "gut-shabes" to
her in particular.  Next the 'kidesh', the Sabbath blessing would follow
and after that:  the cake, the cookies, the herring and cold meat from
yesterday's stew [tsimes].  That was the usual introduction.  Then the
real meal would begin with a starter of fish, eggs, onions and

When I was a boy, my father told me once that according to the
Lekhvitsher Rebbe, Jews have a special sense that only can be satisfied
on the Sabbath with onions.

After all this, 'tsholent' would be served, potatoes, porridge, two
kinds of 'kugl', meat and so on.  Dinner would last two, three hours.
We would sing _zmires_ ['Sabbath songs'] and eat, sing again and go on
eating.  But father's face would be shrouded by a veil of melancholy.
It was his sadness at having been banned from the city, from his hasidic
prayer house [shtibl], were he had been truly happy and at ease; his
sorrow at being banished from the communal meals, from his rebbe and
from the whole community of hasidim.  Really, he looked like a little
bird pushed out of the nest.

Having finished the meal father would take his customary nap and after
that he would study _Khumesh_ [the Pentateuch], Medresh [Midrash] and
_Zoyer_ [Zohar], trying as best as he could to dispel his gloom.

But I knew him well and I could detect sadness in every single movement
he made.  If I only had been a hasid myself I might have given him the
pleasure of sharing the hasidic doctrine and the songs with someone.
But that was not destined to be; I, his son, was as distant from him as
East from West.  What made it worse for him was the thought lingering at
the back of his mind that I might end up becoming an apostate.  He
thought anything might happen since I already had the reputation of
being a philosopher, and who was to say what might come of my
explorations?  This thought truly upset him.

I felt very sorry for him and my pity interfered to some degree with my
own life.  I would make plans in order to put his mind at ease.  I
planned to become a misnaged, a zealous one.  But lacking the effort
needed, this plan came to nothing.  I failed to dispel his idea that
since I had strayed from the straight hasidic path as a result of
discussions, there was no way of knowing where these inquiries and
debates might eventually lead me.  I might very well end up denying the
Blessed Lord altogether(5)!  He obviously overestimated my debating

Living in Paseki, father once felt an acute longing for his rebbe around
Rosheshone.  For a lessee of an estate it was actually impossible to
tear himself away from the farm at that time of the year.  Around Jewish
New Year all the work in the fields comes to a head.  The potatoes have
to be taken out and stored in ditches for the winter, the wheat has to
be threshed, the fields have to be plowed and harrowed.  The seeds which
will be sown for next year's crop have to be selected; the grass has to
be cut a second time, and much more.

But father was longing for his rebbe. Nothing on earth could deter
him from going.  The whole year round he had toiled, spent his time on
practical affairs, been involved with non-Jews ad nauseum.  All year
around he had dealt with farmers, goyim ['gentiles'].

Not having had close contact with a hasidic community for a whole year
had really been too much for him; he was frightened, like a child
abandoned by its mother.  Without thinking about the consequences,
ignoring the fact that the work at hand was urgent and that they were
pressed for time, ignoring the fact that they were going through hard
times and that even a hundred rubles more or less could make a
difference(6), he took off for Slonim leaving all the work to a farmer.
He stayed for eight whole days in Slonim and when he returned home for
Yonkiper [Day of Atonement] he found the place in complete disorder.

The oats had been harvested too late (it had been a late summer), so the
grains had already scattered over the field; the potatoes had not been
covered up in the ditches, so more than half had rotted away; the
threshers had not been paid by the day for threshing the rye, but by the
measure(7), therefore bungling the job, leaving behind at least four
grains in every ear -- and similar disasters.

As a result, father's losses, not counting the expenditures for the
trip, amounted to five, six hundred roubles.

Knowing that my father had been hard pressed even before, I could not
fathom why he willingly incurred such a loss for the sake of his Slonim.

"Is it true, father," I asked him once, "did you have losses of five
hundred roubles?"

"I lost about seven hundred roubles," my father answered.

Seven hundred roubles!

"But father," I insisted, "to what end?  If you had to go, you might
have chosen a better time."

Father looked at me in a strange way, sad, nostalgically, "You never
were a hasid yourself and don't know what it means to visit your rebbe.
There is no greater joy.  Your rebbe gives you the strength to live."

Father fell silent and his face took on an expression as if someone had
stabbed him in the heart.

I did not say anything more.

How had my father ended up in a village, amidst gentiles!  He, a Jew who
so loved the hustle and bustle of Jewish religious life, Jewish gaiety,
Jewish fuss, yes, even the smell of a Jew.

At times father would retreat into his memories, finding his only solace
in isolation.  And he certainly had things to remember.  My father had
played quite a prominent role among hasidim.  He sometimes would indulge
himself by inviting a rebbe with his whole retinue to stay for several
days at his house, which would cost him more than a few pennies.  I
clearly recollect the pomp with which the Kamenitser hasidim once
received their prominent guest, the Slonim Rebbe.

The Slonim Rebbe, Reb Avrom, arrived in Kamenits one Thursday
morning, in a coach drawn by three horses.  Traveling with him were his
three attendants, one a senior and two assistants.  Four transport
wagons from Brisk with over twenty hasidim each followed in its trail.
The hasidim of Kamenits, the size of about three 'minyonim', had gone
out to the road to Brisk to welcome the rebbe.  When the driver of the
rebbe's carriage noticed them approaching from afar, he slowed down.  As
soon as they had detected the rebbe's carriage in the distance, the
hasidim of Kamenits took up singing a song they knew the Slonim Rebbe
particularly liked.  On that occasion I was with the hasidim.  Father
had thought it to be an uplifting experience for me.  I remember vividly
that sweet tune and in my mind's eye I can clearly see that crowd of
hasidim walking out of the city towards the rebbe.  How festive it all

When the hasidim finally reached the rebbe they encircled his carriage
and happily sang a 'Sholem Aleykhem' song specially composed for the
occasion by Reb Yisroel at my father's request.

The first ones to welcome the rebbe personally were my father and Reb
Arele both of whom the rebbe took into his carriage.

When the welcoming ceremony had come to an end (and it took quite a
while) the driver brought his horses to attention with a lash and the
hasidim somehow found themselves a place on one of the wagons, favoring
especially a seat on the running-boards of the rebbe's vehicle.  The
hasidim were packed like sardines in a tin on the wagons and at the
commando "Go!" the coachmen shouted "giddy-up" and cracked their whips.

Father had taken me with him into the Rebbe's carriage.

"That's my boy...!", my father introduced me hesitantly.

"Your boy, uh," said the rebbe while throwing a sidelong glance at me.
"He will make an ardent hasid."

Father was very pleased.

The horses were kept at a steady pace and the hasidim sang at the top of
their voices.  An outsider, a Christian for instance, might well have
had the impression that he was looking at the happiest crowd in the
world passing by, though not the most well-to-do, for they were dressed
quite shabbily.

When we entered the little town, an enthusiastic murmur arose from the
wagons.  They were as excited as warriors taking a stronghold.

Eventually we arrived at our place.  Father had prepared the best room
of the house for the rebbe; he had even sent some people to
Dovid-Yitskhok to borrow his grand armchair on behalf of the rebbe.
Hasidim helped the rebbe alight from his carriage and accompanied him to
his special room, where they left him in the care of his senior
attendant.  The two other attendants took up their places at both sides
of the door, like soldiers on guard.  The hasidim dispersed into the
other rooms.  Shortly after the senior footman emerged from the Rebbe's
room and announced that 'he', long may he live, had gone to rest on the
sofa and that silence was required...  All the hasidim fell silent as a
man; it became so silent that you could hear a fly crawl on the wall.
They were afraid to whisper even one word.

Meanwhile the hasidim of Kamenits had set to work.  They had to prepare
a Sabbath for a hundred people.  Everyone of them shared in the work,
but the foreign hasidim, the guests, made themselves comfortable on the
benches.  The big barn had been decorated in a festive way, the floor
strewn with sand, and along the walls hay was piled up high for the
hasidim to sleep on.  The horses and wagons, as well as the rebbe's
carriage, had been put away in Zelig Andarkes barn.

A week earlier my father had been in conference with the hasidim to make
a reckoning of what would be needed to prepare a Sabbath for so many
guests.  The conference had taken a long time.  They would have to get
fish and meat, wine and liquor, butter, eggs, goose fat, cinnamon, figs,
almonds, 'khales', rolls, breads and what not.  They were facing quite a

At the same time Reb Yisroel, standing in front of his aspirant-singers,
had started practicing one song after the other, all composed by him.  I
was one of his pupils.  Reb Yisroel stood there sweating away, waving
his hands, stamping his feet, giving commands, threatening with his
finger and tormenting our little brains by urging us to learn his new
tunes.  The poor man went through a lot with us.  Few of us were gifted
with a good ear for music and Reb Yisroel had to work himself up like a
steaming kettle.  His main task was to teach us how to sing, because he
did not want to sing himself or even with us in front of the rebbe.  It
was not his own rebbe, but a stranger, you see...  As a good hasid Reb
Yisroel saw it as his duty to compose songs for the visiting rebbe, but
to sing for him himself was beyond his powers.  During the actual
festivities he felt ill at ease, insecure, wanting to leave, but wanting
to stay as well, like a pauper with too much pride.

My father, who was in charge of the group preparing the food, had
organized the work American style:  one group was set to preparing fish,
another roasted meat, a third was busy with beverages, but several just
hung around, loafing as though they were at a millionaire's wedding.  A
lively party it was!

They had butchered a cow, several calves, geese and chickens for the

On Friday the hasidim asked the teachers to give the hasidic children a
day off from school, because of the rebbe's visit.  I myself, like a
colonel's son, had already been favored with a holiday on Thursday.
When the pupils arrived from their kheyder [school], they were
immediately honored with a job.  There was plenty to do.

Hasidim like to mix in fun with whatever else they do.  While preparing
the fish, one hasid would take up a pike and beat another hasid over the
head with it, causing much hilarity.  Actually there was more jesting
going on than work done.  Here they poured a dipper of cold water onto
the collar of someone's coat.8 There they gave someone a large dish with
fish to hold and while he stood with the platter in both hands, one
would pull his beard, another his 'peye' [earlock], his ear, his nose.
The poor sod would stand holding the platter and not be able to think of
anything better than laughing along with the rest.  What else could he

Father had put me to work as well.  Once he whispered in my ear, "One
should respect a rebbe as if he were a king..."

On Thursday, father sent someone to the bathhouse to fetch the
caretaker.  He instructed him to have the bath ready a few hours earlier
than usual on the next day and to send a messenger to say that the Rebbe
could take his bath as soon as he was ready.  He also would have to get
the 'mikve' [ritualarium] in readiness.  He would have to keep two
kettles with hot water on hand; hasidim would arrive early next morning
to pour them out into the women's bath because of the rebbe.  The
bathhouse attendant would receive ample compensation for his trouble.

The next morning four hasidim went to the bathhouse to pour the hot
water into the 'mikve'.  Around eleven o'clock word came that the bath
was ready.  The carriage drove up and the rebbe, accompanied by his
attendants, my father, Reb Arele and some other more honored hasidim,
enough to form the required minyen, sat down in it and left for the bath
house.  Father had sneaked me in as well, because he thought that
proximity to hasidim, especially to the rebbe, would benefit me.

The rebbe followed by the ten hasidim entered the bath house where the
latter took off their clothes in religious awe before taking a seat in
the steambath in a circle around the rebbe, holding their little basins
with water [shefelekh].  I remember that no one indulged in washing
himself.  They just stared at the rebbe, at his naked body, at the same
time awed and curious, just like little children gaze at some oversized
strange toy.

The rebbe began to wash himself, without hurrying, every now and then
groaning while rolling his eyes.  In the dense and dark atmosphere of
the bath his body seemed to grow gradually whiter and to me, a little
boy, his naked body seemed to be changing in size, fluctuating in
length and width.

Meanwhile another group of about ten hasidim had made their way in.
These were really forward ones who would have stopped at nothing to get
a look at the rebbe.  They sat down next to the door, also with basins
of water in their hands, and started staring at the rebbe too.  They
were satisfied to see a bit of the rebbe's naked frame, even if it was
only from a distance.

When the rebbe finally had fished his ablutions he went over to the
'mikve', accompanied by my father and Reb Arele.  I followed them
stealthily.  The Rebbe stood up to his neck in the water, his beard
filled with sparkling drops of water.  It was quite a sight, the rebbe,
a man with a heavy beard standing in mikve full of water.

The rebbe stepped out of the women's bath, groaning, and started
dressing.  The hasidim put on their clothes too.  The whole procedure
had taken a long time and the hasidim did of course not derive any
physical pleasure from their bath.  Normally they would scrub themselves
and sweat, but this time they were merely filled with holy fear
of the Rebbe.  The rebbe looked quite pleased with himself for having
sanctified and blessed the place according to the rites and his hasidim
were very enthusiastic about his performance.

The crowd quickly put on their shirts and trousers without taking their
eyes of the rebbe for a moment, but his dressing up took forever.
Whatever he did he did slowly and quietly.  At one o'clock, thank God,
we finally emerged from the bath house.  Soon af ter arriving home he
was offered some sweet liquor and rusks with fish.

On Friday the whole congregation of hasidim from Brisk came down and the
house became packed to the rafters with people.  To inaugurate the
Shabes [kaboles-shabes] the Rebbe was to pray in front of the lectern.
Before he approached the 'omed' the hasidim fell silent and waited in
deep devotion.  Soon he pronounced the 'lekhu-neroneno'9 in such a loud
voice that all hasidim were awestruck, but all people present to pray,
from wherever they stood, responded to the Rebbe's call singing with one
voice.  Even the walls seemed to participate in the praying.  I was only
a little boy of ten years old and understood little, but nevertheless
the holy fear of the hasidim took a hold of me.  When he reached the
place in the Zoyer were it says:  "ke-gavnah de-inun10" his shouting
like the roar of a hoard of soldiers on the point of storming the town
and a shiver went through the crowd.  That shout still rings in my ears
like it was only yesterday. With one terrific voice the crowd echoed
his words.

"Happy Shabes!", "Good Shabes!" you heard all over the place after the
praying had come to an end.

Soon after, the hasidim entered the dining hall and the rebbe greeted
them; he said "Sholem Aleykhem" and they murmured their acknowledgment.
Then the brightly illuminated house was suddenly flooded with sweet
singing, melodious, not loud, but coming straight from the heart.  You
had the feeling that the Sabbath peace had cast its spell on all, that
the soul had shaken off the yoke it carried on an ordinary day of the

The Rebbe continued saying "kidesh", all ears paying attention, all eyes
fixed on him.  Every hasid wanted a sip from the Rebbe's goblet, but
not everyone had a chance to taste the wine; those with bad luck, alas,
were deeply saddened at having missed out.

He now addressed my father as "Sir" [balebos] and no longer simply as
"Moyshe", as usual, about which my father was visibly very pleased.

Most people did not sit, but stood on the benches.  Over three hundred
hasidim were present, far more than there were seats.  But the main
reason to stand on the benches was that the hasidim could see the Rebbe
better that way.

For the dinner arrangements were as follows:

Those hasidim who were seated were given one plate for two and those
that were standing received one plate between three men.

Naturally the rebbe himself was served enormous portions of every dish,
in order to enable him to have 'shirayim' or leftovers to hand out to
the hasidim.

I noticed that the rebbe loved groaning and rolling his eyes whatever
the occasion.  After eating some fish, he groaned; having tasted meat,
he groaned and rolled his eyes.  You got the impression that he had
trouble swallowing his food.

One time he let out such a loud "Oy, Rebone shel oylem!" that I thought
the ceiling would crack.

But I also perceived that his moaning and eye-rolling did increase the
appetite of the hasidim.

Having finished a dish he would push the plate away, thus indicating
that what was left was meant as 'shirayim'11 for the hasidim.
Immediately everyone around would start grabbing at the leftovers.  The
ones standing away too far would start begging the lu cky ones for a
morsel, one bite.  But the former would be so overexited, so preoccupied
and self centered that the beggars received little or nothing from them.

In between courses there was singing.  It was actually a kind of singing
contest.  Someone would take up a song and if his song pleased the
others, they would fall in and keep singing it until everyone got bored
with the song.  The dinner took about five hours altogether.

After the meal they went to sleep in the barn.  The rebbe himself was
escorted with great pomp to his own quarters.

The next morning they started prayers at ten o'clock and finished
praying around noon.  Lunch followed and the rebbe continued his
groaning and rolling of the eyes.  It was the same thing as the evening
before, only more lively.  They served five types of 'kugl':  a noodle
kugl, a dry one, a tutti-frutti one, a rice kugl and another
I-forgot-what kugl.  After these they handed the rebbe a big slice of
turkey, which made him groan a lot.  There was also a lot of wine and

At four, having eaten, they took to the floor for a dance, until it
became time for the afternoon prayer, which was followed by more
singing.  But the best singer of them all, Reb Yisroel, did not sing.
He himself was a hasid from Kotsk.  The Rebbe had sent someone over to
him, inviting him at his table.  Reb Yisroel had come, but during the
whole Shabes he had not opened his mouth once.  He did not feel it was
his happy day, it was not his own rebbe, he felt sad.  During the final
meal that day the Rebbe addressed him:

"Yisroel, sing something!"

Reb Yisroel made a sign of reverence, touching his heart with his hands,
looked around and started...  Never before had he sung like this.
It must have been his longing for his own rebbe that inspired him.

The hasidim listened with their mouths open.

After the Shabbes the crowd started thinning out.  Many went home.  It
was on Tuesday that the rebbe had his last lunch in Kamenits.  Only a
few people remained to share the table and the hasidim of Kamenits were
well contented that they were finally able to sit near the rebbe.

Finally they could see the holy glow [shkhine] illuminating the rebbe's
handsome face and listen to his doctrinal words of wisdom [toyres],
which reportedly made angels of all ranks tremble.

The rebbe was very jolly, talking during the meal with each hasid in

Now all the foreign hasidim had left, the Kamenitser hasidim felt as if
they were in seventh heaven.

As I said before, it was the very last meal in Kamenits and after lunch
the rebbe departed on a visit to a villager, leaving our house and the
town in a state of quietness, like a stormy sea turned smooth again, the
waves suddenly having rolled away.

In that village he went to visit, the rebbe would meet with an
unpleasant punishment.*

*See the first volume of my book(12).

[This chapter will be concluded in the next issue of _The Mendele


1. See Vol. 1, Chapter 7, p. 140, 141.  This brother of Kotik's father
was of the same age as Kotik.

2. r' Yisroel:  See Vol. 1, Chapter 5.

3. See Vol. 1, Chapter 29 for a description of the 'alies'.

4. For a description of the mother, see Vol. 1, Chapter 11.  Here
she is said to read the _khoyves-halvoves_ and the _menoyres-hamoed_.

5. _boyre yisborekh_ 'God will be blessed'.

6. _oylem umloye_ 'huge amount'.

7. Text: "nisht fun tog, nor fun shok."  An alternative reading is: 'not
(with a flail) on the thrashing floor [tok], but by shaking out the
sheaves [shok]'.

8. The Yiddish is "untergegosn... unter dem kolner," but it does not
seem to be possible to pour a dipper of water _into_ a collar in English
and it would be ambiguous to pour the water _behind_ the collar.

9. _lekhu-neroneno_ 'let us sing'.

10. _ke-gavnah de-inun_ [from the 'askinu sudoso'] [Aram.  'such as
those'; i.e.  'the angels'].  Text taken from the _Zohar_ and recited
during the evening prayer of Friday night in the Sefardic liturgy
followed by the hasidim.

11. _shirayim_ 'leftovers'.

12.  See Vol. 1, Chapter 15.  The election of 'r' avrom slonimer', after
the death of 'r' moyshele karbiner' is described on p. 218.  In Kotik's
words:  "... un men hot oysgeklibn r' avrom slonimer, a gevezener
melamed un a groyse lomdn, khotsh a shtikl shoyte, zol er mikh moykhl
zayn."  On pages 219-220 the visit described above is mentioned.  The
passage about the 'unpleasant punishment' starts on p. 221 and goes on
till the end of the chapter, p. 229.
End of _The Mendele Review_ 04.014

Leonard Prager, editor

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