_The Mendele Review_: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to _MENDELE_)
Contents of Vol. 05.003
31 March 2001

1) On Shalom Asch's short story "kidesh ha-shem" (ed.)
2) "kidesh ha-shem" (Shalom Asch)
3) On the Yiddish word _korzhel/korshel_ 'coachbox' (Meyer Wolf)

Date: 31 March 2001
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject: On Sholem Asch's "kidesh hashem (a legende)" (ed.)

         On Sholem Asch's "kidesh hashem (a legende)"

A Macabre Tale

Many readers of Sholem Asch's "kidesh hashem" ['Sanctification of the
Name (of God)'] have found the story almost unbearably macabre.  Its
penultimate scene of a mother dancing before the _ornkoydesh_ ['Holy
Ark'] with her son's decapitated head is literally a "danse macabre," a
"dance of death."  The traditional danse macabre accents the
universality of death; in Asch's story it is not that Death claims high
and low, but that the low can choose to dance with Death as well as the
high.  The title of Asch's piece is a formulaic phrase for Jewish
martyrdom that has been applied to a wide range of tragic events in
different periods.  Thus a catalogue of an exhibition of books on the
theme held at the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem in
1969 bore the title _Kidush hashem badorot_ ['Sanctification of the Name
Through the Generations'].  The catalogue was dedicated to "mekadshey
hashem bema'arakhot yisrael bador ze" ['those who sanctified the name
(of God) in Israel's wars in this generation']; it covered such varied
periods as the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Nazi
Holocaust.  Broad though the term "kidush hashem" is, the agent of
sanctification is almost always a human being whose suffering and loss
of life are seen as sacrificial.  The sacrifice of the _kadosh_, the
martyr, is of a redemptive nature; in more instrumental terms, it
furthers a supreme value, belief or goal.

A Synoptic View of the Story

Asch divides his tale into three sections.  In Part One, which we might
call "di tsayt iz geven far peysekh" ['It was before Passover']. a) A
party returns from a wedding in their cups and the drunken driver
refuses to give way on the road to the district nobleman. b) The Jews
sing and shout and vaunt their Judaism and even mock Christianity. c)
The nobleman sends out his men to uncover who these insolent Jews are.
d) These outriders come across a dead peasant in an abandoned inn [it is
just before Passover]. e) The four passengers -- among the most
respected members of the community -- and the young coachman are
arrested and put in chains.

In Part Two, a) The community assembles in the synagogue to pray for the
prisoners. b) The prisoners are tortured and urged to confess the ritual
murder and convert to Christianity. c) The first to do so will be
appointed collector of all the Jewish taxes, hold all the leases for
saloons and have authority over the Jews. d) A rumour spreads that the
coachman has betrayed the community, has confessed the murder and
converted. e) The community firmly believes the four prisoners will
"sanctify God's name" and not weaken regardless of torture. f) They do
not have equal faith in the young coachman. g) His mother, an illiterate
woman who cannot even recite psalms, stands outside the group as others
pity her for having a renegade son.

Part Three continues the synagogue drama of Part Two, moving from
supplication to mourning. a) The congregation gathers to mourn the death
of the executed martyrs. b) The coachman's mother is regarded with pity.
c) Five heads are delivered to the synagogue door. d) The coachman's
mother takes up her son's head and dances with it before the Holy Ark;
she is now admired by all. e) She lights her unlit candle, the fifth
one, and is taken into the heart of the community.

Part One in Yiddish and in Maurice Samuel's Version

On a star-studded and moonlit night, a coachload of Jewish celebrants
return from a wedding over snow-covered roads.  They sing snatches of
liturgical hymns mingled with folk songs, "lekho doydi" ['welcome the
Sabbath bride'] and "di mezinke oysgegebn" ['the last female child to be
married off'] -- heaven and earth are on the best of terms in this jolly
translucent world.  The tipsy balegole ['coachman'], who is to be the
central figure in this story, cracks his whip and sings "Make way, make
way, / Jews are on this road."  A figure from the world of lower-class
and underclass characters that Asch helped introduce into Yiddish
literature (in such works as _motke ganev_), he gives free reign to the
horses and does not give way to others traveling the same road, not even
to the local nobleman.  The omniscient author tells us that both horses
and coachman "hobn fargesn dem teglekhn yokh" ['have forgotten the daily
yoke'], i.e. have forgotten the reality of _goles_, of Exile.  Neither
Jews nor Jewish horses were supposed to "let themselves go."

The teller in the Yiddish tale is in full rapport with the drunken
celebrants.  He speaks of them endearingly as _yidelekh_, which is more
or less untranslatable, and his prose is almost lyrical with its chiming
of _-lekh_ endings in _yidelekh_, _freylekh_, _shikerlekh_, _ferdlekh_
-- but then we hear the cacophony of _teglekhn yokh_ ['the diurnal yoke,
reality'].  Unlike Samuel's ultra-pious travelers who sing only
liturgical hymns, Asch's revelers mix the sacred and profane and allow
themselves the delicious luxury of letting off steam.  Samuel's
embroidered version of Asch's story, with its unnecessary explanations
and excrescent embellishments, drowns in unctuousness.  Asch unabashedly
wrote:  "shiker zaynen yidn" ['Jews are drunk'].

A trivial action which normally might earn a reprimand, a fine, a minor
punishment is by chance (or design?) linked to a ritual murder
accusation.  After relating that the dead body of a peasant was found in
a deserted inn near the road, Asch need only add:  "un di tsayt iz geven
far peysekh" ['and it was just before Passover'].  This was the season
when Jews were said to kill a Christian in order to use his blood for
ritual purposes; often the Jewish holiday coincided with Easter, the
season during which Jews felt most threatened.  The most original -- and
readable -- part of Asch's "kidesh hashem" is its realistic first part
in which Jews are represented as recognizable human beings.  As to the
second and third parts, we are all of us less comfortable these days
with the theme of sacrificing our children, and what once may have been
widely accepted is nowadays often questioned.

The Motifs

A number of motifs interact in this tale:  a ritual murder libel and the
subsequent collective suffering; the delinquent son and his illiterate
mother in their relation to the community; the prodigal son who returns
to the fold at a critical moment -- the center of the story.  The
coachman's refusal to betray the community makes it possible for his
mother to reaffirm her place in it.  She does not know how to pray, but
"God loves the heart" -- prayer can take any form, whistling, humming,
dancing, as long as it is heartfelt.  Asch was a collector and
connoisseur of art and knew the great paintings portraying women and
decapitated heads (e.g.  Caravaggio's "Salome and the Head of John the
Baptist" [see Mark 6], Judith and the Head of Holofernes) and of course
the texts on which these visual representations are based.  Dancing as a
spiritual expression is well known in Judaism.  But the scene of a
Jewish mother dancing before the Holy Ark with her son's decapitated
head is not something Asch found in Jewish folklore or tradition.  This
was his own invention, permissible perhaps in "a legend."

Date:  31 March 2001
From: Marjorie Schonhaut-Hirshan 
Subject: Sholem Asch's "kidesh hashem (a legende)" ['Sanctification of
the Name (a Legend)']

We are pleased to offer a romanized version of Sholem Asch's "kidesh
hashem".  Readers will find a Yiddish-letter text of the story in the
Project Onkelos archive
(http://shakti.trincoll.edu/~mendele/onkelos.htm).  We take this
opportunity to thank the Asch estate for permission to publish works by
Asch in the _The Mendele Review_ and in the Project Onkelos archive.

sholem ash

kidesh hashem (a legende)

vays bashneyt iz der veg. di levone shpiglt zikh op in di breyte vayse
feld-shneyen vi in a yam; un di shtern raybn zikh eyns on tsveytn...
azoy gedikht zenen zey ibern himl bazeyt. fun der vaytns hert zikh a
yidish zemerl, oysgemisht mit dem knal fun a balegole's baytsh:

"he, he, on a zayt,
yidelekh forn, yidelekh forn!
lekho-doydi, lekho-doydi
likras kalo!"

fun vanen forn dos yidelekh azoy freylekh? fun a khasene forn yidelekh.
ongeshtopt iz di boyd mit mekhutonim, oyfn same korzhel [= kozle
'coachbox'] zitst der balegole shikerlekh. dos hitl shpringt fun kop, un
mit der baytsh knelt er unter:  he, he, on a zayt, on a zayt! zayt visn,
di ferdelekh, az ayer balebos iz shiker, men fort fun a khasene -- un
zey hobn fargesn dem teglekhn yokh, lozn zey zikh mit impet un traybn
ales fun veg arop.

un di mekhutonim haltn eyner dem tsveytn mit di hent arumgeoremt, di
shtraymlekh rukn zikh on a zayt. di ferd farplontern zikh, un ale
ineynem shoklen zikh tsuzamen mit der fur, vi bay der gemore, un zingen
hoykh ofn kol:

"omar abayey. omar reb papo [= Amora],
di mezinke oysgegebn,
di mezinke oysgegegn,
lekho doydi, lekho doydi,
likras kalo!"

der veg laykht in shney - un levone-likht, un in der vayser levone-nakht
trogt zikh di yidns zemer:

"lekho doydi, lekho doydi,
likras kalo!"

es zeyen nit di yidelekh vi der porets fun shtetl kumt zey antkegn mit
dray ferd nashpits (in der leng). es hern nit di yidelekh vi der porets
ruft:  "hey, zhidi, parkhi, daytshe drani" (hey, yidn, parkhes, lozt dem
veg). freylekh zenen yidn, a tokhter oysgegebn. nokh a yidish por bay
yidn tsugekumen. a naye hoyz in yidish folk, un yedes yidishe hoyz iz vi
yankev avinus hoyz. un ver hert haynt dem porits mit zayne meshorsim.
"daytshe drani, zhidi, parkhi", shrayt der porits. di yidelekh entfern
im:  "mir yidn hobn a meshiekh, un vos host du? mir dinen dem eyntsikn
lebedikn boyre. un du vemen? der rebe iz undzer meylits yoysher. un
dayner ver?" un zey gibn nit dem porits dem veg. zey nemen farn porits
dos hitl nit arop. zey zogn nit dem porits:  "dzhen dobri" (gut morgn).
shiker zenen yidn un forn fun a khasene un zingen in di vayse nakht

"lekho doydi, lekho doydi,
likras kalo"

oyfn tsveytn tog hot men fun porits rayters aroysgeshikt nokhshpirn fun
vanen zenen yidelekh geforn, un vos hobn yidelekh shiker opgeton. un men
hot gefunen a toytn poyer lign in der puster kretshme, vos shteyt on a
zayt fun veg.

un di tsayt iz geven far peysekh.

hot men strazhnikes ibern shtetl aroysgeshikt nokhfregn, ver iz ibern
veg geforn. hot men di mekhutonim mit dem balegole in keytn geshmidt un
in di tfise gevorfn.

di mekhutonim zaynen geven di fir shenste balebatim fun shtot.

farzamlt zaynen ale yidn in der shul. di likht ongetsunden vi tsu
yonkiper. fun di vaybershe shul farnemt zikh a shtil ernst geveyn. es
veynen eyntsele shtimen un men veyst, az dos veynen di vayber un di
muters fun di gepaynikte. der alter rov in kitl un tales shteyt farn orn
un zogt tilim:  "lomo rogshu goyim uleumim yehegu-rik..." [tilim 2:1
"farvos rudern di felker, un di umes tuen brumen umnisht? (Psalms 2:1
'Why do the nations rage and the peoples imagine a vain thing?')]

un di eyde in kitlen un taleysim zogen nokhn rov mit tsiterike shtimen:
"lomo rogshu goyim uleumim yehegu-rik..."

un shtil iz in der kleyner shul.  men hert dem gang fun di neshomes fun
ale kdoyshim fun ale doyres, vos geyn durkh di luft fun der shul. vorim
men zogt tilim far gepaynikte.

dort in der tfise paynikt men di gefangene mit kol inuim koshim, az zey
zoln zikh moyde zayn.  un dos zogt men do tilim far zey, az got zol zey
shtarkn, zey zoln ohyshaltn di inuim un nit farshvekhn zayn heylikn
nomen vorim der nisoyen iz a shverer. di vos vet zikh moyde zayn un
opzogn zikh kholile fun yidishn gloybn, hot men oysgepoykt in shtot, vet
men im shenken dos lebn, un makhn im far dem oyfzeer fun ale tsinzen vos
yidn hobn tsu bahelfn dem porets, un opgebn im ale propinatsyes fun ale
sheynkin, un er vet vern a rosh iber di yidn.

un di vos veln zikh nit moyde zayn, vet men zey tsufertlen un nit lozn
kumen tsu keyve yisroel.

un do in shulkhl, dakht zikh, hern zikh di krekhtsn un di geshreyen fun
di gepaynikte, vos mishn zikh oys in eynem mit di yidns tilim zogn un
raysn zikh in himl aroyf.

nor zikher zaynen yidn in zeyere kdoyshim, az zey veln oyshaltn dem
nisoyen un veln nit farshvakhn kholile gots nomen far di narishkeytn
fun der velt. un shtolts rayst zikh aroys fun di gepaynikte iber zeyere
kdoyshim. un mit kine un koved kukn ale vayber oyf zey, oyf di muters
un froyen fun di kdoyshim vos zenen mekadesh es hashem.

nor in eynem iz men nit zikher, in dem balegole. a proster yung fun der
gas, un nisht eyn mol hot men im shoyn getrofn mekhalel shabes zayn
befarhasye. er hit nit op keyn minkhe vemayrev un shabes geyt er mit
zayn ferd iber der gas shpatsirn, est umgevashn un nemt dem sider in
hant nit arayn. gemusert hot im shoyn der rov eynike mol un gevolt im in
polish ['synagogue anteroom'] aynzetsn, hot er gestrashet mit shmadn
zikh -- hot men im tsu ru gelozt.

in a vinkl vayber-shul shteyt zayn muter mitn tikhl ibern kop
aribergetsoygn, shemt zikh di vayber in ponim arayntsukukn. ale kukn oyf
ir mit rakhmones un fardros:  "aza zun dertsoygn!" -- vorim gehert hot
men shoyn in shtot, az der balegole iz zikh moyde... opgerukt hobn zikh
ale fun ir un zi veynt un shteyt mit dem tikhl iber di oygn. keyn tilim
zogt zi nit -- zi ken nit; keyn sider halt zi nit in der hant, nor ire
lipn murmlen a tfile, un zi bet tsu got:  "tate in himl, shtey im bay!
tate in himl, shtey im bay!"

un di trern gisn zikh fun di oygn in tikhl arayn. keyner zet zey nit,
keyner hert ir tfile nit, vorim opgerukt shteyt zi aleyn, un ale kukn
mit rakhmones un fardros oyf ir:  "aza zun dertsoygn! aza zun

vider zenen ale yidn in der shul farzamlt. keyn tilim zogt men nit
haynt. oysgezetst zenen zey ale oyf der erd. di shtenders fardreyt. di
likht brenen zikh oyf der erd. der rov in di zokn zugt "eykhe" un der
oylem in der shtil zogt nokh im. men zitst shive nokh di kdoyshim. tlies
hot men in mark oysgeshtelt, un yetst vert geton zeyer rekht in mitn
mark. fir yortsayt-likht brenen zikh in a kastn zamd oyf der erd, un
arum di likht zitsn shive di mishpokhes fun di kdoyshim un zogn "eykhe."
in a vinkl shul, hart bay der tir shteyt oykh dos finfte likht. zi iz
nit ongetsundn, un nebn dem zitst di muter fun dem balegole eyne aleyn,
men veyst nit, tsi hot ir zun oysgehaltn dem nisoyen un er gehert oykh
tsu di kdoyshim un ale kukn mit rakhmones un fardros:  "aza zun
dertsoygn! aza zun dertsoygn!"

in dem hern zikh trit tsuraytn fun droysn.  a rayter kumt tsu der shul,
varft epes arunter hinter der tir un klapt on in tir fun shul -- eyns,
tsvey, dray, fir, finf. finf klep hot er gegebn. un vi es hot zikh
derhert der finfter klap in der tir, rayst oyf di muter fun dem balegole
di tir fun shul -- un hinter der tir fun der shul lign finf opgehakte

oysgezukht hot zi dem kop fun ir zun un oyf di hent genumen un iz
arayngegangn mit im in shul arayn. hoykh hot zi gehaltn dem kop fun ir
zun oyf di hent, vi zi volt im der gantser eyde gevolt tsaygn. a
shtoltser blik hot zikh fun ire oygn aroysgerisn. aropgerukt hot zi
shoyn dos tikhl fun ir kop un hot shtolts alemen in di oygn gekukt.
opgerukt mit koved hobn zikh ale far ir un di mame, mit dem zuns kop in
der hant, hot in mitn shul tsu tantsn ongehoybn.

laykht un shtil hobn zikh ire fis bavoygn, un getantst hot zi mit ir
zuns kop farn orn -- keyn eyn vort nit geredt. ire lipn zenen shtum
geven, nor ire oygn hot zi oyf alemen mit shtolts gekukt.

un ale hobn zikh opgerukt fun ir un mit kine un koved gekukt oyf ir:

di muter tantst mit ir zun, di muter tantst mit ir zun,

un avekgeleygt hot zi ir zuns kop tsvishn di kep fun di kdoyshim, un
ongetsundn mit ire hent dos yortsayt-likht far ir zun un avekgeshtelt es
far dem orn tsvishn di likht fun di kdoyshim.

Date: 31 March 2001
From: Meyer Wolf 
Subject: On the Yiddish word _korzhel/korshel_ 'coachbox'

In the beginning of the Sholem Asch story "kidesh hashem," in the
present issue of _The Mendele Review_ we encounter the following
sentence:  "oyf di same korzhel zitst di balegole..."  In the same
author's novel _kidesh hashem_ (New York, 1923, p. 55) we find the
phrase "oyfn korshel fun boyd."

Neither _korzhel_ nor _korshel_ are to be found in any of the more
useful Yiddish dictionaries (MEYYED, Harkavi, Stutshkoff).  However, the
1918 _Sieben=Sprachen Woerterbuch_ (Leipzig:  Otto Spamer Verlag) gives
German _Kutscherbock_, Polish _koziol_, Russian _kozly_, Belorussian
_kozly_ and Yiddish _kozel_; and Lifshits, in his Russian-Yiddish
dictionary (Zhitomir, 1869) gives as one of the definitions of Russian
_koshel_ 'der vognkastn'.  The _Russian-Yiddish Dictionary_ (Moscow,
1984) defines _kozly_ (plural _kozles_) as 'kelnye' and this Yiddish
word for 'coachbox' _is_ in many Yiddish dictionaries (e.g.  Harkavi
1928, p. 463.)  Stutshkoff in his section #173 "ferd-un vogn" under the
subsection "parts" gives the group _kozle_, _shoske_ and kelnye_, all of
which mean 'coachbox'.
End of _The Mendele Review_ 05.003

Leonard Prager, editor

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