The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to MENDELE)
Contents of Vol. 08.002 [Sequential No. 141]
15 February 2004
                           Felsenbaum Issue One

1) About this issue of TMR  (Joseph Sherman)
2) _Shabesdike shvebelekh_ chapters 1,2 and the beginning of 3 (by
   Mikhoel Felsenbaum as translated into English by Joseph Sherman)
3) An Interview with Mikhoel Felsenbaum (Astrid Starck)

  Date:  15 February 2004
  From: Joseph Sherman 
  Subject:  About this issue of TMR

In this issue we are privileged to introduce to readers of TMR the
opening chapters of _Shabesdike shvebelekh_,a new novel by Mikhoel
Felsenbaum, a Moldava-born Yiddish novelist and playwright who is
currently the head of the H. Leyvik-farlag in Tel Aviv.  Felsenbaum's
new novel, which will be published in Yiddish later this year, is a
brilliant narrative about the coming of the Messiah.  It draws on a long
established Jewish literary tradition which has found particularly vivid
expression in Yiddish.  Felsenbaum -- the man and his work -- has been
the subject of particularly careful research by Dr Astrid Starck of the
Universite de Haute Alsace in France, and we are most grateful to Dr
Starck for making available to us both her recent interview with the
author and her insightful essay on his new novel.  In this issue we offer
an English translation of the novel's opening two chapters, together
with the text, in romanized Yiddish, of the interview with the author;
the next issue of TMR will carry Dr Starck's analysis of the novel.
Yiddish-letter texts of the novel excerpt and of the interview can be
reached through the indicated links.  TMR thanks Noyekh Miller for
making this possible.

Date:  15 February 2004
From: Joseph Sherman 
Subject:  _Shabesdike shvebelekh_ chapters 1,2 and the beginning of 3 by
Mikhoel Felsenbaum, tr.  Joseph Sherman

Little Sabbath Fires: A Novel

by Mikhail Felsenbaum

Translated from the Yiddish by Joseph Sherman. This translation is
copyright and may not be republished anywhere by anyone.

click here for Yiddish version


The downpour began on Friday night.  Violent winds off the mountain
flung black clouds into the valley, and the great red synagogue was
enveloped in a damp veil woven of mist and long filaments of rain.

An hour before afternoon prayers, eleven righteous men arrived for
worship, and each had the merit of eleven thousand ordinary worshippers.

Reb Fayvl Talesveber, who had tarried overlong in the ritual bath, left
his home at precisely the same time as the first raindrops began to
fall, and turned back halfway because the wild wind had broken his
umbrella.  In a single moment Reb Fayvl was drenched to the skin, had
taken a chill, and with tears in his eyes had returned home where, as it
is written, “The angels above prevailed over the humans below” [Bavli
Ketubot 104a] – to his great chagrin, the righteous one passed away on
the threshold of his bedchamber.

At the conclusion of afternoon prayers it became apparent that the
worshippers would be obliged to stay overnight in the great red
synagogue, because no observant Jew would carry an umbrella on the

Because of the whirling wind and heavy fog, the Archangel Michael had
difficulty in finding the great red synagogue, but now, silent and
invisible, like a cap of fog, he immediately seated himself next to the
tiled stove and waited expectantly for the Sabbath.

The eleven righteous ones were preparing to receive the Sabbath when the
twelfth arrived, the wholly blameless Yitskhok ben Avrom, a shepherd and
a scholar deeply learned in the holy commentaries.  Then the Archangel
Michael bolted the door over the entrance and gouged out a protective
moat in the earth all around the great red synagogue.

The Sabbath Gentile, Herr Ferenc, remained seated in the vestibule of
the smaller synagogue.  He was afraid to go out in his boots into the
courtyard where he had hidden a bottle of Sabbath slivovitz.  A
good-natured soul and a confirmed drunkard, Herr Ferenc was scared of
the moat which he had blearily noticed through the window.  He was
ashamed to report it to the righteous ones because it was difficult for
him to believe that Jews too might be afraid of ditches.

The Archangel Michael, who had drifted out through the wall, fluttered
his silken wings and rose heavenwards, leaving the great red synagogue
to preside over the world.  From high above, Michael observed the way
the righteous ones sat down to table to prepare for honouring the Sabbath;
he heard them singing Sabbath hymns and praising the Everlasting.

The stars extinguished themselves, and only in the great red synagogue,
blanketed in fog and rain, was there any illumination:  there within it
was warm and festively cheerful.

Then the Archangel Michael descended again to the roof of the great red
synagogue and paused for a moment next to the warm chimney.  Through the
attic window he noticed that, even as they were singing, the righteous
ones had dozed off round the long, linen-clothed table.

In great joy, Michael ascended still higher into the heavens, soaring
and dancing through the fresh streams of rain – a jig to the right –
“Good Sabbath, to you, Jews!” – a jog to the left – “Jews, be strong in
your faith and fear God’s punishment!”.  A jog forwards – “May the
Torah light your path in life!” A jog backwards – “Jews, be well and
strong!” A leap upwards – “All praise to the Everlasting who cares for
his little children!”

Thunder rolled and lightning flashed.  From the mountains, foaming
torrents of water began surging into the valley.  A violent inundation
swept away the massive boulder that blocked the entrance to the cave
in which, for many thousands of years, the legendary Wild Ox had
peacefully lain sleeping.  Icy water gushed into the cave.  Starting
awake, the Wild Ox emitted a sweet sigh, in response to which the earth
trembled.  In the fractiousness of half-sleep, the creature struggled to
rise on all fours.  Ripping aw ay the mountain peak with its mighty
withers, and befuddled both with slumber and by the crash of the ensuing
avalanche, it stood upright like a primeval relic of untamed, blind
power and was master over the Seven Peaks.  The avalanche had choked up
six of t he seven ravines in the mountains.  The Valley of the Seven
Peaks, with the great red synagogue in its midst, were cut off from the

“To every river its own flow” [Bavli Chullin 18b and 57a] – the waters
continued to rise.  Had it not been for the seventh, the very deepest,
of the ravines between the green, rounded mountains, the Valley of the
Seven Peaks would long since have formed the bed of a new ocean and the
great red synagogue would have become, perish the thought, the
burial-place of Jewish brothers. But God is a Father. While He takes
with one hand, he bestows with both. The seventh ravine was so deep and
wide that it was able to sop up into itself half the contents of the
other six mountain torrents.

Tempestuous and broad the new spate rushed southwards and swiftly
reached the narrow, half-dried out River Jordan where, deep in the slime
of its estuary, slept the Leviathan.  Enraged by the cold, foaming
water, it beat its fins and the water level of the Sea of Galilee rose
by fully two metres. The Leviathan exhaled noisily and gulped down half
the Jordan. The river’s water level then subsided, and far in the
distance the Leviathan espied the reflection of his deadly enemy, the
Wild Ox.


Towards midnight, the time of rising for prayers and study, the rain
fell more forcefully. The waters of the mountain rivers flooded the
Valley of the Seven Peaks. The few inhabitants of the mountain villages
had ago since fled to their neighbours on the far side of the
mountains. The foaming torrents had wiped away every trace of the
houses scattered over the mountainside, as though they had never been,
and those who had made no effort to flee the force of the elements had
been swept down into a bottomless abyss in company with the turbid
waters and the fiery rocks. A few terrified goats had alone attempted
to hide themselves in the snug cave under the precipice.

In the middle of the night, the shepherd Benedict, an ebullient rascal,
started awake. It was warm and dry in the snug cave.  The
panic-stricken goats huddled at his feet. Benedict turned over on his
other side and tried to embrace his new sweetheart, the young peasant
girl Katerina, but his hand fell on a goat that began to bleat.  Pushing
the goat to one side, Benedict opened his eyes and saw that his
sweetheart was no longer there.

-- Katerina!  Benedict called out angrily. – Katerina!  Damn your
mother’s bones and belly!  Where are you?

-- You … you ... you ... came the echo.

-- Katerina, don’t play the fool with me!  Well? …

-- ell … ell ... ell … reverberated again.

-- Katerina, mark my words – I’ll grab you in a minute and I’ll slap you
so hard your teeth’ll rattle in your head!

“But there was no voice nor any that answered” [1 Kings 18:26]. He
received no response. Benedict rose from his sleeping place and lit a
candle. Apart from himself and the two terrified goats that pressed
themselves against the wall, there was no one else in the snug cave.
Benedict took fright. To enter or leave that cave without his help lay
beyond the capacity of a single individual. Only he knew the secret
footpath that led from the precipice into the cave, and he always led
his women into the cave only in darkness. So with Katerina, his new
sweetheart, also: she had waited for him yesterday, late at night, not
far from the precipice. When she arrived it had started drizzling, and
a heavy fog had crept down from the mountains into the valley.  Although
deep darkness had descended, Benedict had none the less blindfolded
Katerina with a dirty cloth and had led her into his “palace” – into the
snug cave. Only then had he removed the blindfold from her eyes.  The
cave was as cramped as a box and as gloomy as the desolate boulders that
Katerina had beheld every single day from her first moment in this world.
On the earth next to one wall was spread a sheepskin. Opposite the
entrance hole stood a sizeable rock on which lay a bottle of slivovitz,
two glasses, a loaf of bread, an onion and a small candle on a broken
shard.  Nothing resembled anything in Katerina’s fevered dreams.  She
had expected to see a palace of crystal and gold, flooded with light,
with high ceilings and marble sculptures ranged round the wall s. A
naive girl, some fifteen years of age, she had once overheard the women
whispering among themselves about the shepherd Benedict, about his
sexual prowess, and about the snug cave in which every single one of
them had experienced what it was truly like to be a woman.  A refined
and tender soul, Katerina painted beautiful pictures in her imagination
and waited for that day when the shepherd Benedict would carry her in
his arms into the wondrously beautiful cave and she, like a real
princess, would tell him, with a tremor in her voice, “My dearest, I am
yours.” Alas, one should always remember that however radiant it might
be, a dream is nothing but a dream.

Katerina stood in the middle of the cave, afraid to cry out. Benedict
took her by the hand and seated her forcibly on the sheepskin. Katerina
gasped and sobbed.

-- Don’t be afraid, little fool!  Not a single woman has ever left me
unhappy.  Trust me – Benedict filled the glasses with slivovitz and
placed one of them in Katerina’s trembling hand.

-- Drink, little fool, it’ll warm you up.  Why are you shivering like a
wet puppy? Well, here’s to good health – and Benedict drained his glass
in one gulp.

Katerina shut her eyes, crossed herself, and drank down the
evil-smelling raw spirits.

-- Take, eat – Benedict tore a hunk of bread from the loaf and adding a
bit of onion, popped it into Katerina’s open mouth. – Eat, I don’t like
coupling with drunken women.  Make a snack, and let’s drink another
glassful. Believe me, you’ve fallen into good hands.

After the second glassful, Katerina cheered up. It is written, after
all, that “wine maketh glad the heart of man” [Psalms 104:15] – Katerina
started laughing and babbling all manner of nonsense. Benedict rose
from the stone and dropped his pants. Katerina’s eyes glazed over.

For half the night without pause, Benedict took his pleasure with
Katerina. He bit her and kneaded her breasts like dough.  Katerina
tried her best to crawl out from under this fervid thrusting, but
Benedict held her fast with both hands. Katerina very nearly went out
of her mind and lost consciousness.

When she came to, the candles were guttering. Benedict was asleep,
snorting like a wounded animal. The two goats still stood against the
cave wall, huddling up against each other. Katerina rose from the earth
and hurried over to the cave’s entrance. Outside thunder crashed and
lightning flared, the rain poured down in torrents, and Katerina could
barely make out a feeble light far down in the valley.  For several
minutes she hesitated at the entrance; then she turned back to the stone
that served as a table, filled a glass with slivovitz, drained it and
crawled out of the cave.

When Benedict awoke, Katerina was far from the snug cave.  Having
grown up in the mountains, she soon discovered the secret footpath and
scrambled over the precipice towards her home in the valley. Benedict
could not believe that any woman would abandon him, and still less that
such a woman could find his secret footpath wholly unaided. He hurried
over to the entrance hole, poked his head outside, and almost died on
the spot. Right before his eyes, on the bald mountain, stood a gigantic
black ox whose body blotted out half the sky. Its eyes flashed
lightning, sparks flew from beneath its hooves, and over its adamantine
withers lay the Nehar-di-nur, the incandescent river of fire. The Wild
Ox was preparing for battle.


Having completed both his dance and his prayers, the Archangel Michael
happily descended on to the roof of the great red synagogue. Near the
chimney it was dry and pleasantly warm; a large tin overhang prevented
the rain from running down into the hearth beneath. Michael seated
himself by the attic window and took pleasure in observing how the
righteous ones slept on at the table, peacefully and quietly, like
little children. At the far end sat the Rebbetzin Fanny and Yitskhok
ben Avrom’s wife Sarah with her five daughters. They were chatting
softly, but the Archangel Michael had no relish for their housewifely
banalities … bur … bur … bur … children … bur … bur … bur … dietary laws
… bur … bur … bur … ritual bath … Having dozed off, the Archangel failed
to notice the angels Rukhiel and Khashmaliel descending on to the roof
of the great red synagogue.  Khashmaliel spotted Michael sleeping and
tweaked his wing. Startled, Michael leapt up in alarm:

-- What are you doing?  Have you lost your mind?  Who plays games with
things like that?  Michael demanded in an insulted huff.

-- Don’t be cross; it was only a joke, responded Khashmaliel,
approaching Michael.

-- You may be quite sure that I’ll tell the Everlasting all about your
idiotic jokes! Michael pulled back several paces from Khashmaliel.

-- And I’ll tell the Everlasting that you nodded off on the job. What a
smart aleck!  The angel Khashmaliel spat contemptuously to Michael’s
side and went over to Angel Rukhiel. – Well, little brother, shall we to

-- To work, Rukhiel agreed.  In a temper, the Archangel Michael took to
the air and dashed off to the Garden of Eden to heal his hurt wing.

The angels Khashmaliel and Rukhiel set about their tasks. Rukhiel puffed
mightily and scooped out a huge hole, a hundred metres wide and a
hundred metres deep, in the town’s main square, and the water that had
flooded the town of Mikdorf vanished into it. Thereafter the angel
Khashmaliel sopped up the earth and separated the town limit from the
valley of the Seven Peaks.

Towards midnight, the time of rising for prayers and study, the town of
Mikdorf with all its houses, trees and inhabitants rose into the air. A
mighty cushion of air seized it from beneath and carried it immeasurably
far from the Valley of the Seven Peaks to Armenia, to Mount Ararat.
Only the great red synagogue was left standing on a knoll in the middle
of the valley, like a slap in the face of both the Evil One and of the
insensate elements …

Date:  15 February 2004
From:  Astrid Starck 
Subject:  An Interview with Mikhoel Felsenbaum

Interview mit Mikhoel Felsenbaumen vegn zayn roman Shabesdike shvebelekh
(17. 05. 2003)

click here for Yiddish version

AS :  me zogt az der peysazh iz nisht farshpreyt in der yidisher
literatur.  iz dos der emes ?

MF :  di geshikhte fun bashraybn, oysmoln un arayntrogn di elementn fun
peysazh, fun landshaft in der yidisher literatur iz zeyer a lange.  zi
hot tsvey farshidene rikhtungen, tsvey vortslen:  1. der tanakh, mit
zayne filtsolike bashraybungen, zeyer kurtse, lakonishe, poetishe, fun
di vistenishn, fun der natur, vi oykh shpeter inem shir hashirim, dem
gezang fun di gezangen, vos loyt der yidisher traditsye yeder religyezer
yid hot gelernt yedn f raytik nokh mitog. 2. di virkung fun der
absorbatsye in der eyropeisher gezelshaft in farshidene lender, in
frankraykh, in daytshland, in estraykh, un shpeter in di slavishe
lender.  di bashraybungen fun landshaft zaynen gevorn an organisher
element in der yidisher literatur af yidish shoyn in frien mitl-elter.

AS :  mir veln redn vegn suzhet fun roman.  ver iz mashpie geven oyf
dayn verk, ver un vos iz geven vikhtik?  du host dermont milorad pavits.

MF :  milorad pavits iz eyner fun zey.  der suzhet iz an eynfakher.  azoy
vi ikh hob shtudirt a sakh yorn say literatur un say teater, algemeyne
geshikhte un teoryes fun teater, iz mayn tsugang – vi ikh farshtey
atsind – geven gants a teatraler.  dos batayt az me nemt a shoyshpiler
un me shtelt im in bazundere badingungen un yeder shoyshpiler hot zayn
neshome, zayne gedanken; mir zeen vi er, der shoyshpiler, past zikh
tsu tsu der oder anderer situatsye, in di oder andere badingungen.  ikh
hob ibergeleynt an interesantn bukh, a visnshaftlekh-populistishn, fun
yankev shapiro; der bukh iz dershinen in yor 1947 in yisroel un heyst :
_beshviley-geula_, af di steshkes, oyf di vegn fun der geule, fun
derleyzung, oysleyzung.  dort brengt er tsvey kabalistishe gedanken:
1. di meshikhishe bavegung iz geven tif bazirt af farborgenem visn, azoy
vi es shteyt geshribn az ale gesheenishn oyf der velt hobn tsvey zaytn:
a) eyne, vos zet yeder eyner vos hot oygn, b) di tsveyte, farborgene,
bahaltene, vos zeen nur zeltene mentshn, iberhoypt tsadikim un malokhim
2. got vet nokh a mol shikn a mabl oyf der velt, ober nisht tsu
farnikhtn zi, nor optsureynikn dem shmuts un metaken zayn dos vos iz
kalye gevorn inem mekhanizm fun der velt, in der mentshheyt.  iz mir
zeyer gefeln gevorn der gedank mitn mabl, mitn tsveytn mabl, un der
teatraler tsugang, nemen farshidene mentshn un zey shteln oyf eyn bine
un zen vos kumt aroys mit di farshidene mentshn, mit farshidene
kharacters, in lomir zogn zeyer an ekstremer situatsye, say ven mir redn
vegn natur, say ven mir redn vegn etik; un ekstremer say ven mir redn
vegn a krumen gerikht, a nisht keyn rekhtikn gerikht:  vos far a
hashpoe ken hobn a gesheenish vos iz geshen mit 50, mit 100 yor tsurik;
vayl mir fargesn in gikhn vos mir hobn gegesn nekhtn, nisht nor dos vos
iz geshen mit 50 yor tsurik!  dos hob ikh geton.  koydem-kol hob ikh
ongeshikt a mabl, azoy vi yidishe gelernte hobn gezogt az se ken zayn
nokh a mabl, hob ikh gezogt:  « far vos neyn?  ot hot ir a mabl! » un
ekstreme situatsyes, ven me ken nisht arayngeyn, nisht aroysgeyn fun
der shul, vu se zitsn 12 yidn un yidenes un a shabes-goy, un tsvishn zey
dreyt zikh arum der malekh mikhoel.  dos iz ineveynik.  un fun oysn hobn
mir di velt, azoy vi du host gezogt, nisht breyt natsyonale, ober an
ander velt, di kristlekhe velt, dem pastekh benedikt mit zayn tokhter
katarine.  un oykh dos iber-iber-natirlekhe, vos mir kenen es nor fun di
oysgrobungen, farshidene dinozavers shminozavers, rizike foyglen un azoy
vayter.  ober zey eksistirn oykh in di midroshim, tsvey fun zey eksistirn
oykh in di traditsyonele yidishe bikher, in tanakh , levyosn eksistirt in
seyfer iev, vos hot ayngeshlungn … un in di komentaren zeen mir az vos
iz dos far a khaye:  in midroshim shteyt oykh geshribn vi got hot
bashafn dem levyosn, vi got hot bashafn dem shorabor, un s’zaynen do
oykh zeltene, nisht keyn sakh, dermonungen vegn dem foygl ziz vos zayn
nomen figurirt in tilim:  loyt der traditsye, ven meshiekh vet kumen,
veln die tsadikim makhn a sude fun di dray legendare khayes:  mir veln
hobn foygl, an of, mir veln hobn a fish un mir veln hobn fleysh fun
shorabor, di ale dray zakhn.  iz dos is der oyser plan.  ineveynik
zaynen di tsadikim mit rebe osher oyerbakh, mit der rebitsin, mit di
12 tsadikim.

AS : a tsol vos me gefint in di mayses.

MF :  dos iz traditsyonel.  umetum iz dos traditsyonel ; afile ven ershte
kristn hobn zikh opgeteylt fun der yidisher religye, hobn zey oykh
oysgeklibn di tsol 12, 12 apostoln.

AS :  tsi  gefint men di tsol ergetsvu andersh, far dem?

MF :  yo, di 12 yidishe shvotim.  s’farshteyt zikh az in kristntum iz
dos arayn fun tanakh :  12 yidishe shvotim un yeder eyner fun zey iz a
shevet far zikh aleyn, a mentsh far zikh aleyn, a mishpokhe far zikh
aleyn.  un shpeter fun di 12 mishpokhes zeen mir a folk.  dos zelbe zeen
mir do, 12 farshidene mentshn, 12 farshidene kharaktern.

AS :  du zogst az du host gehat a tsugang fun teater.  far vos iz dos
nisht gevorn keyn pyese?

MF :  ikh meyn, az me leyent es gut, zet men az dort iz do azoy fil
dialogn, teatralizirte, nisht-teatralizirte; der teater-tsugang iz a
klorer:  me zet di tsol dialogn, on komentarn, efsher mit a replik « er
iz oyfgeshtanen » tsi « er hot zikh aveggezetst », « er hot a shoyber
geton zayne hor », epes azoyne kleyne replikes, un der iker zaynen di
dialogn, groyse dialogn ; dos iz oykh a teater-tsugang tsu proze.  ober
dos iz hashpoe fun ernest hemingvey, fun zayne verk, vu mir hobn di lange
dialogn mit zeyer a kurtser replik :  « mister smith iz oyfgeshtanen »,
« froy aza un aza iz aroys in droysn ».  ikh hob zikh gelernt bay im un
ikh hob gefilt az dos iz mayn ineveynikster tsugang, vayl alts vos ikh
tu, afile in dikhtung oykh, hot zeyer a groyse hashpoe fun dramaturgye.

AS :  mir hobn bamerkt az der roman iz epes zeyer teatralish.  di frage
iz azoy:  far vos hostu nisht geshribn keyn pyese ?

MF :  ikh vil shraybn a stsenarium far a film far holivud.  az zey
veln es bashteln bay mir vet zayn gut!

AS :  du volst dokh gekent shraybn a pyese.  far vos nisht?  vos iz der
untershid ?

MF :  der untershid iz a groyser.  ikh gleyb nisht az haynt tsu tog, mit
mayne koykhes, mit mayn derfarung, volt ikh gekent onshraybn a pyese,
vayl mir hobn do a tkufe fun ariber 2000 yor un azoy fil heldn,
onheybndik mit vlad tsepekh inem peryod fun 15tn yor hundert.  mir hobn
do tunisye mit indzl djerba:  dos iz der ershter yorhundert.  mir hobn
peryodn fun estraykhish-ungerisher imperye, fun khazarisher imperye, fun
kordobe in shpanye.  ikh bin nokh nisht greyt ontsushraybn a pyese vos
volt gekent araynnemen in zikh dos alts.  aza koyekh, aza shtarkn
gloybn in zayne koykhes zeen mir nor bay gete; ikh ze nisht bay andere
shrayber oyf der velt.  ikh veys nisht ver hot gehat koykhes
tsunoyfshteln tsvey vent.  me darf zayn a goen, azoy vi gete.

AS :  du meynst in foyst ?

MF :  yo, in foyst.  dos iz a rizik verk.  ikh bin nisht greyt nokh tsu
dem.  tsu shraybn a stsenarium far a film iz gringer.  ober ikh hob
shoyn ongeshribn azoy fil stsenarien vos zey lign bay mir in shuflod.
ikh gloyb nisht az emetser vet zey leyenen un s’iz nisht aroys gornisht.

AS :  ober du veyst az in basel iz do zeyer a bavuster film-rezhiser,
artur kohn ?

MF :  vi kumt di kats ibern vaser ?  er iz in basel un ikh bin in ramle!
mir kern zikh um tsu shvebelekh.  der teater-tsugang iz klor.  kumt a
dramaturg, kumt a rezhiser in a teater-shul un zogt :  «kinderlekh, ot
shtelt zikh for az ir zent, ir, khayim, boydem, klots, ikh veys nisht
vos!  ir zent a student :  shtelt zikh for az ir zent rebe osher un ir
gefint zikh in aza un aza matsev, vos tut ir ?  ikh vil zen! »dos iz
an elementarer tsugang oyf oystsulernen di studentn tsu vern a
shoyshpiler ; in der shul vos ikh hob gelernt, in der klasisher rusisher
shul, stanislavski sistem, dos iz geven dos ershte vos me hot shtudirt.
un gelernt oyf praktik vi azoy ikh, mikhoel felsenbaum, volt zikh
oyfgefirt ven ikh volt geven in aza un aza matsev.  dos red ikh vegn
shoyshpiler un vegn eyn personazh.  ober a shrayber iz mer vi eyn
personazh.  a shrayber iz er aleyn, plus di ale, ikh meyn, arum hundert
personazhn vos ikh hob dort bay zikh in mayn roman.  iz ikh hob
ongeshribn say di pyese, say oysgeklibn di shoyshpiler, aleyn es
rezhisirt, un tsum sof, ven di ale shoyshpiler zaynen nisht gekumen tsu
der premyere, hob ikh aleyn geshpilt far di ale hundert parshoynen vos
zaynen nisht gekumen.  dos iz der tsugang.  ikh hob ibergelebt dos lebn
fun yedem eynem, fun shorabor, levyosn, rebe osher, ikh bin afile
arayngekrokhn in layb fun der rebitsin fani, fun a tsveyter froy, sore
itsiks, fun di kinder, fun dem foygl ziz, fun dem naivn meydl, vos hot
nisht gevust az zi geyt shlofn mit ir tatn; s’iz a shreklekhe zakh.
ikh bin arayn in gayst fun reb fayvl talisveber, vos er iz shoyn nishto,
nor zayn neshome shvebt un lozt nisht tsu ru andere mentshn, un oykh in
rebe oshers zeung fun donershtik oyf fraytik; un in zayn zeung iz
gekumen oykh der zelber mentsh vos iz geven nokh lebedik tsu yener tsayt,
ober er iz shoyn geven mit oysgeloshene oygn un hot getantst mit
malokhim, un mit a vays tsigele oyf di hent.  dos iz in gantsn an ander
velt vos a normaler, realer mentsh ken es nisht zen.  tsulib dem darf
men zayn a shrayber oder a dikhter, kedey arayndringen in veltn vos real
mir zeen zey nisht.  efsher zey existirn oder zey existirn nisht, mir
veysn es nisht oyf genoy, oyf zikher.  ober oykh do.  az deriber hob ikh
gezogt fun onheyb az der suzhet iz gevebt vi a nets:  mir hobn dem
tunel vos firt funem keler fun der shul ; un unter der shul iz gefint
sikh nokh a shul vos iz oysgehakt gevorn fun a feldz far di tsaytn ven,
khas ve kholile, vet epes gesheen, yidn zoln zikh kenen dort bahaltn;
dos vos mir zeen nisht, vayl zi iz unter der shul, a rizike, a groyse;
un fun der farborgener shul firt a tunel keyn erets-yisroel, keyn tsfas ;
dos iz oykh a velt, vayl tsum sof funem roman, ven rebe osher geyt
arop in keler mit a gedank az er darf dort gefinen oysleyzung far der
groyser gaystiker problem (shuld, zind), vos ligt oyf di eydes vos hobn
geredt eyner azoy der tsveyter azoy, oyf di dayonim vos hobn farurteylt
loyt zeyer visn un s’shteyt geshribn az dos zol zayn far alemen a guter
bayshpil vi azoy me darf zikh nisht oyffirn, vayl s’vet brengen tsu
shreklekhe zakhn; un s’hot zikh oysgevizn az ir shuld iz efsher groys,
ober nisht azoy groys az me zol nemen dos lebn bay tsvey mentshn. dos
iz ibergetribn, afile a mamzer vos blaybt a mamzer in yidisher kehile.
gut 10 doyres iz er a mamzer.  nokh 10 doyres is alts in ordnung.  dos
heyst 250 yor.  yo, dos iz a shreklekhe shtrof in yidishn traditsyoneln
lebn.  ober s’iz nisht shreklekher un nisht geferlekher fun lebn.  iz
deriber ven mir zeen az me hot farmishpet, nisht rikhtik, und dos atsind
bavirkt; ikh hob gevolt oykh nokhshpirn vi azoy di gesheenishn, der
plast, un ikh hob spetsyel gelegt benediktn mit zayn tokhter, mit
katarinen, vayl yener fal hot tsugefirt tsu dem farbrekherishn fal, tsu
gile-aroyes, tsu intsest, nisht mit a kavone, s’farshteyt zikh, dos iz a
tsufal.  ven benedikt volt geblibn in der yidisher kehile, me ken zayn
zikher af hundert protsent az dos volt nisht gesheen, in gantsn nisht.
zayn mames lebn iz umgerikht tsugenumen gevorn, zayn lebn, ikh vayz
nisht on az er iz geshtorbn tsi nisht geshtorbn, er blaybt lebedik tsi er
blaybt nisht lebedik, ober mir zeen in farloyf funem roman az er iz
gevorn nokh dem ven er hot farshtanen az er iz geshlofn mit zayn eygener
tokhter, iz er gevorn in gantsn an ander mentsh.  fun onheyb zeen mir a
khamor-eyzl, a zhlob, un ikh bashrayb es az a mentsh vos firt zikh oyf
nor tsu hobn hanoe fun lebn un trakht nisht bikhlal vegn gornisht; ven
er volt yo getrakht, volt er nisht ongemakht azoy fil kinder in di ale
derfer, vayl dos iz farantvortlekhkeyt, nisht nor tsu shlofn mit der
froy, me darf nokh dertsien di kinder, me darf makhn fun zey mentshn un
er veyst nisht bikhlal ver iz zayn kind un ver iz nisht zayn kind.  un
dos hot tsugefirt tsu aza shreklekhn intsest.  dos iz di moralishe zayt
fun dem 2tn plast.  mir zeen an iber gor naiv meydl, vos nokh dem vos iz
gesheen, er hot zi nisht fargvaltikt, ober s’kumt a yung meydl tsu aza
zhlob vos far im a froy iz a shtik holts un nisht mer fun dem, zi vert
nokh hekher, zi iz azoy romantish un naiv in ire gedankn vos afile nokh
dem vos zi iz aropgefaln, zikh tsebrokhn dos un yens, ir batsiung tsu im
iz vi tsu a man, vi tsu a keyser, vi tsu a meylekh; zi zogt im :ikh
farshtey az dos iz nisht gut, ober ikh farshtey az a meylekh darf zayn
akhzoryesdik.  nisht tsu bashuldikn un nisht zukhn a korbm in alts vos
iz gesheen mit ir.  dos iz di moralishe, di etishe zayt vos mir zeen.
un mir zeen az nor eyn, di neshome fun talesveber, zi yogt nokh im dem
gantsn veg ibern nayem yam un zi bashuldikt im:  un dos iz oykh
hashpoe fun, ikh meyn, di neshome fun reb fayvl, dos iz undzer over, dos
zaynen undzere etishe un estetishe traditsyes, vos mir kenen nisht
opvarfn dos mit eyn varf un dos iz alts; dos iz undzer gevisn, dos
zaynen undzere korbones, dos iz alts, dos iz undzer historye, fizishe
historye un gaystlekhe historye, er bashuldikt im.  dos iz oykh a
groyser plast fun di ale zakhn.  nokh eyn shikht vos iz farbundn mit der
meshikhisher bavegung, mitn gloybn fun yidn in meshiekhs kumen, mit der
traditsye vos iz in der letster tsayt, in der letster tkufe historisher
yidisher hot gebrakht tsu azoy fil blut tsu azoy fil korbones, tsu azoy
fil farloyrene neshomes yidishe, vos eyner fun di greste rabonim, un
greste visnshaftler bay yidn in 20tn yorhundert, rebe menakhem mendl
shneyerson, der lubavitsher rebe.  er iz geven shoyn nisht gezunt,
krank, vos ir vilt, ober er hot nisht derlozt az me zol fun im makhn an
opgot, meshiekh, khotsh er hot gehat in zayn neshome, in zayn
kharakteristik als a mentsh, als a kener, als a gelernter, als a rebe,
als a gaystlekher onfirer, als a khemiker, als a fiziker un matematiker,
als a mentsh vos hot gekent psikhologye, ikh veys nisht tsi s’iz geven
khotsh eyn shikht fun mentshns tetikayt vu er volt nisht geven a kener
fun dem, i a shrayber, i a dikhter, alts, un in tekhnishe inyonim; got
hot im gegebn azoy fil, ober oykh er, er hot nisht derlozt, az me zol
fun im makhn an opgot.  vayl mir hobn gehat azoy fil bayshpiln in der
yidisher geshikhte onheybndik fun frier; frier un nokh dem mit bar
kokhba vos hot gebrakht toyznter korbones; nokh dem in peryod in goles
toyznter falshe neviim, falshe meshikhim, nisht do gedakht; shpeter
hobn mir gehat oykh i dem yankev frank, shreklekh, shtendik, dos gloybn
fun a prostn mentshn in dem az der un der iz a meshiekh flegt brengen
bay yidn tsu shreklekhe shreklekhe rezultatn, tsu toyznter un tsendliker
un toyznt toyzntn toyte umgebrakhte, doz iz geven shreklekh, shtendik.
ober gaystlekh tsu gleybn in besern lebn, dos iz farshtendlekh. un dos
iz nokh eyn shikht:  az zey vartn oyf meshiekhn nisht far zikh
perzenlekh vayl zey zaynen mid; morgn kumt meshiekh veln zey zitsn un
knakn niselekh, un veln esn un veln tantsn un veln nisht darfn
gornisht tun, un zey veln lebn eybik, un di velt iz eyn sod, eyn gortn,
un di feygl zey zingn far zey, un di meydlekh tantsn far zey, un
fishlekh, ikh veys nisht vos, alts iz far zey!  neyn. do iz der troym
az meshiekh zol kumen far di kumendike doyres, far alts vos vet kumen,
vayl alts vos iz geven hot gekost azoy fil blut, az shoyn genug.  un
yeder eyner fun zey oyf zayn oyfn, er gleybt un er vil az vos gikher zol
kumen di oysleyzung far ale yidn un far ale mentshn.  dos iz nokh a
shikht.  un mir zeen fun mir oysgetrakhte dialogn, tsum bayshpil dem
dialog tsvishn rebe yoysef della reyna un dem malekh katriel: mir
hobn a kleynem dialog als a moto tsu eynem a kapitl, dos iz oysgetrakht.
ober frier hobn mir a realn rov, a groysn kabalist fun mitl-elter,
rebe moyshe kordovero.  ikh breng dort zayn realn text.  alts hot tsu
ton mit farborgener lere, mit azelkhe zakhn vos a proster, a posheter
mentsh, tsi er veyst vegn dem nisht tsi er trakht vegn dem bikhlal
nisht.  un ikh breng oykh a kleynem posek fun undzere groyse rabonim
fun friern mitl-elter, vayl di meshikhishe bavegung iz geven azoy groys,
fun falshe meshikhim, vos flegt brengen azoy fil blut, vos zey trogn
aroys a verdikt, az der, vos vet bashteln di tsayt fun meshiekhs kumen,
vayl yeder eyner kluger, flegt zogn dos vet forkumen in yor aza aza un
aza, der tsveyter aza un aza un aza, me flegt farkoyfn hayzer, mit
shabtse tvi yimakh shemoy vezikhroyno un azoy vayter.  zey brengen do, ikh
gib es nisht eyn mol, az der vos bashtimt di tsayt fun meshiekhs kumen
vet nisht hobn zayn kheylek in kumendik lebn.  un dos iz geven a
verdikt, zeyer a vikhtiker, vayl oyb nist andersh, mir voltn haynt ikh
meyn in gantsn voltn mir nisht gehat yidn oyf der velt.  vayl zey zaynen
geven meshuge in gantsn.  un nokh dem flegt kumen a tkufe ven toyznter
yidn zaynen islamizirt gevorn, dos iz in islamishe lender; toyznter
yidn hobn zikh geshmat, eyne mit koyekh, tsveyte fun zikh aleyn, vayl
zey hobn shoyn gegloybt az dos iz alts; mir hobn farloyrn azoy fil fun
undzer folk tsulib undzer eygener tipshes;

AS : nisht nor derfar.

MF :  nisht nor, ikh farshtey.  in istambul tsum bayshpil:  me hot zey
getsvungen, tsi ir geyt ariber in islam, oyb nisht, me vet aykh morgn ale
ophakn di kep un dos iz alts.  sakones nefoshes yo.  ober s’zaynen geven
toyznter un toyznter vos zaynen ibergegangen, vayl zey hobn gegloybt az
dos iz shoyn, meshiekh iz gekumen; dos zelbe in poyln un in daytshland
un vu nisht.  un in rusland iz geven a bavegung, toyznter un toyznter,
yo dos iz a farfirerishe zakh.  ikh zog nisht az a mentsh darf nisht
hobn zayn veg in lebn, ober ven dos trogt a masn-kharakter fun a
meshugas, dos iz shoyn a tsveyte zakh.  un dos iz farbotn.  ikh veys
nisht vi bay andere felker, ikh hob es nisht kontrolirt, ober bay yidn
dos iz shoyn a makhule, a krenkheyt, di masn-bavegung, in gloybn in di
verter fun eynem, shpeter in tsveytn un dritn, s’kumt eyner vos leygt
aroyf di hant un heybt on tsu shvimen in di volkns un do, un ale « hey,
hey » un varfn zikh nokh im in yam arayn, mitn kop arop mit di fis
aroyf.  yo yo, dos iz shreklekh.

AS :  s’iz interesant vayl kaneti hot geshribn a vikhtik bukh vos heyst
« masse und macht ».

MF: ikh hob ongehoybn leyenen kaneti ; ikh hob bakumen
zayne bikher far dem vos ikh bin gekumen keyn shvayts.  ikh hob
ongehoybn leyenen a roman, « die blendung ».  ikh hob geleyent vegn zayn
teoretish verk.  tsu kaneti bin ikh gekumen nor oto to.  frier hob ikh
im nisht geleyent.

AS :  s’zaynen faran merere bikher vos farnemen zikh miit oto der teme
fun mase, lemoshl oykh fun herman brokh.

MF: in mayn roman hob ikh nisht
gekent shraybn visnshaftlekhe arbet, ober es hot yo hashpoe.  me zet.
ikh hob zeyer zeyer moyre far di masn-meshugasn.  dos iz shreklekh.  ven
epes a gedank oder a bavegung bakumt a simen fun a masn-meshugas.  iz
mir zeen di meshugene vos raysn zikh oyf mit mentshn, mir zeen di
meshugene vos shisn in buda.  s’iz a masn-meshugas.  me darf
koydem-kol nemen dos gantse folk, makhn im meshuge un nokh dem ken men
tun alts vos iz arayn in kop fun dem meshugenem.  un efsher nisht
meshugenem , ober nisht normaln mentsh.  vayl keyner hot nisht rekht tsu
zogn az er hot rekht.  keyner nisht.  nisht president, nisht keyn koval,
keyner nisht, az er hot in zayne hent di fodem fun yenems lebn.  dos iz
alts.  dos iz dos vikhtikste.  doz iz dos vos shteyt in tanakh glaykh
in 1tn kapitl.  doz iz der oytser oyf velkhn di naye tsivilizatsye hot
geboyt di tsivilizatsye in dem gedank in meshekh fun di letste 5000 yor.
un az me kumt nokh a mol tsu der zelber barberay, derhargenen eyner dem
tsveytn un nisht fresn im mit di kishkes in eynem, ikh meyn az dos iz
nisht der veg fun a mentshn vos hot epes oyfgeton far di letste 5000 yor
oyf der velt.  me darf zikh tsuhern efsher, me darf zitsn un oysleyenen
dem muser-haskl un gebn a trakht oyf eyn minut:  mikhoel shtel zikh op
oyf a sekund:  gib a trakht, vos iz geven frier, tsu vos zaynen mir
gekumen, un pruv es analizirn.  un ikh hob geton a pruv in a
kinstlerisher form, nisht visnshaftlekher, analizirn:  vos hobn mir
gehat, tsu vos zaynen mir gekumen un vos iz undzer veg af vayter ?

AS : der sof iz nisht zeyer optimistish.

MF :  der sof iz in gornisht nisht keyn sof.  s’iz umfarshtendlekh vos
iz gesheen vos iz gesheen, vos iz mit di heldn.  nor vegn her ferents
veysn mir az er iz aroyfgeloyfn oyfn tsveytn shtok, in der bibliotek, un
mer hot im keyner nisht gezen.  zayn goyrl iz bavust.  ober fun ale
andere veysn mir nisht, vos iz gesheen mit zey.  un iz geblibn in der
luftn nor a posek fun a tfile , vos iz umfarshtendlekh :  « tsu vemen iz
zi ? » « adoshem yimloykh leoylem voed  »:  der eybershter vet kinign
eybik.  ober ikh shrayb nisht keyn verk vegn dem eybershtn.  ikh bin
nisht keyn religyezer filosof un nisht keyn visnshaftler vos farnemt
zikh mit forshn religye-problemen un religye-inyonim.  mikh interesirt
in dem roman nor di batsiungen tsvishn mentshn.

AS : derfar iz es a roman.

MF :  nor, akh verak.  un der tekst, er blaybt hengen oykh fizish.  ikh
volt gekent fortzetsn bizn sof, s’iz geven plats in der shure, ober ikh
hob es aropgelozt a bisele nideriker un gelozt es elnt, afile fizish,
afile vizuel ; iz me zet az dos iz nisht keyn entfer un s'iz mer a
fregtseykhn fun dem vos iz un vu geyen mir vayter .

AS : ikh meyn az a sakh iz visuel.

MF :  dray oder fir erter hobn mir vu ikh hob gevolt es boyen vizuel.
in der kurtser poezye in kapitl hob ikh es geboyt vi a dreydl, vayl me
dreyt a dreydl un me vil visn dem goyrl.  dos iz dos dreydl, der pur vos
me varft.  un dos letste iz tsum sof.  far dem in etlekhe kapitl frier
iz do oykh tsvey zatsn ; eyner fun talmud :  « pikuekh nefesh doykhe
shabos » :  az s’iz lebensgefar iz oys shabes.  dos heyst khotsh shabes
iz vikhtiker fun alts, ober a mentsh, poshet a mentsh iz afile vikhtiker
fun gots shabes; dos iz eyner fun di zeyer vikhtike mentshlekhe
postulatn in yidishn gloybn, az mentsh iz vikhtiker fun alts.  un der
tsveyter zats vos geyt dortn hintn, ikh shrayb in a sheyner ram,
baremlt, iz a folkstimlekher in gantsn un hot nisht tsu ton mit
rabonim, mit religyeze un filosofishe gedanken; ober ikh meyn az der
folkstimlekher oysdruk, gedank, iz efsher mer gruntlekh; oyb nisht mer,
glaykh azoy vikhtik vi die religyeze postulatn.  s’shteyt geshribn:
« gleyb andere mer vi zikh aleyn un blayb a mentsh ».  dos iz mayn
lebns- filosofye un ikh hob zi arayngeshtelt dortn, dos iz mayn tekst;
ober dos iz mayn text vos ikh hob im gehert fun milyonen mentshn ; ikh
hob im formulirt un kontsentrirt in der zelber situatsye:  « gleyb
andere mer vi zikh aleyn un blayb a mentsh » ikh farshhtey, s’ken zayn
az dos iz nor mayn fantazye.  ober ikh hob rekht oyf a fantazye oykh.
End of The Mendele Review Vol. 08.002
Editor, Leonard Prager
Associate Editor, Joseph Sherman

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