Day: March 2, 2019

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In the Storm part 4

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She was running to the road just beyond the village.

They had surely gone for a walk on the road, where they had been seen several times. She would meet them on the way, or in Jonah’s inn near the big forest.

On the Gentile’s lane, the last one of the village, the dogs in the yards heard her hastening steps upon the drenched earth. Some of them began to bark behind the gates, not caring to venture out into the rain; others were not so lazy and crawled out from under the gates with an angry yelping.

She neither saw nor heard them, however. She only gazed far out over the road, which began at the lane, and ran along.
One dog seized her skirt, which had become heavy with water. She did not heed this, and dragged the animal along for part of the way, until it tired of keeping pace with her in the pelting downpour. So it released her skirt. For a moment it thought of seizing her in some other spot, but at once, with a sullen growl, it set out for its yard.

Water-Laden Atmosphere

On the road the wind became still stronger. And the thunder reechoed here with thousands of reverberations from the neighboring forest. Cheyne looked only straight before her, into the distance, through the dense, water-laden atmosphere.

The way was strewn with heaps of twigs and branches that had been severed by the lightning, and even, a few trees lay before her, tom up from their very roots, and charred.

“Would to God that the thunder would strike them even so!” she muttered.

She was consumed by an inner cry. Now she had found a definite form for all her curses. The thunder up yonder had tom it from her.

And she ran on, on. …

But what is this here?

A few paces before her lie two persons. A man and a woman. With contorted visages. In writhing positions. Their faces black as earth, their eyes rolled back. Two corpses, struck by lightning.

There was a brilliant flash, followed by a deafening thunderclap.
She recognized her daughter.

More by her clothes than by her charred countenance; more by her entire figure than by the horribly staring whites of her eyes.

The girl’s arm lay beneath that of the young man. The top of the open umbrella in the youth’s hand had been burned off.

The old woman was on the point of shrieking a curse, of adding her thunder to the fury of the storm’s thunder; her eyes flashed together with the lightning; in her heart there arose a devastating tempest.

She wished to cry out the most evil of words—that the dead maiden had earned her end. She desired to send after her the most wretched and degrading of names.

Suddenly, however, all grew black before her. A flood of molten lead seemed to pour into her head. Weariness and trembling fell upon her. Her garments, saturated with the rain, seemed to drag her to the earth. Her eyes were extinguished.

The thunder and lightning and shrieking of the wind broke out anew.
But within the old woman all was quiet, dark, dead. She sank to her knees before the corpse of her daughter, stretched over the body her trembling arms, and a dull flame flickered up in her eyes.

Her entire being quivered. Her teeth knocked together. And with a hoarse, toneless voice she gasped:

“My darling daughter! Hennye, my darling!”

In the Storm part 3

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Then she flew back. On the threshold, however, she paused for a moment. She rolled her eyes heavenward and raised her arms to God.
“May flames devour this house!” came from her in a hoarse voice.

Then she departed, pulling the street door violently and leaving it open. The household stood agape, as if the storm itself had tom into the home. Out of sheer stupefaction the persons forgot to close their mouths.
Out of the clouds poured a drenching rain mixed with hail. The tempest seethed like a cauldron.

This boiling tempest, however, raged in Cheyne’s bosom. Something stormed furiously within her. She no longer felt the ground beneath her. The flood soaked her through and through, but this could not restrain her. It served only to augment her savage mood.

She ran from house to house, wherever she might have expected to come upon her daughter and the “apostate.” She stopped nowhere, uttered never a word, but dashed in and then sped out like a flash of lightning, leaving the household open-mouthed with astonishment.
She would find them! Even under the ground. And she did not stop her cursing and her maledictions.

As she rushed from the last house she paused for a moment. Whither now?

She turned homeward. Her heart told her that her daughter was now at home. Her lips muttered the most terrible imprecations, and the inner fury was at its height; the very air, it seemed to her, was laden with her cries, with her curses and oaths.

With a strong gust of wind, a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder, she tore into her home.

Her daughter was not there.

She sank upon a chair and burst into wailing.

Thunderclaps

There was a terrifying crash of thunder. One of those thunderclaps that work the most widespread havoc. Nature seemed to be shaking off the entire residue of energy that had been left to her by the hot summer.
The inhabitants of the village were rooted to the spot in terror. They looked about, then ventured a glance outside. Hadn’t some misfortune occurred? The penitents buried their faces deeper than ever in their prayer-books, and more than ever their voices quivered.

Cheyne, however, had apparently not heard the thunder. She continued to wail, to wail bitterly. Then a wild cry issued from her throat, us wild as the thunder:

“May she not live to come home! May they bring her to me dead! O Lord of the universe!”

The clouds replied with a clap of thunder and the wind sped apace, shrieking.

Suddenly she arose and dashed out as before. The wind accompanied her. Now it thrust her forward from behind, now it ran ahead like a faithful dog, smiting all in its path, raising the dirt from the road and mixing it with the thick drops that fell from the clouds, which were still black, and with the seething drops that coursed from her burning eyes.

In the Storm part 2

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She had gone! And she had warned her daughter, it seemed, not to go out to-day—that on the Sabbath of Repentance, at least, she might remain at home and not run off to that “Apostate,” the former student.

Her aged countenance became as dark as the sky without. And her heart grew as furious as the storm. She gazed about the room as if seeking to vent her rage—strike somebody, break something.

“Oh, may she no longer be a daughter of mine!” escaped in angry
outburst from her storming bosom, and she raised her hand to heaven.

She was not affrighted by the curse that her lips had uttered on this solemn Sabbath. At this moment she could curse and shriek the bitterest words. She could have seized her now by the hair, and slapped her face ruthlessly.

Suddenly she threw a shawl over her head and dashed out of the house.
She would hunt them both out and would visit an evil end upon both of them.

A flash of lightning rent the clouds, and was followed by reverberating thunder. Then flash upon flash of lightning and crash upon crash of thunder. One more blinding than the other, one louder than the other!

Population Grew Greater

The horror of the population grew greater. That it should thunder on the Sabbath of Repentance, and in such demoniac fashion! All hearts were touched, all souls went out in prayer.

Old Cheyne, however, scarcely noticed this.

The wind blinded her eyes with dust, tore her scarf from her, blew her skirts about, twisted the wig on her old head.

She rushed along oblivious to all.

She neither heard nor saw anything before her. Within her it thundered and raged, it stormed and something drove her on. And before her all was dark, for her eyes were shot with blood.

Her small form grew even smaller. She strode along fairly doubled up, hastening breathlessly. She seemed to go faster than the wind. The wind lagged behind her. And whenever it caught up with her, it only spurred her on, and she quickened her step.

She did not look around, did not remark the inquisitive eyes that peered at her from behind the fastened windows by which she ran. She neither saw nor heard anything. Her entire being was merged with the fury of nature. Her thought was a curse, a horrible curse, a deadly curse. Not in words. But in her whole soul. Within her it cried, it thundered —drowning out the thunder of the black, angry clouds.

She stormed into the “apostate’s” house. She opened the door with a loud bang and closed it with one even louder. Those in the room shuddered at the sudden intrusion and jumped to their feet. She cast a wild, hostile glance at them and dashed through the rooms, from one to the other, from the other to a third.

he tore the doors open and slammed them behind her, accompanied by the thunder, as if in a wager as to which of them would make the panes and the windows rattle more violently. A little child took fright and began to cry. She ran from room to room, but neither he nor her daughter was there.

In the Storm part 1

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David Pinski (1872—1959)

David Pinski was born in Russia, but lived chiefly abroad, first in Germany, later in the United States and in Israel. He was preeminent as a dramatist and writer of stories. An artist of great culture and a finished stylist, he found in the proletariat the subject-matter of many of his plays and stories. His volume of Tales Temptations, was once “censored” by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, on what grounds it still remains to be discovered.

In the Storm, which appears in temptations, is one of the most effective and highly finished examples of the Yiddish short story.

Reprinted, in the translation by Isaac Goldberg, from temptations, published by Brentano’s, 1920, by whose permission it is here used.

In the Storm

A pious woman told it to me as a warning to sinners, to the young, to the modems.

Black clouds began to fleck the clear sky. Dense, heavy storm clouds. At first far off, beyond the forest, but very soon they darkened the whole sky over the village. A violent wind lashed and drove them on, and they sped under its whip, angry and sullen, menacing. The wind— a tornado—raged in all the consciousness of its formidable power, raising pillars of dust as high as the driven clouds, tearing off roofs and uprooting trees.

Terror had descended upon the village. Bright day had of a sudden turned to night, such as well befitted the Sabbath of Repentance, the Sabbath before the Day of Atonement. … As frightfully dark, as oppressively heavy as a pious Jew’s heart.

Folks shut themselves up in their houses, fastening windows and locking doors. The earnest faces of the penitent Jews became still more earnest. The depressing moods of the Sabbath of Repentance waxed still more depressing. God was scolding. The sad voices of the psalm- singers became deeper and more tearful.

The darkness grew blacker and blacker. Then old Cheyne raised her eyes from the psalms, looked through her spectacles into the street, uttered “Au-hu!” with trembling heart and heaved a sigh.

For a while she sat gazing outside. She shook her head. Her whole soul was full of God’s omnipotence.

It refused to grow lighter. The clouds passed by in endless procession, and the wind howled, whirling thick pillars of dust in its path.

She could recite psalms no longer. She removed her spectacles and placed them between the pages of her thick woman’s prayer-book, rose from her seat and went into her daughter’s room.

“What do you say to…”

She did not conclude her question. Her daughter was not there. The old woman surveyed the room, looked into the kitchen, then returned to the room. Her daughter’s bonnet was not in its place. With quivering hands she opened the closet. The jacket was missing!

The Kaddish part 2

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The seven girls took alarm.

“That is for joy,” explained the “grandmother.” “I have known that happen before.”

“A boy… a boy!” sobbed Reb Selig, overcome with happiness, “a boy… a boy… a Kaddish!”

The little boy received the name of Jacob, but he was called, by way of a talisman, Alter.

Reb Selig was a learned man, and inclined to think lightly of such protective measures; he even laughed at his Cheike for believing in such foolishness; but, at heart, he was content to have it so. Who could tell what might not be in it, after all? Women sometimes know better than men.

By the time Alterke was three years old, Reb Selig’s cough had become worse, the sense of oppression on his chest more frequent. But he held himself morally erect, and looked death calmly in the face, as though he would say, “Now I can afford to laugh at you—I leave a Kaddish!”
“What do you think, Cheike,” he would say to his wife, after a fit of coughing, “would Alterke be able to say Kaddish if I were to die to-day or to-morrow?”

“Go along with you, crazy pate!” Cheike would exclaim in secret alarm. “You are going to live a long while! Is your cough anything new?”

Selig smiled, “Foolish woman, she supposes I am afraid to die. When one leaves a Kaddish, death is a trifle.”

Alterke was sitting playing with a prayer-book and imitating his father at prayer, “A num-num—a num-num.”

“Listen to him praying!” and Cheike turned delightedly to her husband. “His soul is piously inclined!”

Selig made no reply, he only gazed at his Kaddish with a beaming face. Then an idea came into his head: Alterke will be a Tzaddik, will help him out of all his difficulties in the other world.

“Marne, I want to eat!” wailed Alterke, suddenly.

He was given a piece of the white bread which was laid aside, for him only, every Sabbath.

Alterke began to eat.

“Who bringest forth! Who bringest forth!” called out Reb Selig.
“Tan’t!” answered the child.

“It is time you taught him to say grace,” observed Cheike.
And Reb Selig drew Alterke to him and began to repeat with him.

“Say: Boruch.”

“Bo’uch,” repeated the child after his fashion.

“Attoh.”

“Attoh.”

Selig saw Afterke

When Alterke had finished “Who bringest forth,” Cheike answered piously Amen and Reb Selig saw Afterke, in imagination, standing in the synagogue and repeating Kaddish, and heard the congregation answer Amen, and he felt as though he were already seated in the Garden of Eden.

Another year went by, and Reb Selig was feeling very poorly. Spring had come, the snow had melted, and he found the wet weather more trying than ever before. He could just drag himself early to the synagogue, but going to the afternoon service had become a difficulty, and he used to recite the afternoon and later service at home, and spend the whole evening with Alterke.

It was late at night. All the houses were shut. Reb Selig sat at his little table, and was looking into the corner where Cheike’s bed stood, and where Alterke slept beside her. Selig had a feeling that he would die that night. He felt very tired and weak, and with an imploring look he crept up to Alterke’s crib, and began to wake him.

The child woke with a start.

“Alterke”—Reb Selig was stroking the little head—“come to me for a little!”

The child, who had had his first sleep out, sprang up, and went to his father. .

Reb Selig sat down in the chair which stood by the little table with the open Gemoreh, lifted Alterke onto the table, and looked into his eyes.

“Alterke!”

“What, Tate?”

“Would you like me to die?”

“Like,” answered the child, not knowing what “to die” meant, and thinking it must be something nice.

“Will you say Kaddish after me?” asked Reb Selig, in a strangled voice, and he was seized with a fit of coughing.

“Will say!” promised the child.

“Shall you know how?”

“Shall!”

“Well, now, say: Yisgaddal.”

“Yisdaddal,” repeated the child in his own way.

“Veyiskaddash.”

“Veyistaddash.”

And Reb Selig repeated the Kaddish with him several times.

The small lamp burnt low, and scarcely illuminated Reb Selig’s yellow, corpse-like face, or the little one of Alterke, who repeated wearily the difficult, and to him unintelligible, words of the Kaddish. And Alterke, all the while, gazed intently into the comer, where Tate’s shadow and his own had a most fantastic and frightening appearance.

The Kaddish part 1

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Abraham Raisin (187&—1953)

Raisin is another of the Yiddish group who came from Russia, though he lived for some time in the United States. He is equally well-known among Yiddish readers as a poet and as a writer of stories.

The technical virtues of this popular and influential artist are particularly well exemplified in The Kaddish.

This story is reprinted from the volume, Yiddish Tales, translated by Helena Frank, copyright, 1912, by the Jewish Publication Society of America, by whose permission it is here used.

The Kaddish

From behind the curtain came low moans, and low words of encouragement from the old and experienced Bobbe. In the room it was dismal to suffocation. The seven children, all girls, between twenty three and four years old, sat quietly each by herself, with drooping head, and waited for something dreadful.

At a little table near a great cupboard with books sat the “patriarch” Reb Selig Chanes, a tall, thin Jew, with a yellow, consumptive face. He was chanting in low, broken tones out of a big Gemoreh, and continually raising his head, giving a nervous glance at the curtain, and then, without inquiring what might be going on beyond the low moaning, taking up once again his sad, tremulous chant. He seemed to be suffering more than the woman in childbirth herself.

“Lord of the World!”—it was the eldest daughter who broke the stillness—“Let it be a boy for once! Help, Lord of the World, have pity!”

“Oi, thus might it be, Lord of the World!” chimed in the second.

And all the girls, little and big, with broken heart and prostrate spirit, prayed that there might be bom a boy.

Reb Selig raised his eyes from the Gemoreh, glanced at the curtain, then at the seven girls, gave vent to a deep-drawn Oi, made a gesture with his hand, and said with settled despair, “She will give you another sister!”

The seven girls looked at one another in desperation; their father’s conclusion quite crushed them, and they had no longer even the courage to pray.

Only the littlest, the four-year-old, in the tom frock, prayed softly:

“Oi, please God, there will be a little brother.”

“I shall die without a Kaddish!” groaned Reb Selig.

The time drags on, the moans behind the curtain grow louder, and Reb Selig and the elder girls feel that soon, very soon, the “grandmother” will call out in despair, “A little girl!” And Reb Selig feels that the words will strike home to his heart like a blow, and he resolves to run away.

He goes out into the yard, and looks up at the sky. It is midnight. The moon swims along so quietly and indifferently, the stars seem to frolic and rock themselves like little children, and still Reb Selig hears, in the “grandmother’s” husky voice, “A girl!”

“Well, there will be no Kaddish! Verfallen!” he says, crossing the yard again. “There’s no getting it by force!”

But his trying to calm himself is useless; the fear that it should be a girl only grows upon him. He loses patience, and goes back into the house.
But the house is in a turmoil.

“What is it, eh?”

“A little boy! Tate, a boy! Tatinke, as surely may I be well!” With this news the seven girls fall upon him with radiant faces.

“Eh, a little boy?” asked Reb Selig, as though bewildered, “eh? what?”
“A boy, Reb Selig, a Kaddish!” announced the “grandmother.” “As soon as I have bathed him, I will show him you!”.

“A boy… a boy…” stammered Reb Selig in the same bewilderment, and he leaned against the wall, and burst into tears like a woman.