** Webmaster Note: The following
translation was generously provided by Diane
Moore. We have presented it here exactly as it was
translated for us. Although this is a very
short chapter, it gives us a glimpse into the Stoliner Chasidic
way of life. Stoliner Chasidim are part of the Karlin-Stolin
Chasidic dynasty, founded
by Rabbi Aharon the Great of Karlin (1802-1872) who authored "Beis
Aron" and was a student of Mezeritch Magid.
They place great emphasis on the emotion of the prayer.
WHAT I REMEMBER
These I remember and mourn: my heart melts within me when I
recall our little town of Vladimirets; the merchants, the
craftsmen, all were driven and hard-worked from morning to
night, seeking the morsel of bread, up early every day.
When it was still dark outside, you could see Jews already
going from every corner of the town to morning prayers, with
tallit and tefillin under their arms, into the four shuls
which stood almost side by side in the center of town.
The big windows of the shuls gave out light in the darkness
around. In the Trisker and Stepaner and community
shuls, morning service was going on. The monotonous
tune of weekday prayers was heard far around. The
exception was the Stoliner shul, where the Stoliner
Chassidim got started at 9 or 9:30; their early hours were
spent in preparation for prayer. First they had to go
to the baths, then assemble in the shul. And then they
didn't start the prayers immediately. One would be
deep in a page of gemara; another looked into a rabbinic
text or sought to satisfy his heart on the anniversary of
someone's death by drinking in a few Psalms. Only
later, when shopkeepers were already running around looking
for free loans to pay for their bits of merchandise, and
craftsmen were already in the heat of their work, then would
we begin to hear the resonant voices of the Stoliner
Chassidim, with the special melody of the Stoliner service:
Baruch she'amar v'haya ha'olam--
After prayers, they would sit down, tired out from shouting
the prayers and praises, and speak from the heart with great
regret "Agevalt, we are worthless, are our prayers even
prayers?" and here would follow a series of tales of
Stoliner Chassidim from former times, how they worked, how
they prayed; they were true Chassidim, but we were nothing
of the nothingest.
Every Saturday night the congregation assembled for the meal
ushering out the Sabbath Queen. According to most, the
Stoliner shokhet prepared fish, jellied fish, and all sorts
of treats, and if everyone didn't bring a little something,
just something to wash the hands and say a blessing for, a
thimbleful of liquor wouldn't be lacking.
The main thing was the ecstatic Stoliner melodies, and from
one melody to another stories would be told of the deeds of
the Baal Shem Tov, of the Stoliner Rabbis, and so on. Very
often some of the young men or the town would drop in on the
Stoliners, bringing various musical instruments, and so the
end-of-Sabbath meal would go on till daybreak, summer and
winter. And so they would be brought together in love and
ecstasy, on various holidays or days of praise. "A big
swallow brings hearts together." It seems to me that
whoever has never seen these Jews sitting together at the
table has never seen a real party of friends.
And here arises before me the glorious image of R.
Yitzkhak Levin, of blessed memory, who was not a Stoliner
Chassid. He prayed in the community synagogue, but he
often visited the Stoliners. He was always dressed for
Sabbath, as the cheder boys used to say. Short coat, with
rounded edges, from which protruded a "rich
man's belly". But who could have expected that such a
belly was created by a giant tallit-katan, wrapped round and
round his body. His eyes, always smiling, radiated wisdom
and cleverness; he always joked and made witty remarks, but from
every joke and witticism welled forth a deeper Chasidic moral
enlightenment; mocking the world for its foolishness. I
don't know if people in town realized that R. Yitzkhak, with his
modern dress of a rich merchant, was a faithful follower of
Torah and Mitzvot, punctilious in the easy things as well as the
difficult, penetrated with Chasidism of the Kotzker style.
As a cheder boy, I was present when our chasidim gathered on an
ordinary Wednesday for a yortzeit. It was a summer
afternoon. The crowd sat at the table and talked about the
conceit of the leader of the ceremonies. And from time to
time arose an ecstatic melody: "Glorified
and sanctified be the name of the King of Kings throughout the
world which he created according to his will..." And the
door of the synagogue opened, and Yitzkhak came in and stretched
out a hand.
going on in here? Crazy idle people, is it Shabbos?
Is it a holiday? Is it a time for such doings?"
He approached the table. The whole crowd looked at him
unsmilingly, letting him finish his whole monologue.
your hands, Reb Yitzkhak, wash your hands!"
here to wash for, what have you got there, a little borsht,
barley soup, a bit of herring?"
a day of celebration" someone called out.
"What kind of celebration, on your head? The meaning of
celebration is only a marriage."
He washed his hands and sat at the table. The group was
silent, ears in his direction, and in the conversation he told
of Elazar Bialystoker, how he met on one of the holy days a Jew
who held his Machzor and cried.
do you cry so, Reb Jew?"
question are you asking? It's written here, man's origin
is dust and his end is dust and how shall I not weep?"
And Reb Elazar said to the Jew, "Never
mind, if a man were created from gold, you might be right, but
as he comes from dust, and for a while learns a little, and
prays a little, what's there to cry about?"