Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Adar 5759 - March 17, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly

















Home and Family
Haleila Einenu Ofel - The Night is Not Dark
English rendition: Sheindel Weinbach

This is the first of a two chapter translation from a fascinating book written in Hebrew by Yehudit Golan and published by Feldheim this past year. "Haleila Einenu Ofel - The Night is Not Dark" tells the story of her grandather, Hagaon R' Yitzchok Eliyohu Berenstein shlita, Rosh Kollel Etz Yosef, as a child with a gifted mind who leaves home at the age of ten to begin studying in the various famous yeshivos of Europe. In this chronicle, we meet the great luminaries of the pre-Holocaust period and get the feel of life in those times.

The chapters we have chosen to translate deal with how Yitzchok'l got to join R' Elchonon Wasserman Hy'd at his Seder table.

During the summer `zman,' energetic and enterprising Yitzchok'l figures out a way to earn the fare to take him to yeshiva and get him back home for Pesach. (This is one of the most entertaining parts of this book, which we leave to you to read in the original. And, by the way, your editor highly recommends getting into the habit of reading books in Hebrew. There is a wealth of excellent material and it is worth the effort.)

We find Yitzchok'l back in yeshiva with a sizable sum of money...

The End Of The Money (Chapter Twenty- Six)

English rendition: Sheindel Weinbach

And again we find Yitzchok'l in Baranowitz, this time with the `problems of the rich'... Where to hid his `fortune.'

He looked about him. His stanzia, the small room where he boarded, was stark and bare, consisting of no more than three beds and their respective mattresses, and some hooks for hanging clothes. That was all!

Yitzchok'l was deeply concerned for the money which he had literally earned by the sweat of his brow. He thought and thought and finally came up with a brainstorm: the mattress! In all of this wretched room, there was no better place for it. He would squeeze the coins in between the stalks of hay, and then he could rest secure until he had need for them.

He prepared a place for them inside his mattress. No thief would ever dream of searching there. At least that's what the naive child thought. After stashing them all away, he went off to yeshiva to begin studying with the renewed zest of Elul.

Every morning found him taking the same route to the yeshiva, via the same streets, the identical shops, the selfsame people who passed him by and wished him a hearty `Good morning,' as befitted the yeshiva student he was.

Each morning he would breathe in the tantalizing smell of freshly baked cakes mingled in the invigorating air, filling the street. This came from Movshovitz's bakery shop, famous throughout Baranowitz for its quality products.

He inhaled the aroma; he couldn't help it, like all the other yeshiva students who could not allow themselves more than to bask in the heavenly odor, which didn't cost them a penny.

But now the situation had changed. Yitzchok'l couldn't help remembering the money lying dormant, doing nothing and serving no purpose, hidden [sleeping] inside his mattress. And he thought to himself: "Perhaps I could take out just one zloty from my cache, just one time, and treat myself to a taste of Mrs. Movshovitz's treats. I know they're expensive, but after having worked so hard all summer vacation, I deserve to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Just one coin will not make a dent in my savings and I'll still have plenty left to travel home with for Pesach. Perhaps even enough to buy some gift for Mama and Tatte."

The next day, Yitzchok'l took out a single zloty with trembling hand, closed up the opening carefully, smoothed over the blanket across the bed and went out to the street. This time he did not suffice with enjoying the tempting smells emanating from the bakery shop. No, sir! As befit a person of means, like himself, he entered the cozy shop and looked around curiously, his hand fingering the coin in his pocket.

The shop did not boast an array of dozens of species of cakes and cookies. Suffice the aroma wafting from the feathery sponge cakes and the yeast cakes with their sweet glaze to testify that the owner knew her business.

How to decide?

Each cake seemed to wink at Yitzchok'l, to tempt him. What a difficult decision!

Mrs. Movshowitz, be-aproned, came to his rescue. She recommended the apple torte. "That's one of my best cakes," she confided to the abashed Yitzchok'l. "Buy that. You won't be sorry."

She was right on mark. It tasted scrumptious, delectable, pure melt-in-the- mouth.

Yitzchok'l took tiny bites, trying to make this rare pleasure last. He was no more than a little boy who had come from a small town who had never tasted such a delicacy in his entire life!

He still had some change left over. Mrs. Movshowitz saw him hesitating and suggested, "Some chocolate, perhaps? Or some kvaas (a sweet fruit drink)?"

"Alright. I'll take both. That'll come out to exactly one whole zloty."

The chocolate did not last long. Like the eggs in the cake, it was made from fresh farm produce, rich cream milked from cows that grazed freely, a flavor which cannot be matched in today's synthetic world.

Yitzchok'l paid Mrs. Movshowitz and left the shop full and content. He felt new strength surging through his body, and he straightened up with fresh vigor. After having pampered himself with this marvelous food, he was surely stronger and had new resources of energy to study, to persevere, to shteig.

[We skip the details of how Yitzchok'l repeats this performance.]

There was someone in yeshiva who noticed him going out of the shop - and told it to his two older brothers, who also studied in yeshiva.

They followed his movements and verified the report! Yitzchok'l was buying goodies which they had never tasted in their entire life! Yitzchok'l was now spending an entire zloty every day, a sum sufficient to buy thirty eggs or three whole herrings, wholesale!

"We must put him in his place," said one of the brothers. "Our parents are far away and it is our duty to set him straight."

"Right," agreed the other. "He is sure to resent our meddling, but the time will come when he will yet thank us."

They decided to make a search in Yitzchok'l's room and find his treasure. Also to see how much still remained.

One morning, after Yitzchok'l had left, they entered and began searching. There were not many possibilities but they were unable to locate the cache.

When Yitzchok'l returned that evening, there was a surprise in store for him. His two brothers, who felt responsible for his chinuch in the absence of their parents, awaited him. He entered the room and saw them seated on his bed, the serious look on their faces forboding ill. It was too late to walk out.

They shut the door and demanded to know all about the money. He did not deny anything. It was money he had earned while they had gone swimming during bein hazmanim or had just sat around. He was now enjoying the just fruits of his toil.

"Give us the money!" they demanded. The fact that it was rightfully his did not deter them from their fraternal obligation and the knowledge that squandering was the mother of sin.

Yitzchok'l refused and laughed bitterly. "No! It's mine. You have no right to take it away!"

"It is not proper for a little boy like you to have such a large sum of money in your possession! Give us the money. We'll keep it for you and when you need it, we'll give you a penny or two."

Yitzchok'l was furious. "Who are you, anyway? Police? You have no right to treat me this way. I'll tell on you to R' Elchonon [Wasserman]. I'll report you to R' Yisroel Yaakov [Lubchansky, the Mashgiach]." He wept bitter tears.

When he calmed down a bit and saw their determination, he wiped his tears and spoke to them in a practical tone, "How much do you want?" hoping for a compromise.

The brothers conferred together and said, "Give us two hundred zlotys apiece. We can't let a child like you have so much money."

"Two hundred!" he shouted. "That will leave me with nothing. I'm the one who worked for it, not you. I'm willing to settle for one hundred together, and that's a great deal!"

"Nothing doing," said the brothers, and they began searching the room anew. After a thorough search, they noticed a rip in the mattress. They shook it and bright shiny coins began falling out. They stuck their hands into the stuffing and removed every single last coin.

Yitzchok'l remained penniless, bitter and angry at his brothers. He lay on his bed for hours, tears of angry frustration sliding down his cheeks. He felt an empty void left from his lost money and various hairbrained schemes rushed through his head, all centering around the big question: how to retrieve his money.

After a few days of walking around infuriated and frustrated, Yitzchok'l began to make peace with the fact that he would never see a penny again from his zlotys. But he refused to exchange a single word with his brothers, who maintained that they had done the proper thing.

As if to spite them, he decided to immerse himself totally in his studies and soon found comfort in the balm of the gemora.

The lost coins remained a bitter, dark memory, which he tried to bury deep in his heart. Each morning, he would take a detour route to avoid the heavenly smells that still wafted from Movshowitz's bakery so as not to invoke the pleasant memories and tastes.

As for the brothers, they decided to keep the money in their possession until they returned home and gave it to their parents.

Yitzchok'l's new diligence was quickly noticed by the Rosh Yeshiva, R' Elchonon himself!



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