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
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
We find Yitzchok'l back in yeshiva with a sizable sum of
The End Of The Money (Chapter
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
[We skip the details of how Yitzchok'l repeats this
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
"Right," agreed the other. "He is sure to resent our
meddling, but the time will come when he will yet thank
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
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
"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
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
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
Yitzchok'l's new diligence was quickly noticed by the Rosh
Yeshiva, R' Elchonon himself!
To be continued with "THE SEDER BY R' ELCHONON