from A Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry

Edited and Translated by Jack Kugelmass & Jonathan Boyarin


~ an excerpt from Sefer Sants ~

 “A Purim in the Region of Sants”

Leon Ablezer


I still remember an event that took place in our shtetl when I was eight years old:  there was a Jew named Reb Moyshe Shrayber, who lived on the Hungarian side, in Filkhov.  Reb Moyshe Shrayber came to pray with us at Hanusove on Sabbaths and holidays,  Naturally, he came to the reading of the megile on Purim as well.  He was a noted Talmud scholar and quite wealthy, and he raised his four sons and three daughters to follow in his footsteps.  His Oldest son, Reb Tsvi Shrayber, became a rabbi in Australia as early as 1912, and his second son, Reb Simkhe Shrayber, became a well-known merchant and community leader in Kshanov(near Crocow).  His third son left for Palestine in 1934, and died there in 1945 (his wife and children live in Haifa).  His fourth son, who was handicapped, was an excellent violinist.


Here is the story:  one Purim morning after the reading of the megile, my father-in-law, Reb Leyzer-Dovid Kornraykh, invited everyone to his home for a drink and a snack, and we all went there, young and old.  The crowd started drinking glass after glass, and after eating a bit, everybody had one more glass.  Then we got up from the table and began to dance.  And when young Hassidim start dancing, they really dance!  Almost the whole town joined in, including the local gentiles, who had also been treated to a drink.


In the middle of the celebration, Reb Moyshe Shrayber stood up on a chair and announced:  “Listen, everybody!  I demand that everyone, young and old, travel home to Filkhov with me, and join me in a feast fit for a king.  If anybody dares to refuse, I promise to smash all of your windows.”  No sooner said than done.  Tipsy as he already was, Reb Moyshe didn’t even wait for a response, and immediately broke two of the windows in my father-in law’s house.


He was quickly pacified.  We poured several more glasses of ninety-six-proof liquor into his mouth.  Eventually he fell asleep and we stretched him out on the floor.  Then my father-in-law (also tipsy) covered him with a white sheet, placed two large candles at his head and feet, and eulogized him, provoking general hilarity.  But suddenly Reb Moyshe stood up and repeated his demand:  It was either a party at his house, or broken windows.  Seeing that we had no choice in the matter, Reb Chayim Hanusover gave an order to his gentile servant (an Italian who lived at Reb khaim’s from his youth until his death at the age of fifty, and who spoke Yiddish):  “Yashke! Harness ten sleds with good horses.  We’re going to Reb Moyshe Shrayber’s house in Filkhov.”


What can I tell you?  In less than half an hour, ten teams harnessed to sleds were standing ready (the snow was always deep around the time of Purim in our parts), with good coachmen in the front seats.  All of us, children included, of course, piled in and sang loudly all the way to Filkhov.


Now another chapter begins.  On the way to Filkhov, one passes through Podolik, where a well-known family of lumber merchants named Goldberg lived, namely:  Reb Yankev Goldberg, his son Reb Sender Goldberg, children and grandchildren.  Reb Sender sat in the sled with us, and as we approached his house, he jumped off.  He stopped the first sled, driven by a gentile coachman, saying, “I will not allow Jews to pass by my house without stopping for a drink!”  Say what we would, we had no choice.  The whole crowd descended from the sleds and went into the house, where there was also a tavern stocked with liquor.  We sat down to fresh-set tables and stayed for four hours, eating, drinking, and dancing.


After the party at Reb Sender’s, everyone climbed back into the sleds and traveled to Reb Moyshe Shrayber’s.  I even remember the song that we sang then:


                        Things are going badly, badly for the Jews.

                        They go to see the rebe, they go to see the rebe.

                        Jews, Jews, go back home, grain is sure to grow.

                        Jews, Jews, go back home, grain is sure to grow.


And thus singing, we arrived at Reb Moyshe’s house.  With our help, his sons brought up his largest barrel of wine from the cellar (it held about 200 liters), and we began drinking it like water.  Even the coachmen were drunk.  In addition, his son Dovid the fiddler played while he conducted.  We danced, sand, and drank until I understood for the first time the meaning of the verse, “Until you cannot differentiate between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordecha.’” You think that was the end of it?  You’re making a big mistake!


About three in the morning, Reb Moyshe Shrayber stood up once again and announced that we were going to ride again, this time to Reb Dovid Hokhhayzer’s house in Granastov.  He permitted no discussion.  We had to get back into the sleds and ride to Granastov, some seven kilometers from Filkhov.  On this ride I found out what a “shortcut” means.  In fifteen minutes we arrived at Reb Dovid’s house and woke up the entire household.  The gentiles of the village also came running, wondering what all the singing and dancing was about.


There we spent the whole day of Shushan Purim, because Reb Dovid’s wife Pesl picked out four turkeys and four geese and sent them off to Lublov the slaughterer (about ten kilometers away) so that no one would be hungry.  There we really celebrated Purim until the following morning, and we didn’t go home until the third night.  That was a Purim: that’s how Jews celebrated in those days.  And Simkhes Torah was the same.