Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
After the Army, and Marriage
According to Grandfather Nathan’s will זל, half of his house went to my father זל and the other half went to his second son David זל All the merchandise from the business was to be transferred to my father. Immediately after the Shivah, business was resumed by my mother with great energy and help from me and my younger brother Gershon. Business flourished and we saw success and a good income.
The income was good and here came R’Jacob Menachim Gaster to bring his daughter and me to the chupah. I was twenty three years old and his daughter was about twenty and it was decided to set the date of the wedding on 22nd טבת 1889. Here is something not simple in the order of life. Getting married meant sending your sons from home, being fully independent, building a home and a new Jewish family. This requires a great amount of money as dowry from both sides. It requires a certain amount of money to start a business or to open a store, to dress the couple properly for several years. There are great expenses for the wedding which will be in another town, and other expenses.
The first step is the settling of the dowry. My father promised a dowry of 300 reuch (perhaps the reuch will change to keter). My father-in-law Gaster promised 500 reuch. Three months before the wedding, payment of the dowry money had to be given to someone responsible. To take such a sum from the new business of my parents was very difficult. The monies were given for security to R’Moshe Weich from the town of Kitov.
The second step is the clothing. The custom in those days called for the clothing stores to contribute material to the ceremony of הקפה (the going around the bride). The stores of Zablotov, especially the store of my aunt, the widow of Uncle David, willingly agreed to give for the Hakafa. My mother insisted and was more comfortable to receive all these materials from her sister and her husband, R’Joseph Shatner. They were pleased to give all for the Hakafa. My mother and I came to my uncle’s house in the town of Kitov and we were very well received by the whole family. We chose the appropriate merchandise of white material which was then the accepted custom. There were white shirts, pants, underwear, wool for suits, silk for coats and fur, all of which cost several hundred reuch. My mother paid part of this in cash and the remainder would be paid out in an indeterminate time. All this material from my Uncle Shatner had to be sewn into clothing by a seamstress for the brides clothing and a tailor for the men’s clothing. They needed a fur expert for the sable on the coat. The work took three weeks.
Women prepared all kinds of sweets to bring to the wedding, cooked food the day the groom goes up to the Torah and for the trip. For some reason, the shtreimel (fur hat) came late and the groom did not go up to the Torah on Shabbat but on Monday. No one lost out since everyone got drinks and sweets and a good meal.
Tuesday morning, the 22nd of the month of Tevet, 1889, six wagons filled with about sixty people set out for the town of Vishnitz, by way of the road near Rosnov, Kitov and Vishnitz. It was a very cold winter day with some snow and a difficult trip due to the weather. Two o’clock in the afternoon, we came to our family in Rosnov. We were received with warmth, sweets and drinks. The men took the opportunity to pray Mincheh. The groom fasted and prayed 18 benedictions for the sins of Job.
That evening we arrived at the house of my Uncle R’Joseph Shatner in the town of Kitov and were warmly received by the family. There were sweets and tea on the table for all the travelers and we spent an hour with my uncle. A messenger from the Gaster family in Koti notified Vishnitz that we were leaving within an hour from Kitov. (Kitov was on the river Tsarmush where there was either a passage or a bridge. I do not remember.) There were musicians playing with drums and cymbals on the banks of the river to bring the groom and his in-laws to the place where they would be staying. There were big rooms and places for everyone and a special room for women.
After an hour’s rest there was a reception by the bride’s family and the groom’s family while the musicians were playing and singing “mazal tov”. Hour after hour passed and the time is now nine o’clock and the bride and groom are still fasting. There is a reception for the bride by her in-laws with my mother in charge. There is a giving of gifts and salutations until ten o’clock. My brother Naftali זל was my best man and on the side of the bride was Uncle R’Berl David Gaster. The groom was dressed like a king and the clothing did him honor “כחתן יכחן פאר” (the groom dressed magnificently). They emptied all the pockets and the watch was left outside. They opened all the hooks and buttons of every piece of clothing (at least they didn’t undo the buttons and hooks of my pants). The silk coat reached the bottom of my legs and on top of the coat was the white קיטיל (Kittel) with the silk belt around it, on that was the sable collar. The shtreimal (round fur hat) had thirteen tails of expensive sable all around it. This was a gift from my father-in-law Gaster.
The two best men led the way, one on the right arm and one on the left, to the courtyarad of the Tzadik Rabbi Baruch Hager זצל who sanctified the marriange under the firmament in his Beit Knesset.
At the same time, the bridesmaid took care that the bride be dressed in the proper garment (ככלה תעדה כליה). They dressed her in a white dress with a train with a long veil covering her head and her face until she stood next to the groom under the Chupah.
Both the bride and the groom with their helpers walked from where they had dressed, with musicians in front of them and a large crowd following them. The men and women were dressed in their Shabbat clothes and had lit candles in their hands. The bitter cold burned faces and ears. The road to the Rabbi and the place of the Chupah was about twenty minutes away. The best men led the groom to the proper place under the Chupah.
The bridesmaids led the bride around the groom seven times as is customary. Rabbi Baruch Hager arrived and in his pleasant voice gave the blessing of the ארוסון (engagement). An old Chazzan read the כתובה (Ktubah). The order of the Kidushin ended with the Rabbi giving the “seven blessings” to the bride, the groom and all the family that stood under the Chupah. Everyone listened with great respect to each word that left the mouth of the Tzadik, who was holy and was like the blessed high priest.
The Rabbi blessed the groom with blessings for a good night and joy. He gave the bride’s father a coin of five reuch as a gift for his sermon. Not every Chasid is rewarded with such a gift, only those Chasidim who are close to the Tzadik and he honors them. R’Joseph Menachim Gaster was one of them. The Tzadik blessed everyone and asked their forgiveness for not participating in the meal because of the cold and the late hour. It was close to midnight and he returned home.
The entire crowd, the bride and the groom holding hands, the musicians and their instruments, young men holding candles left the place of the Chupah shouting “Long life for Abraham Hacohen together with Rivka Edel” until they got to the apartment of J.M. Gaster. This was in the big house of his brother-in-law, R’Meshulem Simcha Linder זל. The couple was taken into a special room and after a few minutes alone; they were served a rich meal after a difficult fast while the entire family participated in the feast of golden soup and cooked delicacies.
The apartment of J.M. Gaster had three rooms and a kitchen. On the other side of the corridor of his brother-in-law R’Meshulem Simcha, had three large rooms and a big kitchen. It was there that the tables were set for the men. The apartment of Gaster was for the women. After the bride and groom greeted everyone, the groom went to the head of the men’s table. Everyone found his place and the meal was begun with many drinks. Before the meal was finished, the Entertainer got up on the table, opened his mouth and gave a sermon and asked everyone for a “sermon gift”. Gaster was the first one to give the five reuch coin from the Tzadik Rabbi Baruch Hager. The Entertainer valued it as fifty reuch. The parents of the couple, relatives and friends all gave important gifts and money that came to about 150 reuch. This was in addition to other expensive gifts, such as cups, silverware, etc. The Entertainer then handed all this to the bridegroom. The Entertainer said, the money and gifts are not a “sermon gift” (דרשה גשאנק) as said in the Talmud “He who gives his daughter to a “עם הארץ” (uneducated person) is as if he gives her to a non-Jew”. We know that from the sermon that the spirit of the Torah emanates from you. After the hard fast and difficult journey you followed exactly Halacha and Agada. Everyone was satisfied to hear the announcement of the Entertainer. They brought the bride to sit at the right of the groom. The Head of the Beit Din R’Kapel Rosner זל was given the honor of the Seven Brachot (seven blessings). My father זל the Cohen gave the blessing on the food. When the official ceremonies were completed, the Entertainer amused the groom and bride with the cry “how does one dance in front of the bride”. The bride and the groom followed by the in-laws and the rest of the crowd joined holding hands. The bride held the edge of the handkerchief that separated them. At the end, all the men that were there were dancing the bride and the groom. The musicians played on their instruments.
The room in the father-in-law’s apartment was ready for the young couple when they left the celebration. The rest of the guests stayed and danced until dawn.
Uncle Joseph Shatner and Aunt Krendel and their son Abraham and his wife Rivka came to the wedding and brought a very generous Sermon Gift. They returned home that night. Most of the guests and family were from Zablotov and filled five wagons to return home. One wagon was left for ten people. Now after fifty years, it is difficult for me to remember all their names. Most of the guests were friends and business contacts while many of the close relatives did not come. My brother and sister and big families did not come but sent sermon gifts.
The groom woke up late at ten o’clock and went toטבילת מקוה (emersion in the mikvah). The bride went to her mother-in-law’s room to get her hair cut off. There was a small celebration of the hair cutting with food and drink and dancing for all those there. The bride received a gift from her new mother-in-law. Before the noon meal, the musicians played “mazel tov” to the new mother-in-law. There was food and drinks for all of the family and guests as part of the שבע ברכות (seven days of blessings). Toward the evening or maybe the morning of Thursday, the last wagon with the rest of the in-laws was on its way home to Kitov. The wedding celebration did not end. The Shabbat celebration was yet to come.
The grandmother of the bride, Golda Lindner זל, gave two silver candlesticks as her gift, which were lit for the first time by the bride, Edel זל, on Shabbat. The Saturday night of the “seven blessings” was like the meal after Shacharit with three feasts. The family and the guests came and several of them brought bottles of wine in honor of the young couple. The father-in-law J.M.Gaster spoke from the Torah of the obligations of the groom. To fulfill seven days of festivities and seven blessings they invited all the family to eat on Tuesday and so the wedding celebration ended.
On Saturday morning many men and women came to bring the bride and groom to the Vishnitz Beit Midrash. Due to the cold and the distance, they did not go to the court of the Rabbi where the father-in-law regularly prayed on Shabbat. After the prayers, there was a Kiddush in the father-in-law’s house for all the people.
After the seven days of celebration, I agreed to the request of my father-in-law and his family to remain in their house for an unlimited time and to eat at their table. At that time I was studying holy books in the Vishnitz Beit Midrash, with other young men who also were eating at the tables of their fathers and in-laws.
One day I went with my father-in-law to the court of the Rabbi Baruchזצל. I was introduced to him and his oldest son, R’Israel, the second son R’Chaim, and others, “Rabbis of the future”. After that, I was introduced to everyone and took the opportunity to look over the area, which was on the slope of a hill, where the palace of the Rabbi and all his buildings were situated. This was on the road that went up from Vishnitz to the Carpathian Mountains of Barameta Lapushni. A few minutes from the center of town, the Chasidim of the Tzadik Rabbi Menachimזצל, who was of the dynasty of the Admorim of Vishnitz, chose a large area, where there were several buildings which were built and bought from Jews. There was a big palace and a big Beit Knesset that they built. There was room for his son R’Baruch and his sons. They fixed the rooms, planted trees for shade and a garden for vegetables. Nearby was a small village Vishenka where most of the people were Jews. There was a bath house and a proper Mikvah. It was agreed with the owner of the bathhouse, that people from the Rabbi’s Court would use the bathhouse every day until ten before noon. At that time no strangers would be allowed.
R’Israel, learned in Torah, founded a Talmud Torah for children from the ages of six to ten to study Tfillot, Chumish, and Rashi. Children from ten and up were to study Mishnah and Gemorrah. He chose learned teachers and he was responsible for them. The people of the town, especially close to the Rabbi were responsible for the money to operate the institution. A special monthly tax was paid to a chosen collector. The young people who studied in the Beit Midrash of Vishnitz had an obligation to accompany the collector. In one incident it was my fate to do this. There was a letter that authorized “A. Cohen to accompany the collector, etc.”, it was signed and blessed by Rabbi Chisda and Rabbi Hona. It is understood that I followed instructions and succeeded in this task. My father-in-law believed that R’Israel, the future Admor, especially great in Israel, would expect me to keep this letter with such a blessing as I would the coin of the five reuch of the Sermon Gift from the Tzadik R’Baruch זצל. I should not treat these things lightly but should guard these “blessings”.
The vision of my father-in-law was realized when R’Israel inherited his father’s chair.
He was recognized as one of the great Rabbis, outstanding in Torah, as was his brother the well known Admor in Galicia, R’Chaim.
R’Gaster, who was a Chasid from Kirov and held in high esteem by the above Rabbis, enabled his son-in-law to be invited to the meal tables of the Rabbi R’Baruch. In the same year I participated in the Purim feast. It is hard to describe the scenes that I saw with my eyes and the voices and songs that I heard from early evening until late at night.
There was a large outlay of money for the musicians, performers and food. A large number of people from the town brought generous Purim gifts. The head thief of the town respected the Rabbi and protected his house from the other thieves. He came dressed in a costume of armor and a metal helmet (made of paper) and two big sticks in his hand. He came to the Rabbi’s chair and received a generous portion. At the end of the evening someone dressed as the Rabbi got up on the table and pleased the crowd by amusing sermons on several parts of the Mishnah until close to midnight.
On the second night of Pessah, 1889, we went to see the wonder of the Rabbi leaning to the left in his chair at the head of the table with his family. We finished the first part of the Hagada and the meal at my father-in-law’s house and then went to the Rabbi’s court. The doors of the big Beit Haknesset (Hesder) were closed. In one line, the door was opened for us who were close and important to my father-in-law. We found our places near the Rabbi’s table on a long bench. On the right side of the table sat his four older sons and one son-in-law. On the other side sat four young sons, a son-in-law and several important relatives. In the corner not far away sat the Rabbi’s wife, her daughters and daughters-in-law. The Rabbi was dressed in a white kittel with knitted gold threads on the front and on the collar as was the white hat on his head. There was a big silver tray and on it a cloth with matzot and six Seder gold plates with all that belonged on them. In front of all the leaning men (not sitting straight as demanded in the Hagadah) were Mazot and a special bottle of wine. There were big silver candlesticks and several chandeliers on the ceiling whose light from the candles lit up the entire area. Many of those leaning stood after the Kiddush. The Gabai (caretaker of the Beit Knesset) took the Kiddush cup and portions from the plates and passed them to the Rebitzin and the women. With this, the second part of Hagadah and feast was finished. The doors were opened and the large crowd entered and the dancing began. The Rabbi took part in the dancing. Whoever did not see this Simchah never saw a Simchah. Late at night we returned home.
My parents invited me to come and celebrate the last days of Pesach at their house. I had to make a decision as to where I was going to make a living, Vishnitz or Zablotov. I was going to listen to my parent’s advice and then decide. My wife and I came during Chol Hamoed (the week of Pesach) to Zablotov.
My wife Edel זל and I ate at the table of my father-in-law Jacob Menachim Gaster in the town of Vishnitz. After the seven days of feasting and festivities and “שמח עם אשתו” joy with his wife, a drop of sadness entered into the cup of happiness. I realized correctly that the economic situation of my father-in-law was not a bed of roses. Until Gaster’s second wife (my wife’s mother) died, the situation was good when they had a store in the market square. His wife was industrious and had many talents to bring in customers. The business grew but they were unable to make a good living or put money away for security due to the expenses of raising children and other obligations.
About a year before my marriage to their daughter, Edel זל, there was a tragedy when the second wife, Edel’s mother, died without warning and the business began to fail. The two older daughters and my father-in-law tried to help in the business but were not capable and the store was closed and their income was drastically cut. This was the time to bring two daughters to the Chupah that demanded large amounts of money to marry suitable husbands like me.
Outside of the worry of business and income, heaven forbid that an observing Jew should be without a wife. Some months after his wife, the mother of his sons, died, his mother-in-law brought home a third wife. This was in spite of the difficult situation, lack of income and sadness for the mother-in-law and four sons. At the time I ate at the table of my father-in-law, I felt I was a stranger. I could not refuse the grandmother (Golda Lindner) and the request of my wife to remain there though thoughts of the future began to bother me. I came to the decision that from this stone, one cannot draw the water of income. I came to the right conclusion that in Vishnitz where there were many stores that sold leather, it was not wise to open a store and begin a war of competition with those who were established many years. I also found out details where Gaster got the large amount of money for my dowry and the many expenses for the wedding. My wife’s grandmother, Golda Lindner, was a good and modest woman. After her daughter, Hinda died, she decided to help her grandchildren. There were two sisters; one was my wife and two brothers. Her deceased husband, R’Joseph, was an honored citizen of the town who died and left a big house in the middle of town. The large part of the house went to his son, R’Meshulem Simchah Lindner who was a Chasid and a wholesaler of wine in Kolomyea and had a house there. The second part of R’Joseph’s house was left as an inheritance to his unmarried daughter and the orphaned sons. In order to have enough money for the weddings of the orphans, R’Meshulem bought the second part of the house when his sister died. From what I heard from others, all the economic expenses of my wife and me, at the time we were at Gaster’s house, were paid by grandmother.
It was understandable that R’Jacob Menachim Gaster brought a new wife to his house. The family, especially Grandmother, was not happy even though the new wife came from a family of Tzadikim. Her father R’Shmuel Alter and his wife Rachel זל came from the town Zarov which was near Zablotov.
Content last updated Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 08:10 PM Mountain Standard Time