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March 28, 1969 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1969-03-28

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Purely Commentary

Epigramatist Elbert Hubbard put it well
when he said:

"There is no freedom on earth or in
any stnr for those who deny freedom to

In the Passover leison there is inherent
this basic 'principle; and in the battle for
justice in on- time this idea of liberty and
equality for all is applicable to all peoples,
all faiths, all races.
It is because we fail to learn this lesson
that we have the struggle everywhere —
in the civil rights effo ts, in the Far East,
in the Middle East.
Had there been recognition of this prin-
ciple in the Middle East there would have
been an end to a war that interferes with
the rights of the Jewish people whose sur-
vivors from the worst of the world's infer-
nos are settled in their ancient homeland.
Those who would interfere with the
rights of their ne'ghbors to life and to
liberty have never learned the warning in
a famous poem ("Weep On, Weep On") by
Thomas Moore:
"0 Freedom! once thy flame hath

fled. It never lights again."

Libertarians have the responsibility of
assuring that this flame is never extin-
Meanwhile there are tears, many tears,
in the struggle for just rights. They are
flowing from many eyes in lands of op-
pression. and the paniceas ple -Igel in the
democratic way of life are yet to be attained
by the downtro Id 'n of whom there are
many, far too many, in many parts of the

The f mous Jewi h poet Shimeon Frug
once expressed it in a poem he had written
in Russian. In hi= famous "The Cup of
Tears" he expressed a prayet for an end
to suffering, thus:

my darling mother.
What dear gn n 'pa used to say —
That a wonder cup in heaven
God has near Him night and day?

"Is it true

"That, should sorrow st-ike His people,
Should misfcrt ne lay Clem low,
In the cup a tear of pity
From the eyes Of God will flow,

"Till the cup, one day of mercy,
Will be filled with tears divine;
Then the sun of joy and glory
Will again above us shine?

And Messiah, whom we hoped for
Through the bitter years of pain,
Will arrive and He will lead us
To the holy land again?"

"True, my son." The child stood thoughtful,
And his wistful eyes grew dim.
"Is that cup without bottom,
That it fills not to the brim?

"When, 0 when, please tell me, mother,

Will that cup be filled with tears?
Does its sacred, precious contents
All dry up throuhgout the years?"

Faith and anguish, silent prayer,
Beamed and burned within his gaze.
And the mother's head was bowed —
Heart a-flutter, eyes ablaze.

On her checks two tears were gleaming,
Rolling downward like two pearls.
Then they lingered and descended
On her darling's raven curls.

"These tears, 0 God, forevermore
In Thy cup of mercy store!"
How sad it is for mankind that the cup
of tears is not yet filled to overflowing so
that redemption may come for those yet
in bondage! Frug did not live to see realiza-
tion of his prayerful hope for those who
found comfort in the holy land. But there
are yet so many for whom the new cup
emerging from 'suffering remains unf lied!
In this sense, too, since freedom must be
enacted for all if the fortunate ones are to
retain it, the Frug poetic outcry remains a
valid Passover message.

When he paid tribute to the memory of
Levi Eshkol, Gen. Itzhak Rabin, Israel's
ambassador to the United States, quoted a
famous Eshkol stitement in which he had
"If our reborn society wants really

to be free and have the dignity of free-
dom. it must he able to do everything it
needs b" If we want our streets
to be clean we must be the sweepers.
If we want bread, we must grow it. If
we want to live. we must be prepared to
d'-fend ourselves. And if we are attacked,
and defense calls for sacrifice. it must
he our blood that must be offered in
sacriree and not the blood of anyone

In this trying period of Israel's struggle
to retain freedom, this declaration is so
vital and so valid! Levi Eshkol pleaded for
a people's right to live and to battle for its
liberties. But he made it clear that to attain
justice one must exert himself in his own
behalf. What he had said was intended as
a message to Americans that Israelis do
not ask for American soldiers to fight for
them. He was emphasizing anew the prin-
ciple of self-liberation, of auto-emancipation,
as Leon Pinsker expressed it nearly a cen-
tury ago, when there was little freedom
for the masses of the Jewish people. Now
that message becomes all the clearer. Levi
Eshkol expressed it well and Rabin inter-
preted it properly.
Passover is a time for realism, and it
is also filled with legends, with parables,
with splendor to be found in Jewish litera-
ture. This is a good time to recall a fine
story that was related by Sholom Aleichem.

Folk Tales About Passover and Freedom . . .
Frug's 'Cup of Tears' . . . Sholom Aleichem's
Children's Tale . . . Eshkol's View of Freedom

The great humorist had written many

good stories for and about children — more
about them than for them because the elders
needed inspiration in his time, just as we
need it now.
Several weeks ago there was a television
program that sullied the good name of
Sholom Aleichem because the interpretation
of his works, intended as a tribute, was
marked by misinterpretations and by the
selection of tidbits that failed to acknow-
ledge the genius of one of the great creative
figures of our time.
Because Sholom Aleichem had made of
Passover such a splendid occasion for glory,
one piece he had written about the festival

is worth quoting to disabuse the wrong that
was done to him and to his work in a nation-
al broadcast.
Here is the short story "Elijah" by

Sholom Aleichem:

Passover has conic at last=the dear
sweet Passover. I was dressed as befitted
the son of a man of wealth—like a young
Prince. But what was the consequence?
I was not allowed to play or run about.
lest I catch cold. I must not play with
poor children. I was a wealthy man's
son. Such nice clothes, and I had no one
to show off before. I had a pocketful of
n uts, and no one to play with.
It is not good to be an only child,
and fretted o:'er—the only one left oat
of seven. and a wealthy mart's son into
the bargain.
My father put on his best clothes, and
went off to the synagogue. Said my moth-
er to me: "Do you know what? Lie down
and have a sleep. You will then be able
to sit up at the Seder and ask the Four
Quest;ons !" Was / mad? Would I go
asleep before the Seder?
"Berne /11 ber, you 7111ISt not sleep at the
Seiler. If you do. Elijah the Prophet will
come with a ban on his shoulders. On
the first two nights of Passover, Elijah
the Pronliet goes about looking for those
who have fallen asleep at .,:the Seder and
takes then away in his tag." . . Ha!
Ha! Will I fall asleep at the Seder? I?
Not even if it were to last the whole
71 inlit through. or eren to broad daylight.
..What happened last year, mother?"
"Last year you fell asleep soon after
the first blessing." "Why did Elijah the
Prophet not conic. then with his bag?"
- Then you were small, now you
are big.
Tonight you must ask father the Four
Questions. Tonight you must say with
father—'Slaves were we'. Tonight, you
must eat with us fish and soup and matzo
balls. Hush. here is father back from the
"Good 'Yorn-tov . !"
"Good 'Yonetor . :"
Thank God. father made the blessing
over wine. I. too. Father drank the cup
full of wine. So did I. a cup full, to the
very dregs. "See, to the dregs," said ntoth-

By Philip

-er to father. To me she mid: "A full cup
of wine ! You will drop off to sleep."

Ha ! Ha ! Will I fall asleep? Not even if
we were to sit up an the night, or even
to broad daylight. "Well," said my father,
"how are you going to ask the Four
Questions? How will you recite Haggai-
da? How will you sing with me—'Slaves
were we'?"

My mother never took her eyes off
me. She smiled and said: "You will fall
asleep—fast asleep." "Oh, mother, moth-
er, if you had eighteen heads, you would
surely fall asleep, if someone sat oppo-
site you, and sang in your ears: 'Fall
asleep, fall asleep'."
Of course I jell asleep.
I fell asleep, and dreamt that my fa-
ther was already saying, "Pour• out thy
wrath." My mother herself got up from
the table and went to open the door to
welcome Elijah the Prophet. It would be
a fine thing if Elijah the Prophet did
come, as my mother had said with a bag
on his shoulders, and if he said to me:
"Come, boy." And who else would be to
blame for this but my mother, with her
"fall asleep, fall asleep." And as I was
thinking these thoughts, I heard the
creaking of the door. My father stood up
and cried. "Blessed art thou who contest
in the name of the Eternal." I looked
towards the door. Yes, it was he. He
came in so slowly and so softly that one
scarcely heard him. He was a handsome
man. Elijah the Prophet--an old man
with a lotto grizzled beard reaching to
his knees. His face was yellow and wrin-
kled, but it was handsome and kindly
without end. And his eyes ! Oh, what
eyes ! Kind, soft, joyous, loving. faithful
sues. He was bent in two, and leaned on
a big, big stick. He had a bog on his

shoulders. And silently, softly. he came
straight to me.

There are many folk tales about Pass-
over. Among the famous ones related to the
Exodus is the following from Mishna Raba

— Song of Songs:

Because of four things, was Israel re-
deemed from Egypt:
(1) They did not change their names.
Theydid not change their lam
(2) gua

They did not speak evil of one
(4) They did not act shamefully.
They did not change their names—
they went down to Egypt as Reuren and
Shimon and they were delivered as Reis-
yen and Shirnon. They did not call Shi-
mon—Julian: neither did they call Reit-
yen—Rufus; or Joseph—Justus: nor Ben-
jamin—Alexander. They did not change
their language—they spoke Hebrew.
Are these principles too much to ask in
our time? The lesson, nevertheless, is im-


Historic Manuscripts Microfilmed at U. of M. Seder Ritual of Remembrance

For the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the
Dr. Mehamen Schmelzer, chief
In 1962, a tragic fire raged
and for the heroes of the ghetto uprising
through the Jewish Theological librarian, observed the scholars at
Seminary Library in New York their microfilm readers and re-
Perform this Ritual after the Third of the Four Ceremonial
City destroying over 60,000 precious marked, "Through the miracle of
Cups. just before the door is opened for the symbolic entrance of
volumes. Consumed in the flames science we can preserve the mira-
the Prophet Elijah.
was the work of hundreds of schol- cles of the past. Our students will
study microfilm instead of the doc-
ars and historians.'
On this night of the Seder we remember with reverence and love
Although the fire wiped out an uments themselves. Thus, we can the six millions of our people of the European exile who perished at the
important part of the Seminary's , eliminate the usual wear that re- hands of a tyrant more wicked than the Pharaoh who enslaved our
collection, it was stopped before sults from study."
fathers in Egypt. Come, said he to his minions, let us cut them off
Available from the Seminary's
reaching the Mortimer and Harriet
from being a people, that the name of Israel may be remembered no
M. Marcus Rare Book Room. Had , library, on microfilm, will be 145 more. And they slew the blameless and pure, men and women and
the flames engulfed the Rare Book unique Hebrew books known as little ones, with vapors of poison and burned them with fire. But we
Room, which houses the world's I "incunabula," produced in the ear- abstain from dwelling on the deeds of the evil ones lest we defame the
finest collection of prized Hebrew liest days of printing; 10,000 hand- image of God in which man was created.
documents, the loss would have written manuscripts culled from
Jewish history before and during
Now, the remnants of our people who were left in the ghettos and
been inestimable.
Even before the total damage of the medieval era; thousands of camps of annihilation rose up against the wicked ones for the sanctifi-
cation of the Name, and slew many of them before they died. On the
the fire was tallied, officials of the
Seminary met to discuss ways of ment referred to as "Geniza," first day of Passover the remnants in the Ghetto of Warsaw rose uP
preventing future fires and protect- I telling of life during the Dark against the adversary, even as in the days of Judah the Maccabee.
Ages; and nearly 500 books from They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death., they
ing what remained.
the works of bibliographer Moritz were not divided, and they brought redemption to the name of Israel
Many Seminary officials were
Steinschneider, with the scholar's through all the world.
opposed to subjecting the precious
own marginal annotations.
Text by the late Rufus Learst
parchments to preservation meth-
ods that would disturb some of the
more fragile works. Finally, it was To Be Read at Seder Table
decided that the wisest way to pre
serve the collection without re-
stricting access to timeless prose
was to utilize microfilm.
This matzo, which we set aside as a symbol of of hope for the 3,000,000 Jews of the Soviet
University Microfilms, part of reminds us of the indestructible link that exists between us.
Xerox Corporation's education di-
As we observe this festival of freedom, we know that Soviet Jews are not free to learn of their Jewisli
vision. was called in to micro- past, to hand it down to
their children. They cannot learn the languages of their fathers. They conn2t
film the irreplaceable writings.
I teach their children to be the teachers, the rabbis of the future generations.
They can only sit in silence and become invisible. We shall be their voice, and our voices shall be
THE DETROIT JEWISH HEWS joined by thousands of men of conscience aroused by the wrongs suffered by Soviet Jews. Then shall they
know that they have not been forgotten, and they that sit in darkness shall yet see a great light. _
2—Friday, March 28, 1969


A letter sent by Moses Mai-
monides from Egypt to surround-
ing North African communities
in the year 1170 CE was found
among Geniza fragments, and
is now available from University
Microfilms of Ann Arbor, as part
of the microfilm collection of the
Jewish Theological Seminary.
The letter asks community lead-
ers to help raise money to re-
deem captive s. Maimonides
writes, in what may be the first
recorded fund-raising appeal:
"We constantly urged the people
—in the synagogues and in the
study houses and on their own
doorsteps—until something was
achieved for this noble cause."

Matzo of Rope: Prayer for Russian •ews .

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