Chapter the Fifteenth.

The 'Governor' of Selts. - A teacher. - They give me a 'fine' teacher. - He doesn't know Hebrew. - Antopoliye. - The second teacher. - The first one isn't in a hurry to leave. - The examination. - Shloymele. - I take pleasure in the sound of Gemore recitation. - I start studying. - Fear of Toysefes. - About studying in general. - The office clerk. - How one ought to study. - My love for Shloymele. - De Rov of Maltsh. - Summer in the fields. - Shloymele regains his strength. - Autumn. - Shloymele leaves. - My longing for Shloymele.

The second year happened to be a wet year and there was plenty of hay again. This time I didn't take in cattle for the winter like last year, but with my kind of luck I only made ten kopecks for a 'pud' of hay that year; a business that didn't make me rich [un gemakht knape glikn fun dem eysek].

During the week between the beginning and the end of Sukes1I went to Selts2, to see the 'Governor'.

Don't get excited, he wasn't a real Governor, but just a Jew who got that name for being clever, self-confident and gregarious. I visited him to ask him to give me a 'naray'3for a teacher, as they say in Lite4, to recommend a teacher, good in Tanakh5and Hebrew grammar6.

I intended to make sure my children would get a good education right from the start, the way it should be7.

The 'Governor' sent along his son-in-law to the prayer house, to pick a good teacher with me. We arrived in the prayer house during the afternoon prayer8.

They all stood up respectfully, as is the custom in a small village where people never get to see a visitor, and especially since it was a guest brought in by the son-in-law of the 'governor'. They stood around us, their ears pricked up, with open mouths, eager to hear what business the visitor had.

Among the crowd I noticed some handsome youngsters with fiery eyes. They obviously had been engrossed in their study, like the youngsters of yore.

I told them that I needed a teacher, capable of teaching Tanakh and grammar. In the crowd there was an old man, a rabbinical judge, who called out that he had just the teacher I was looking for.

"This young man here", the judge said pointing at someone in the crowd, "can be your teacher. A good young man he is, a very good young man. Take him, take him."

I glanced at the young man. I didn't like him at first sight. He was terribly tall, heavy set, had big hands, just like a coachman.

But since the judge recommended him - and I had made clear to him that I was looking for a teacher who was a good student and an adherent of the Haskole9, knowledgeable in Tanakh and grammar - this seemed to be the man.

I quickly talked things over with the young man and we reached an agreement: forty rubles a semester and his keep [oyf ales fartign]. Next I invited the judge and the teacher to come with me to the 'Governor', to have a drink together on the business concluded .

In the 'Governor's' tavern I ordered vodka and biscuits and offered the judge a three ruble note for his mediation.

The judge said he didn't want money, but that he had a cow and that he would rather that I sent him a load of fodder for it [R. mjakina - chaff] with the wagon I was going to send to fetch the teacher after Sukes, as we had settled before.

"A cow has got to eat." He said with a smile.

I promised to send fodder, though that would amount to five rubles; but why not, he was a judge after all.

After Sukes I loaded a wagon with fodder and sent it off to Selts early in the morning, with a letter to the 'Governor', saying that the teacher should return with the wagon to Kushelyeve.

Soon the teacher arrived and when I entered the house in the evening I had the rare honor of hearing the 'debut' of the teacher. He was teaching my children.

But his debut was a terrible shock to me. The teacher simply didn't know Khumesh. He was holding a large Khumesh volume containing the Yiddish translation10and was teaching from that.

I wanted to make sure, walked up to the table and stood there listening to him teaching the boy111the section 'Noah'12. But noticing me standing next to the table he became flustered. He stared at the Yiddish translation, mumbled something and turned over a page. Unintentionally he turned over two pages, but continued reading aloud without even noticing the interruption in the contents. That made me feel really sad.

I gave him a snap quiz; I opened up the book at Genesis, pointed to Chapter 2, Verse 5: " and had him translate that. The verse starts with:

" ... and there was not a man to till the ground."13He gave me the following translation: "Adam - a man, eyn - an eye" and so on.

Ah, you are one of those!" I said, hardly able to suppress a laugh.

It occurred to me to question him on Genesis 14 . There it is told that Abram had conquered all five of the kings who fought a war against Sodom. The king of Sodom went out to meet him, together with Melchizedek, king of Salem and he, I mean Melchizedek, blessed Abram with the words: "Blessed be Abram of the most high God, [possessor of heaven and earth]14.

I asked him who this Baruch [litt. blessed] was; was he a good friend of Abram, or of Lot15?

He didn't know what to say.

With downcast eyes, staring at the table he mumbled through his teeth: "One of Abram's good friends."

Well, that did it and I shut the Khumesh. What else could I say to him?

I was quite upset about the judge who had saddled me up with a raw villager, an ignorant teacher. A nice judge! But what could I say? The only thing I could do was go to Antopolye16, a rich town, well known for its learning.

I arrived in Antopolye early in the afternoon and of course went straight to the house of prayer. There I found young men at their study. I told them the reason for my visit and about my problems with the teacher I had: "A teacher who doesn't know Hebrew."

They laughed heartily about that. At the table I noticed a young man, standing at the table, resting one hand on an open Gemore17, covered by a piece of cloth - a precaution to prevent evil spirits from grabbing knowledge from the open Gemore while the book wasn't used.

When I had finished telling my story this young man invited me into the womens' section; he had to say something meant for my ears only. In the privacy of the womens' section he told me that he was from Kamenits, that his name was Shloyme, that he was a son-in-law of the rabbinical judge of Brisk and that he was deemed to be a very gifted Gemore student.

But the secret he wanted to tell me was this: he was an only son and had been called up for military service. Because he didn't think he had much chance for an exemption18he was dodging the draft right now. Here in Antopolye he was tutoring a well-to-do young man for seven rubles a week including Shabes. He even could have taken a teaching job at the house of a rich farmer in a village paying eighty rubles a term plus boarding, but he didn't feel like staying with a farmer in a village.

Since he knew my family he would be pleased to come and stay with me. After all, it would be safer in a village.

: "I only would like to ask you", he said in a very serious tone, bringing his head towards mine, "do you have a 'Shas'19at home?"

"Yes, I do."

"Is it quiet were you live?"

"Yes, it is."

"In that case" he said enthusiastically, "I will be very pleased to go with you."

The young man's face lightened up. A very sympathetic face he had.

It was clear from his every movement that he was a bright student. I was very pleased myself.

Not only would I have a good teacher, I would also have someone to help me get through those long and dreary winter evenings in that large wilderness. I shook his hand, we finished talking and went back into the prayer house.

In the prayer house they had started on the evening prayer220 The chanting and the words created a dreary atmosphere, somehow reminding me of those happy, sweet and carefree days of my childhood.

After the evening prayers I went back to the tavern. Shloyme was already there with his luggage (he was in a hurry to go), in the company of some other young men who had come to escort me.

I hitched up the horse, mounted the buggy and took up the reins. My teacher was very impressed with these reins. He took them over from me to try his own hand at managing the horse. It obviously gave him great pleasure, he was as thrilled as a child. It was the first time he had held the reins.

The youngsters accompanied us for quite a distance and clearly envied us. They were mainly jealous about our going away, our moving to another place, which is just the thing for young people.

We arrived in Kushelyeve late at night.

But the first 'teacher' was still there and I had to get rid of him [oysrikhtn], which wasn't an easy task.

First I put Shloymele to bed like an only son and after that I sat down to write a letter to the 'Governor'.

In this letter I told him straight what I thought of this gift he had bestowed on me. A pain in the neck it was. How could one do such a thing to anyone? It was really criminal.

Having written the letter I went to sleep myself, thinking that I would settle the matter the next day.

The next morning I ordered the horse to be harnessed in order to send the gift back to Selts, to the 'Governor', together with the letter.

But the 'teacher' wasn't willing to go; he asked me to have pity on him with tears in his eyes, begged me to let him 'teach' my children.

"How could I go away?", he argued.

"How could you stay here?", I retorted.

But we might have argued all day and night, there was no way of convincing him.

When I realised that I was at the end of my tether I proposed that he would travel with a letter of mine to the Rov of Maltsh21whose verdict I would stick to.

The fool consented. He was sure that my misgivings about him were misguided. So I wrote a few words to the Rov of Maltsh describing the problem and the young man went off with high hopes.

Rovs used to have lots of time in those days. The Rov started by examining my Hebrew (the letter was written in the holy language). And after concluding that he liked my Hebrew, liked it a lot, he started on the problem itself. After thorough deliberation he passed the judgment that the teacher would be examined publicly in the shul22. They would find out whether he knew Khumesh. The teacher himself agreed to it. In a small town there are no secrets and the contents of my letter had become known all over town. All Jews of the town gathered for the examination of the teacher.

That fool, the teacher, went to shul to be examined. It never crossed his mind that he might go down badly there. But it never came to an examination because the start was so bitter. On his way to shul the city brats flung mud at him shouting: "King of Kushelyeve!, King of Kushelyeve!"

And in this beginning was its end, for who would examine him in this condition?

He went back to the Rov asking him to give him a letter for me. This fellow knew no shame.

The young man returned to me with the letter. In it the Rov wrote that according to the law this fellow only deserved to get a good beating from me because an ignoramus didn't have the right to take on the teaching of Khumesh to young boys, but that if I felt like giving him money, I was at liberty to give him as much as I wanted.

Anyhow, I slipped a ten ruble note into the youth's hand and put an end to this absurd affair.

But it didn't leave me with a bad feeling, because it ended up with Shloymele, a very sympathetic young man, a brilliant student, my true comfort in such desolation.

I provided him with a room as big as a 'field'23to study and sleep in. His voice would flow through the house day and night, softening our hearts in a miraculous way and I remember well how I envied him. What a pleasure it was to be able to learn compared to wanting to learn.

He was very content himself. He had a quite and spacious room, was treated well and got plenty to eat.

Food was important to him having had preciously little to eat before!

On the one hand I was pleased with his studying, hearing the sweet sing-song of his Gemore recitation in the house, but it also often reminded me of my good and cheerful years as a young fellow, when I myself was studying day and night, 'gathering golden coins' and building my 'palace in the next world'24.

What had happened to that?

It had been so sweet, so wholesome that the sweetness and the warmth of my faith made me cry sometimes.

I had a great God and a beautiful hereafter, a purpose to live for. I was going to be a Rov, I was going to become a 'tsadek', a saint. I was going to live with God all my days and nights. The road before me was sure and bright. I only had to grow up. - Yeah, let's grow up!

But again, what had become of it?

I am a grown up Jew now, a man, a father with sorrow, with a burden, a Kushelyeve. I have to thresh grain here, store it in granaries. I have to deal with goyim all the time; nothing but goyim. [un goyeven 3x]

But Shloymele had awakened an eagerness to study in me, to relive again those dear years as a youngster and I decided to make short shift of my duties, to gain some freedom and re-approach Gemore.

As soon as I had made up my mind I hired more threshers, paid them higher wages and rushed the work. For a farm-owner that wasn't the right way to go about it.

But I wanted to study.

Shloymele kept reproving me for not studying at all. He had no inkling of what it meant to carry a burden, to make a living.

"What's wrong? How come?", he wondered, "You should be able to study well. You had a good name in Kamenits. I don't see what is stopping you from taking up a Gemore."

No use explaining to him to him that a farm-owner has no business with Gemores, that a farm-owner is much more interested in getting a better price for his wheat, in hiring labourers for less money, in putting up cattle to get dung, things like that.

I wasn't sure where to study. To study in my own room would be boring, but I dreaded studying together with him.

I hadn't touched a Gemore for eight or nine years. If I sat studying in one room with him I might get terribly embarrassed. No way of telling what would happen. I had really forgotten all of it.

This problem was quite painful.

Finally I decided on the following plan: I would get myself a small Gemore and test my capabilities in the privacy of my own room. For this test I would take the very same tractate he was studying. That way I would see for myself how I was doing and I would hand out the report to myself.

Shloymele was studying sixteen hours out of twenty four. He studied without the commentary and sophistry [dredlekh], going right through. He proceeded page by page [blat] , like a good colonel in battle and in a few weeks time he had finished the third, fourth fifth and sixth tractate of the third Order and was about to start on the seventh, named 'kidush(in)', The Marriage-Ceremony25.

When I had got what I needed, a small-size Gemore, I quietly slipped away to my own room and started preparing for my examination with great apprehension.

I work carefully through one page, through a second: I can do it, I swear! I gain confidence as I proceed. The further I read, the better I get. At that point I became reckless and left the paved road, making an inroad into the difficult Toysefes.

Once I used to love this commentary, though it wasn't much of an example of simplicity and clarity. These Toysefes harbor the shadows of the deep secrets contained in the Gemore, but it is a pleasant job to dig up these secrets, to bring them to light, to unravel them like one disentangles a large tightly tied knot.

Well, I thought, my little wagon will probably brake down at the Toysefes.

But how surprised I was to find that my wagon ran smoothly over these complicated Toysefes, lightly like over a icy snow-track. I could do it!

But at one particular place I did grind to a halt, got completely stuck, no way of pushing my way through. What to do next? I ponder and frown, look at the problem from all sides, trying with all my might to catch the commentary. But I can't come up with anything. I realise that my effort is in vain. It eventually dawned on me that it was nothing to be ashamed of "veloy habayshn lomed [bayshn -shemevdiker]" - "Someone who is ashamed cannot learn."

So I went to Shloymele and asked him: "Tell me, my teacher, what does this mean?"

He studied my question and started explaining, but I realised that he tried to throw dust in my eyes rather than to explain the matter. He was trying to outwit me26, twisting the thing around.

The Lithuanian Talmud scholars have the following method: First they study the whole Shas in a very superficial way. Next, when they are already well versed in the Shas, they start studying it in depth, thoroughly. Without resorting to 'pilpl' and far fetched reasoning they then reach the true meaning of all subjects. My Shloymele, it seemed, was still at the level of mastering the basic text; he was endeavoring to reach proficiency first, to get a more profound insight later.

Now he did his very best to confuse me with speclution and 'pilpl', but I didn't give in and we sparred for three hours about the Toysefes. It became clear that his 'terets', his reply, did not answer my question, but he didn't give up easily.

"Well, Shloymele, I say 'uncle', 'Akheynu ato'.", I said to him cheerfully, tapping him on the shoulder.

"No, no, wait!" he said laughing.

But I was quite happy about two things: first, I would no longer have to feel ashamed in front of him. Secondly, I could learn something from him. He was very knowledgeable and knew his Shas through and through.

The bit of Toysefes we both couldn't get through fascinated me and I was eager to pay the Rov of Maltsh a visit on its account. If it's about knowledge one cannot be satisfied with half work.

One morning I took off for Maltsh to visit the Rov. The Rov gave me an answer to my question, but he didn't make it completely clear either. He actually only answered half of my question and therefore I went home only half content.

Few people go to the very roots when studying. Most people only go through the Shas in a superficial way, quickly.

On my way home from the Rov of Maltsh I passed by the forestry office. The office clerk was a Polish Jew, a Khosid.

This clerk had recently married off a daughter to a good student. I tied up my horse and went inside to see that young man. I happened to find him studying and I noticed that he happened to be at the same Gemore tractate 'Kidush(i)n', just at the beginning.

It would not be worth the trouble to get into an dispute with someone who had just started on the thing, so I took off.

Some weeks later, while on my way to the Rov of Maltsh, I went to see the young man again, hoping I could have a good chat with him on the same issue now.

But I noticed he had not studied more than four pages Gemore during these weeks. I thought that he might have been studying something else, but when I asked him about it he said: "No I am still studying the tractate 'Kidush(i)n'.

"How can that be?" I asked, "You only study one page Gemore a week?"

He answered: "I just sit thinking up possible questions. I learn a detail thoroughly and ask myself questions about it."

This really amazed me. I said: "You sit thinking up questions? But you might be sitting for years while your study comes to nothing [gehn labud/lovud ?]! You should first study the Shas as a whole and after that go deeper into the problems."

"We in Poland study this way." he answered in a friendly tone.

I raised my shoulders and drove off. Some way of studying! Such a method must be bad and not practical. I was quite disappointed with Polish scholars.

Polish scholars drag on without gist, but Lithuanian scholars run through the Shas too fast at first. If they wouldn't be in such a hurry, reflected more, went more in depth, they certainly would get more out of their study.

A son of my uncle Lipe27was so well versed in six hundred pages of Gemore at the age of fifteen that he often surprised the greatest Talmud scholars. His father-in-law for example examined him in the following way: he inserted a needle in the Gemore and asked at what subject the point had stopped. The boy would take a good look, frown his brow, think and figure it out exactly28.

He was a real work-horse and studied eighteen hours a day. He had a supernatural memory, enormous. Nevertheless, his knowledge about Gemore was superficial, not solid, even though he knew the whole text by heart. After he had married he had to visit the Rov of Bialystok, his father Rov Lipe, to ask him for advice on how to continue his studies. He knew his Shas well, but did not have a clear understanding. Rov Lipe instructed him in the method of gaining more profound knowledge, of reaching real understanding of a subject.

Thanks to Rov Lipe the young man achieved his goal.

I took the same approach and engaged on my study step by step, stimulated by my dear Shloymele.

All winter I visited the Rov of Maltsh twice weekly. I made quite a lot of progress. But at the same time I also came to the sad conclusion that I was neither a Talmud scholar nor a Maskl. Neither meat nor fish, stuck somewhere half way, unable to move in any direction. Of course, outsiders were under the impression that I was an extraordinary scholar, but their mistake, the truth, hit me hard at times.

And as things always go with me, I gave up on it.

But one way or the other, I had quite a nice winter. I felt happy. Making money had, as usual with me, become a side issue, an afterthought. My mind found more satisfaction floating around in the higher spheres [svores] of Gemore.

My heart got very strongly attached to that Shloymele. He was a very lovable young man, very honest, very hard-working, very serene. In his quiet and unobtrusive way he strongly affected others. Even now I sometimes long for him.

I recall how I played a nasty trick on him with Peysekh, a thing I regretted later. We were having seyder. The table was full of the finest cooked and baked dishes. On the first day I had butchered three calves besides the turkey my wife had raised.

My Sloyme, bless him, had put away a lot. I had increased his share of the afikoymen29beyond proportion and when the moment to eat it had arrived I noticed that it was too much for him.

But being very pious he did his best to finish it. When he had almost conquered this big piece of matse I slipped him another piece, and yet another, unnoticed, making him believe it was all his share of the afikoymen. Shloymele ate and ate, until he turned pale and ran out onto the porch, were he vomited.

I don't know where my dear good Shloymele is nowadays, but wherever he is, I hope he has forgiven me. God is my witness, my love for and delight in him had made me drink too much wine then and a Jew as I am I had got drunk quickly.

When winter was over the work on the fields started. The sun, the forest, the open air - they succeeded in luring away even Shloymele from the Gemore. We both stopped studying. We went through the fields, got invigorated by the sun-shine, rode around on horseback in lordly fashion . He wasn't a big-shot as a horseman though. Unfortunately, he was much afraid of horses, although felt strongly attracted to them, like weak people feel attracted to the strong and healthy.

So the summer went by. Shloymele now spent more time in the fields than at Gemore. The warmth of the sun quickened his blood. He came to realise that things like sun, air, forest and work in the fields had their value.

Thanks to Shloymele I didn't even notice how the summer passed. Suddenly it was almost autumn, you could smell Elel30in the air.

Leaves turned yellow, fell down.

And just before Rosheshone, to my great distress, Shloymele went home. They had called him home to enter the military service. His father had changed the year of his conscription to that year's. After his departure I went through a terrible depression which I could not get over for a long time. My heart was bleeding for the boy.

Some time after his departure I read an article by a correspondent from Grodno in the Melits of those days31(to which I had a subscription) stating that they had made a soldier of a genius from Kamenits by the name of Shloyme and that he was posted in Grodno and that everybody in Grodno was working on his behalf32.

This message depressed me. But relief soon followed: They had liberated Shloymele after all. The Jewish community of Grodno had valued him dearly and had achieved his release [gezholevet - spared].

1kol-hamoyed sukes; actually five days (in the diaspora). > moyed - fayertog

2Selts = Selets; About 10 km NW of Bereza.

3narayen - to advice, recommend, of Slavic origin. Comp. P. narada - consultation (rel. to Germanic Rat, Yid. rot).

4Lite: Lithuania; the north-east of the European Jewish settlement area, corresponding to Lithuania, Belorussia, and Latvia.

5Bible; tanakh: toyre+neviim+ksuvim; also referred to as 'esrim-v(e)arbe': the 24 books of the Tanakh.

6dikdek - (Hebrew) grammar. More precise: The "Mafteakh Shel Dikduk", title of a grammar book written by Rabbi Mordekhi Ya'ir, who lived in Friedberg, Germany in 1297.

7Kotik describes both the standard education in general and his own education in particular in detail throughout the first volume. For a general description: Vol. I, Chapt. I, pp. 53-57. (About learning Khumesh and 'esrim-v(e)arbe', see p. 55. Also p. 56.). For a description of his own early education: Chapt. VIII. Here we read that Kotik started on Khumesh at the age of five and a half. Only after his marriage in 1865 he makes a more thorough study of the Tenakh. See Vol. I., Chapt. XXVI, p. 309-310. [p. 30g: ikh hob keynmol keyn tanakh nit gelernt. in yene tsaytn, vi ikh hob shoyn ergets gezogt, iz lernen tanakh geven gehaltn far apikoyres, ... nor ba mote dem melamed hob ikh gelernt yehoyshe [Joshua], shoyftim [Judges] un shmuel [Samuel], mehr nisht.]

Kotiks remaining two boys were born in 1866 and 1867, before the departure to Makarovtsi; the year described is probably 1874. Comp. also Vol. II, Chapt IV, footnote on Sukes.

8minkhe-zayt: Minhah - the afternoon prayer.

9maskl, adherent of the haskole or Enlightment movement.

10ivre-taytsh - stylised archaic Yiddish used e.g. in the translation of sacred texts.

11text: wi er lernt mit dem yungel (= yingl): 1 boy only?

12sedre: section of the Toyre, Khumesh - Pentateuch, assigned to a weeks reading. Threre are 54 parts of the 5 khumoshim - books of the toyre. sedre Noyekh: the second sedre of theTorah, Khumesh - Pentateuch; breyshes - Genesis 1,1 - 6,8. The part is read on the second Shabes after Rosheshone, right after Sukes.

13veodem eyn lebod es hadoma [eyn - eye, zero, there is not; lebod > abed - to till; es - precedes direct obiect; hadoma - earth].

14breyshes 14, 19: borekh avrom leeyl eliyen ...

15loyt - Lot, Abram's niece.

16Antopoliye = Antopol; 20.4 km. south of Kushelyeve.

17gemore - explanation of the mishne in Aramaic (finished about 500 C.E.).

18hot er ober moyre, es zol nisht dergeyn tsu lgotnikes, ... > Hark. lgote - exemption. Comp. Vol I, Chapt. I, p. 14: 1874 - ayngefirt gevorn dos naye rekrutn-sistem.

19sh"s - shas = shisi s(e)dorim - 6 parts of mishne and talmud.

20mayrev - Maariv - the evening prayer.

21Maltsh = Malets', 13 km NNW of Kushelyeve.

22shul - synagogue.

23Comp. Sholem Aleykhem, Motl, Peysi dem khasns, Chapt. I, dalet (Melukhe verlag p. 13): oysgebet af der erd, hobn mir zikh oysgetsogn beyde, ikh un mayn bruder elye, vi di grafn, tsugedekt zikh beyde mit eyn koldre (zayne hot men farkoyft), un es iz mir geven zeyer ongenem tsu hern fun mayn eltern bruer, az af der erd tsu shlofn iz nokh nit azoy shlekht. Ikh vart op, biz er leyent op krishme un vert anshlofn, demlt nem ikh mikh katshen iber der gantser erd. plats iz haynt do, borekh-hashem, genug. a feld, a fargenign, a ganeydn!..

See also: Vol I, Chapt. XV, p. 224: ... in shtub, "vos iz geven groys vi a feld".

24Comp. Vol. I, Chapt. XXV, pp. 304-305. Short after his marriage, at the age of 18, Kotik decided to become a Rov and started studying by himself, rather fanaticly. He liked 'muser' literature, especially a work named 'yesod shoyres-haavoyde'. Of this work Kotik says:

mir iz zeyer geven gefeln der 'yesod-shoyres-haavoyde' .....

..... un der peyresh [commentary], der patshoshnik [P.poszecie - beginning. Hark. patshontek - beginning > Saph.: potshotek - onheybn > Oytser: pothatik, potshontik], hot gehaltn ale tog in eyn reydn: kloybt, kinderlekh, rendlekh... az a mentsh gefint oyf der gas rendlekh, vet er zikh gevis nisht farginen oystsureydn a mentshn a vort, oder epes mafsek zayn [interrupt] in mitn. er vet alts kloybn di rendlekh ... mit di mitsves, vos a mentsh tut, boyt er dort, oyf yener velt a palats. tor men nisht mafsek zayn oyf eyn sekunde, vorem men kon nokh, kholile, in ot der sekunde, vos men lernt nisht, avekshtarbn, vet oykh oyf jener velt feln a ganik [porch] oder a gezims [cornice], tsi a fenster. Derfar darf men on an oyfher boyen un boyen biz dem letstn otem, biz dem letstn shveys. hob ikh im gefolgt un geboyt dem palats un zikh nisht farginen tsu reydn mit emetsn a vort, un ikh hob geklibn rendlekh, geton vos der 'yisur-shoyres-haavoyde' hot geshribn .....

Comp. also Vol. I, Chapt. XI, p. 173, where we are told that Kotiks father read the whole 'yesod-shoyres-haavoyde' before going to Grodno to be examined by his future father-in-law, Rov Leyzer.

The Yesod Ve-Shoresh ha-Avodah - The Basis and the Root of Service, was written by Alexander ben Moses Susskind (Ziskind) of Grodno and first printed in Novy Dvor in 1783. The author, a kabbalist - pietist businessman, died on Thursday, the 18th of Adar II, 5554 [1794]. Kotik was distantly related to the author.

25talmud: contains mishne & gemore. [Talmud (study): Mishnah (recitation) - Gemara (study)]

mishne: contains 'dinim', laws, written (in Hebrew) by the 'tnoim', (tannaim), teachers, compiled by r' Yehude Ansye (end 2nd cent. C.E.)

pl. mishnayes: series of 6 books of the mishne - Mishnah.

gemore - the Aramaic part of the talmud, explaining the mishne (finished around 500 C.E.). Also used to indicate the whole talmud.

The Mishnah is divided in six s(e)dorim - Orders, these are divided in 63 mesekhtes - ('webbings', tractates or treatises), arranged within each seyder according to length. Each seyder and most tractates have a one-word name, reflecting its main theme.

The mesekhtes are divided in prokim - chapters (523 not counting the 6th seydre), subdivided in mishnayes - paragraphs.


1. the whole work

2. a single paragraph of the work, which is part of a chapter, which is part of a tractate, which is part of an Order.

toysefes (Tosafot) - 'supplements' commentary on the Talmud, created from the 12th to the 14th cent. C.E.

noshim - 'women' - name of the 3d seyder of the mishne

nedorim -'promise' - third mesekhte.

nozir - 'ascetic' - fourth mesekhte .

soyte - 'unfaithful wife'- fifth mesekhte.

gitin/getn - 'divorce' - sixth mesekhte.

kidush(i)n - 'marriage-ceremony' - seventh mesekhte.

The mesekhte kidushin was well known to Kotik. He was examined on this very text by his future brother-in-law and namesake, the son of the Rebbe of Kamenits, who was married to Hadase, to decide whether he was good enough at Talmud learning to become the husband of the wife he would marry. See Vol. I, Chapt. XX, p. 259: " r' Khatskl hot aroysgenumen a gemore kidushin, un tsu mayn glik, oyfgeefnt akurat oyf der mesekhte kidushin, velke ikh hob nokh gelernt mit dovid dem blindn, un itst mit yitskhok-osher, un aleyn gelernt. un bin geven genug klor in di toysefes un in dem maharshoi [der posek fun r' shmuel eydls (1555-1631)].

26Text: poshet er pilplt > pilpl - a method to find agreement between seemingly controversial statements in different talmudic texts.

27See Vol. I, Chapt.VI, pp. 131-133; Chapt. VII, p. 137. r' Lipe was married to Arn-Leyzer's sister Furye. He became a 'dayen', rabbinical judge first.

28The needle method is elsewhere described in a diferent way: The scholar knows exactly which words have been punctured on the consecutive pages.

29afikoymen - a piece of matse kept under a cover by the head of the household during the seyder ceremony, to be eaten after the meal. The children steal the peace and ask for ransom.

30Elel, the 12th month in the Jew. calender, coinciding with parts of August and September.

31The Ha-Melits (The Advocate) was started up by Alexander Tsederbaum as a weekly newspaper in 1860 in Odessa. It contained articles in Hebrew and in Yiddish. It was one of the most important promoters of the Haskalah movement in Russia. The newspaper moved to St. Petersburg in 1871, where it ceased publishing in 1902. [Info. N. Fatouros].

32Comp. Vol. I, Chapt I, p. 14: 1874 - ayngefirt gevorn dos naye rekrutn-sistem. (Introduction of the new system for recruiting).