Chapter the twenty fourth.
Back in Kiev. - Mr. Leyb Shapiro. - Wine. - I have an income. - A night of drunkenness. - The manifesto. - Charitable institutions in Kiev. - Mr. Hirsch Epsteyn. - Mandelshtam.
And here I was back in Kiev. Back with my old acquaintances and friends, philosophers, pious idlers [batlonim], sophist [pilpulnikes], merchants, shopkeepers, young unemployed, paupers etc. etc.
My mind gets some rest from worries. People laugh, chat, exchange news. But slowly one has to start thinking about an income again. I think about it and others help me with the thinking, afraid that I, God forbid, might have to run away from Kiev again, to another city, to look for bread. Time for me to settle down once and for all in one place and taste the flavor of stability, like all my friends.
Well, Mr. Shapiro (I had made up with him, you couldn't be angry for long with such a man!), a man who always worried about me, thought up the following plan: "A teacher working for the Rov knew how to make raisin-wine. You didn't need a permit for that or a patent. Jews were allowed to make ceremonial wine, for the 'kidesh'. This teacher could teach me how to "produce" wine and friends would promote the product. That way I would "have a source of income".
I agreed, I didn't have another option anyway.
"Vayeki hayem"1, no better day than the present, so we set to work, raisin-wine it was.
I bought all the utensils needed for the "plant" [R. zavod] as well as a 'pud' of raisins. Next the teacher came and started "teaching" me. Being a clever man that didn't take him long and I learned the in and outs.
The first wine turned out to be "very successful". Soon we had sold it to good friends and started making preparations for a batch of ten 'pud' raisin-wine at once, for Purim and Peysekh. During the proceedings I often called in the teacher, to solve a difficult problem of the kind that will occur with mass-production on the spot.
The second wine was also a success. I divided the wine into weak and strong, into better and lesser quality. The top quality was a "true champagne". People went for it.
I wasn't short of cash anymore. My good brethren gave it to me.
Since the wine had turned out well, people just kept forcing interest-free loans on me, hundreds of them. I only had to keep operating the plant.
And really, I started making money. It wasn't bad. Things were brightening up. I was cashing in. I started to forget about my past peregrinations. Once you have an income general salvation seems to follow: one fine morning, coming out on the street, we read a manifesto put up on all posts and street corners.
In the manifesto was written that all Jews living up to now within the governments of Russia proper would be allowed to remain living there and that nobody could disturb them, unless it was by a decree of the Senate.
This manifesto filled us with joy, equal to that of the Jews in Mordkhe's days on hearing about the fall of Homen.*
Joy and jubilation reigned [sosn vesimkhe], "ve-la-yehudim hayta [?] oyre ve-simkhe ve-sosn ve-yekar2 ." All my good brethren came together at my place and among them was Lipski with several students who were Jews at heart and we drank a lot of wine. I had a good, full [getsert>tsern-to feed?] wine, strong like pure alcohol. The people didn't need to be asked twice, they just drank until they got drunk and everyone had all the fun in the world.
Lipski gave a speech with such fervor that we, in drunken rapture, carried him around on our shoulders. The people living in the neighborhood, Christians, came running. Especially the neighborhood warden [R. okolodatshni] I who just happened to pass by, demanded to know what the festive occasion was about.
"What a fool he is, our warden, doesn't know what we are celebrating." Lipski flapped out and happily drunk he informed him that for Jews better days were about to come:
"Outside there's a manifest, Sir warden. Jews are not to be bothered, not to be harassed, Sir warden. Help us with the drinking, Sir warden. We've got bottles of wine here, Sir warden."
With so much wine around the keeper of order [bal-ha-ordnung] hardly needed an explanation. He just opened his mouth widely and began pouring down one glass of strong wine after the other in it.
The group became even more exuberant, grabbed both Lipski and the warden who had become equals through the wine and carried both around on their shoulders.
We frolicked and sang into the early hours of the morning, we made a racket, shouted and the warden went home a happy man, with a bottle of strong wine in his pocket. That's just second nature to them.
But the Jewish joy was to be short lived and we, idiots, didn't realise it. We didn't realise that dark and bitter days were ahead, days so heavy that they would seem to last as long as the Diaspora, days not ever to be wiped from one's memory. But I am getting ahead of my story ,no reason to be in a hurry with misery; it doesn't keep bad business away.
To return to my wine: I stuck to it and made a good few hundred rubles on the merchandise. My friends took care of the advertising.
With Purim I cashed in on quite a lot of wine and during the week before Peysekh they came to get my wine like it was matse-water.
It became clear to me that I could have sold five times the amount I had, making much more money, but there wasn't enough time to produce more. That would have taken five to six weeks. As an alternative I almost doubled my price. I acted like a good merchant and nobody tried to bargain - as long as I delivered the wine.
And so it happened on the day before the eve of Peysekh, when someone came from the banker Hurvitsh to buy five bottles of wine, that I had to squeeze the last drops of wine from the kegs. I realised with satisfaction that my business had gone all right, that I had a source of income now, that I wouldn't have to go off again, that I finally had some ground under my feet.
But wine is only wine, and community work is also worth something. And though I was very enthusiastic about the solution of my own problems I felt strongly attracted to welfare work at the same time.
Mr. Hirsh Epsteyn would often drop in at my place to tell me about community affairs, about what he had accomplished already and what he still would bring about in Kiev.
"The rich" he would tell me in a friendly and quiet way, "throw their money about. They give whatever you ask them. Madam Rozenberg never tires of working. All day and night she spends on charity and good deeds. Nowadays you can also see here ride into the Podol quarter with her box for requests at noon. Mr. Yisroel Brodski is becoming a greater philanthropist, getting more generous all the time. A new millionaire has entered the scene, a certain Halpern, a wood-merchant, who hands out alms on an incredible scale."
But what Mr. Hirsh needed was some assistants, because he could do only one thing at the time himself. "The best time for community work is now.", he said.
Such talk deeply impressed me of course.
My blood started running faster and all excited I said: "Mr. Hirsh, I'm doing all right; let me be your assistant; tell me what to do, and I will do it. But it is essential to engage young people for the work, young gents and ladies. I will call in Lipski's help. He will recruit students for me."
Mr. Hirsh went away well pleased on two accounts: that I had an income and that I would get involved in community work.
Never in my whole live did I encounter a community activist equal to Epsteyn. I never met with such honesty, such devotion, such dedication, such enthusiasm and purity. though I've met quite a lot of community activists. Some of them would possess one or the other of Epsteyn's virtues, but none possessed them all and on the same scale.
Was there anything he didn't do? He collected matses for Peysekh, he collected money for medicines when someone poor was ill. He brought together money to buy equipment for workers when they hadn't any money to buy it themselves. He gathered money for poor brides and grooms, for old people, for orphans, for victims of a fire, for invalids and the like. He was very pious, a stiff-necked true believer: he had a son he refused to speak to his whole life long, because this son had sent in an article to the then existing "Karmel"3 . But he had given up the quiet study of the Toyre, which would have suited such a pious man, for the collecting of alms.
You never saw him studying; he wasn't even very ecstatic at saying prayers. You only saw him going from door to door, from street to street. Because of that he made himself well-loved even with the non-religious youth of Kiev. No young lady would ever refuse to run an errand for him when he sent them somewhere.
During those days Mandelshtam's4 popularity was rising quickly in Kiev. The poor flocked to him from every nook and cranny. You could tell that they were on their way to a great man in Kiev.
1.vayekhi - Yankev hot gelebt - nomen fun der 12-ter seydre fun der tenakh.> Genesis 37,1: And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
hayem - "haynt" [first word of each line of a prayer at the end of the saying prayers at Rosheshone and Yonkiper.]
2.see Esther 8. In the previous chapter Haman is hung. In chapter 8 a letter was sent throughout the realm. 8, 16: The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.
oyre - prakht
yekar [yud-kof-resh] - Germ. kostbar, teuer, geehrt.
3.Karmel - Tsanin: frukhtbarer bond; [karmil - karmin-royt] ???
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