Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Elul 5764 - August 25, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

What a Scare!
by Yisca Shimony

Yenta went to the marketplace, heading for the butcher shop. Succos was fast approaching and everyone was in a rush, but the friends and neighbors she met there could not resist engaging in small talk.

"I'm having guests for Yom Tov," said Yente.

"Really? Who?" asked the old lady whom everyone called `the Polish woman.'

"My brother, Chaim, and his wife, Glickel, are coming from Hamburg."

"From Hamburg? To this small town? Is anything the matter?" asked the Polish woman.

"Not that I know of. They're on their way to Hamlin, and are stopping over just for Succos." Yente discerned a note of fear or hesitation and was puzzled.

The elderly lady hemmed and hawed. "Errr, I heard that a plague is raging now in Hamburg. Everyone there is in a fright. People are escaping en masse," she nodded knowingly.

"What plague?" asked Yente.

"The Black Plague. You know how contagious that is. It sweeps from house to house, town to town."

"Well, I don't think my brother is running away from anything," Yente declared, determined not to listen to any more rumors.

"You may be right, but just the same, don't spread the word. The mayor just may decide to chase us all out... It might be a good excuse for him."


"He will say that Jews spread diseases and poison the wells. It is known that Jews are business people and are always traveling about."

"Well, of course! What else can Jews do? They are not allowed to join the guilds of craftsmen; they're not allowed to own land. They're restricted right and left. What else is left for them to do but apply their brains to business and trade? We have to eat, don't we?"

She was thoughtful for a moment, then added, "Poor Chaim and Glickel and their three little children! I am sure that nothing is wrong with them or they wouldn't be traveling. But they will have to be put in quarantine."

The women bought their meat and rushed home to salt and kosher it and cook it for the fast approaching festival. Yente and her maids had their hands full. Yente wanted to have everything all ready so she could welcome her guests in leisure. She was ready by midday and just then, they heard the approaching wagons stop at the gate. Chaim, Glickel and the three children were greeted warmly and were served cookies and tea. They were shown to a clean room on the second floor.

Though Yente was careful not to mention the plague, it was constantly on her mind. She scrutinized her nephew and nieces and the maid that had accompanied the family on the long journey. "Boruch Hashem," she sighed in relief. "Everyone seems to be in good health. There will be no excuse to have them evicted, G-d forbid."


The Yom Tov prayers were over, the meal was behind them, and everyone retired for the night, the hosts weary from intensive preparations and the guests, fatigued from their traveling. In her bedroom, Yente heaved a sigh of relief. "It was only a scare," she murmured to herself.

The problems started the following morning. Yente, her sister Esther, and her sister-in-law Shulke were sitting in shul when suddenly, her guests' young maid strode in. She traversed the women's section and walked right into the men's section! She was back before Yente could even react, and was about to walk out, but Yente stopped to interrogate her.

"Why did you do that?"

"Little Tzipora has a sore under her arm and my mistress sent me to ask her husband what to do? She wanted to know what he had applied to cure a similar sore he had had some time ago."

Yente was petrified. So was the Polish woman. What are we going to do now? Yente pondered.

"I've seen many kinds of sores, boils and absesses in my life. Certainly not all of them are those of the Plague. But from my experience, I can identify it at a glance. You stay here," she said to Yente, who had risen to leave. "I'll go and take a good look at that sore. I'll be back shortly."

She walked briskly along with the maid and climbed upstairs to Glickel's room. She inspected the wound and went back to report. "It looks contagious. The only thing to do is isolate the child."

"How?" asked Yente, unhappily.

"There is a small community just outside Hanover which has no Jewish inhabitants. For a small fee, we can rent a cottage and you can send over food and medication for the sick child. We can do it right now and pay later."

"But I can't just chase out Glickel and her family! Why can't we isolate them in our house, just as well?"

"And what if the mayor hears of it? If he finds out that the Plague broke out first in your house, he will surely banish all the Jews from town."

Little Tzipora was sent along with the maid to the adjacent hamlet along with food and clothing. Tzipora seemed quite happy at all the attention she was getting, but Glickel and Chaim were quite distressed about the whole matter.

They went to visit the child but felt it was not safe to enter. Glickel cried and her tears melted Yente's heart but she knew there was nothing they could do. They could not endanger the entire community. Yente took her to a place where she could see Tzipora through the upstairs window. She was playing happily and Glickel felt it was wise not to make her presence known, lest the child become homesick. They returned home but Glickel cried all week long.

The little girl spent chol hamoed playing in the little cottage and picking wild flowers in the yard. Just before Simchas Torah, when her wound had completely healed, she was permitted to return and rejoin the family.

"So it had all been for nothing!" said Glickel.

"It surely was a scare," admitted Yente, "but for one thing, it certainly made me pray with much greater fervor. I will never forget this!"

[There is a fascinating book of memoirs called Glickel from Hamlin, which is published by Feldheim, I believe.]


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