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