My grandfather Reb Abraham Eliezer
My grandfather on my fathers side was born in Poland on 1878 (see page 130).
Orphaned early, he lived in Hungary where he visited several Talmud schools and
received the qualification of a Kosher butcher. He married Scheindel Stern of
Stropkopf, a small town in Slovakia. They had many children but only six of them
were brought up: Dov-Berish, Moses, Zwi-Hershel, Sarah-Gittel, Levy and
As far as I know, my grandfather had a brother called who was called Chaim who
lived in Poland and a sister whose name I dont know. My grandfather looked
older than his age. He walked somewhat hunched up; he had a gray beard and
neglected his appearance. He only wore good clothes on a Sabbath or on festival
days and then a streimel on his head. His working day kaftan was shiny with fat,
especially because it was his habit save bits of meat rests in his pockets for
his many cats he loved. He was a humble fellow, who did not want to accept his
due place of honor in the synagogue, although he was often asked to do so by the
leaders of the community. He preferred to pray in the company of simpler people,
near to door. My grandfather was known as a Thora scholar and many people wanted
to take part in his hours of study. Although he lived for more than 50 years in
Hungary, he spoke no Hungarian, only Yiddish. He took my grandmother with him as
an interpreter if he had to deal with the authorities. He was Rabbi Naftali
Teitelbaums (Reb Naftoles) true friend.
Grandmother Scheindel (page 130) could neither read nor write. She could not
even read her Book of Prayers. My mother sat with her in the Synagogue and they
said their prayers together. She settled down next to my grandfather on Sabbath
afternoon that read out for her the weekly section in Yiddish.
After their wedding my grandfather received an appointment as the official
Kosher butcher in the small Hungarian town of Nyirgyulaj. This was my fathers
birthplace. My grandfather moved later to Nyirbátor together with his family and
became kosher butcher of the congregation. He remained there to the end of his
life. He had to give up his profession because of an accident at work when he
lost a number of fingers of his right hand, he became prayer leader at the
synagogue and an expert in problems concerning Kashruth 34).
His office was in one of the corners of the Palish, the study in the house
of learning, and people brought to him the gullets of the slaughtered animals
for inspection, pulled out immediately after their slaughter. According to the
Halacha, the Jewish religious law, the gullet must be inspected for scars. Had
he found a scarred tissue, he scratched it away with his thumbnail. If a hole
was left, the goose was ritually unclean and it was not fit for Jews.
Nyirbátor had another ritual butcher, a Reb Ezra Finkelstein. An ancient war
separated the two kosher butchers i.e. Reb Ezra and my grandfather. They did not
forgive each other, not even on the Day of Atonement. The reason of this feud is
unknown to me. But I was not even allowed to talk with Reb Ezras grandchild
Gedalja, my schoolmate.
Grandfathers house was a large corner building with many rooms, in which he
lived only with my grandmother most of the time. The drawing room was well
furnished and clean but no one was allowed to enter. In winter they lived in the
hallway where they kept a small fire going. They lived frugally. It was their
nature. At the other end of their house there was another kitchen, one step
down. Alongside both kitchen walls there were boards, one for the copper pans
the other for the heavy cast iron pots. My grandmother often sat on the kitchen
step and cleaned these utensils although she never used them.
Their house had a garden as well, one I had to cultivate each springtime.
I sow mainly maize. I received for this a few pennies, not even sufficient to
buy myself some sweets. I was very upset about it because my grandfather stuffed
many coins into Rabbi Meir Baal Haness collection box. This Rabbi Meir was a Wonder Rabbi. I believed I was more important than Rabbi Meir, especially as I
had worked hard for the money. I decided to improve my wages. I pushed a knife
through the slit of the collection box and the coins came pouring out. I hope
the Wonder Rabbi forgave me.
When I was working away one Friday afternoon in the Mikve, my grandfather called
me to himself and told me about a burst vein in his leg. I was much surprised as
my grandfather never talked to me neither about his personal problems nor other
recent matters before. This talk was like a talk between two grownups.
After the Sabbath Lunch we i.e. my father and I went to see my grandfather. He
was very depressed, looked at us and said: If I survive until next Tuesday,
everything will be all right. I found out later that the Tuesday in question
was the first day of the Jewish month Nissan. It was his fathers birthday and
the day of his death and he too was born on Nissan 1st. On Tuesday I was
urgently called away from Oesterreichers shop, to go to grandfathers house. I
found him in bed, surrounded by many people, among them some of his sons. When I
approached him, he was in the middle of his absolution prayer. He took my hand
and said that I was his oldest grandchild and he wanted to bless me. I bent down
to him; he placed his palm on my head
and blessed me. Then he asked his oldest son, Dov-Berish. To retrieve his Last
Will and Testament from the drawer and to read it out to the members of the
family before the funeral. Shortly after he passed away. The Testament was read
out by Melamed Shlomo Steinberger.
I still remember a number of provisions made. It began with the distribution of
the inheritance. The Tephillin (phylactery) according to Rashis 35) guidelines,
was to go to the oldest son, Dov-Berish, the Tephillin (phylactery) according to
Rabbenu Tam to his son Moses. The rest of the inheritance is not to be
distributed during his wife s lifetime. The rest of the testament demanded that
his sons future wives must be bald-headed 36). The
The inscription on his grave was prescribed. The letters were to be in black,
not in gold. This was typical to his humility. The men carrying his coffin
should have first a full bath in the Mikve. While theeral procession was passing
the adjoining Christian cemetery, his coffin is to be hidden so that the Goyim
should not be able to look at it. If Reb Ezra, his ancient enemy, would pass
away before him, he did not want to be buried next to him. Reb Ezra died later
but by that time no one remembered Grandfathers testament. When I visited his
grave in 1965 I found the two graves directly opposite each other. My
grandfather died at the age of 65. Blessed be his memory.
34) Problems that concern the ritual cleanliness of food
35) Salomo ben Isaak (1040-1105). He studied in Mainz and Worms, taught in
Troyes and wrote comments on most of the books of the Bible and most tracts of
the Babylonian Talmud
36) Custom of the ultra-orthodox Jews