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Chapter 13

Thus the community read the Book of Lamentations and wept bitterly. And as one man the congregation felt penitent and recognized this calamity as the act of God, who punished them for their manifold transgressions. And it seemed to them theta they heard a voice, the voice of the Holy Presence, calling out:-

“You have transgressed my Commandment and have not honoured the aged man.”

For there was a man in our town, Rabbi Israel, a man held in great esteem by the gentiles for the grandeur of his soul and for his noble appearance. An aged man he was, grey-bearded, and his eye shone fiercely. And he was ever ready to stand by the Jews and aid them. His son-in-law, Rabbi David Ashkenazi had his seat in our town as Rabbi. And many of our congregation were envious of Rabbi Israel. And one day we durst assault and insult him; for on his appearing in our Synagogue, the youths jostled and ill-treated him and forcibly prevented him from leaving the place of worship. And the rest of the congregation stood by indifferent to this insult.

To add fuel to the fire of the wrath of God, they made light of their own Rabbi David Tevil, the son-in-law of rabbi Israel, disobeying and insulting him, and to curb their impudent attacks on him, he was compelled to appeal to our gracious Duke, the owner of the town. And the Duke then caused it to be proclaimed that all members of our community must accord implicit obedience and unqualified respect to our Rabbi, on the pain of being fined 10 Kronen. This order he was ready to uphold with soldiers if necessary.

Now there lived in our town a haughty and audacious man named Abraham, the son of Rabbi Moshe Ha-cohen. When he heard of the Duke’s order, he went out on the rubbish heaps of the town and collected a great number of earthenware handles from mugs, jugs etc which handles are called Ähren in German. He strung these on a rope 7 ells long, still covered with grime and filth. He then wound this rope round the Chazan’s praying-stand in the Synagogue, just opposite the seat of Rabbi David, his intention being to show the worthlessness of respect (Ehre in German) under compulsion.

In the early morning, when the Rabbi, accompanied by his disciples, entered the Synagogue, they were horror-struck at the sight of the desecration. And the Rabbi and his followers were astounded, and trembled at the shameful deed. Soon the neighbouring towns learned of the insult, and there was great consternation.

After all this, the Holy Presence seemed to declare:

“Now, you people of Úsov, what is there to astonish you, and what causes you to murmur at the cruel verdict? Your guilt has been your undoing, and you deservedly reap what you have sown. And though your Rabbi modestly forgave your abominable behaviour, it is beyond Man’s power to pardon your sin against the law of God, of which he is merely the exponent. Therefore it is that on the Day of Atonement your Synagogue, the scene of desecration, was delivered into the hands of your enemies.”

And upon this, the congregation resolved to search into their deeds and mend their ways. And each one knew his guilt against God his Creator, and they cried “Blessed be the Righteous Judge!”


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