M'gilath S'darim‎ > ‎Chapters‎ > ‎

Chapter 27

When our affairs took this turn, my brother-in-law and I agreed that one of us should be in Brno while the Tribunal was considering our petitions. I undertook to make the journey to Brno, to watch over the proceedings.

In the month of Shebat I therefore set out on my journey. In Brno I was successful in meeting the members of the Tribunal, and my pleadings with them received a favourable hearing. They told me that although the Royal Council was inclined in our favour, both because of the justice of our case and because of the great respect they bore to the Duke, our friend and protector, yet they, the Tribunal, had to be careful in their decision. For Her Majesty the Queen, as is well known, is ever disposed to yield to the wishes of the Holy Consistory. What the Tribunal could do, was to send on the petitions to some lower authority for their advice: thus they would divide the responsibility and divide the Royal disfavour, if any resulted.

The petitions were therefore despatched to the District Commissioner in Olomouc, accompanied by notes and other documents. And with the help of God I was able to obtain a copy of each document, and so we knew how matters stood and what I had to do.

In the month of Adar I hastened to Olomouc, and as soon as I was admitted into the town I presented myself to the District Commissioner’s secretary. I delivered to him all the sealed documents and explained that the Duke Lichtenstein, the Royal Council, and the Tribunal in Brno were all willing to grant the petitions, and were only waiting for the District Commissioner’s advice, on which depended the fate of a whole community. I humbly besought him to influence the District Commissioner in our favour and despatch the documents thus endorsed back to Brno.

The secretary said that the petitions justly and correctly stated our cause, but the Tribunal also asked the District Commissioner to give a definition of a Synagogue as distinct from a mere house of worship; and as he had never visited either and was quite uninformed on the subject, he was hardly in a position to do so.

To this I replied that there are undoubted and visible differences between the two buildings. So the secretary advised me to write out the distinctions in German for his personal information so that he could then explain the points to the District Commissioner, who would then forward the paper to the Tribunal, together with his endorsement of the petitions which he would no doubt accord because of his esteem for the Duke.

“If you do this,” he added, “your enemies in Úsov will not be able to complain about the building you erect, as it will be in accordance with the authorised plan.”

I thanked the Secretary for his advice and assistance, and hastened to find a room where I could compose a list of the definitions undisturbed. In a hotel room in Olomouc I thus wrote out in German the nine distinctions between a synagogue and a house of worship:

  The Synagogue The House of Worship
1. This is built to a height of 13 ells (the draper’s measure) or 6 mason’s measures. This is built to a height of 5 ells or 2 measures of the mason.
2. This is vaulted by the bricklayers and finished with glazed tiles by masons. This has a ceiling of boards, made by carpenters.
3. The windows are very high in proportion to their width, and are bow-shaped at the top, like the windows in the Temple. The windows are proportional to the size of the building and are square at the top like the windows of a house.
4. The Holy Ark containing the Scrolls is built into the eastern wall so that the doors of the Ark are even with the walls, and the curtain is drawn before the Ark. The Holy Ark is made in the form of a box or wardrobe and stands against the wall, with a curtain before it, and is moveable.
5. There is a raised platform in the centre, and on it a table to hold the Scrolls. The table rests on the floor, raised one step only.
6. The women’s part of the building is on the first floor, a sort of gallery, occupying the western portion, and communicates by means of large windows with the main part to allow the women to hear the Chazan. The women’s part is on the same level with the men’s portion, only a thin board partition separating them. They also have separate entrances from the street.
7. The members’ seats are partitioned off one from another by boards 1 ell square. The seats are the private property of the members, to sell, or leave to their children, and each member has a separate praying stand with inclined top. The members’ seats are not separated. The seats are not their private property to sell or leave to their children. Nor does each one have a stand, but two share a small table to lay their Bibles and Prayer Books on.
8. There are a number of chandeliers suspended from the vault down to within 3 measures from the floor. Some are brass, some iron, some for candles and some for oil, to light the Synagogue. The men’s portion and the women’s have only one suspended chandelier each. Sufficient light is obtained by having lamps nailed to the walls of the House of Worship.
9. There is no warming oven or stove, in order not to reduce it to the level of a house. This has an oven like any respectable private house.

Back                        Next