Listen to the music:Chorale la Cle des Chants- Shalom Aleichem
Page 46 from this book reads:”Writing about his childhood playmate in Woronko, Shmoulik the Orphan, who was raised by the local Rabbi, half a century later in “From the Fair”, my father still marveled at that small boy’s inexhaustible imagination, which, he said, enriched his own mind and widened his horizon… “Elements of Shmoulik’s dreams” were carried in his heart, perhaps in a different form, to this very day”.
Shmoulik’s stories ran the gamut from a strange adventure of the Rabbi and his wife to a princess in a crystal palace, to twelve robbers in the woods, to witches and ghosts and creatures, that were half human, half beast.
“How did you know of these things?”, asked Sholom to Shmoulik.
The boy replies:”Why, silly, that’s nothing. Why I know how to pump wine from walls, draw olive oil from the ceiling”.
Shmoulik answered: “These gifts were nothing special, for I could also turn sand into gold, and bits of glass and pottery into diamonds and jewels”.
“But how?”, insisted Sholom on knowing Shmoulik’s secrets.
“With cabala!”, Shmoulik said,”Rabbi, with whom I live, is a cabalist. Everybody knows that. He never sleeps.”
Cabala was the esoteric medieval Jewish cult.
“Rabbi can do things nobody else can do. At his word, all the 12 wells of quicksilver open to him, and all the 13 gardens of pure safron, and gold and silver and diamonds, and jewels appear before him, as much you almost don’t want any”.
“So why”, Sholom asked,”do you always go hungry? Why can’t the Rabbi provide for you a decent meal, at least for the Sabbath?”
Shmoulik stopped without knowing what to answer.
“Because”, he cried,”because he wants to be poor! He would suffer in his life. He is doing penance”.
Sholom was fascinated by his friend’s story of magic wishing stones rubbed against each other to make a wish, yet he noticed Shmoulik’s “dry lips, pale face, and dreamy eyes” and his hunger to satisfy which Sholom wanted to steal some food from his mother’s store.
Then Shmoulik’s mother showed up suddenly out of nowhere and took him away. Sholom was never to see or hear from him again.
Sholom Aleichem (A pen name), real name was Sholom Rabinowitz (1859-1916) lived a typical life of a Jewish person with ups and downs, and mentality of his own:”How to make a better living for himself and his big family”.
A businessman and a literaty personality emerged so close in him that at times one wanders where the reality is and where is his daydream. He wrote in Yiddish, Hebrew, and was renown by his community as an early supporter of Zionism, a contributor to literary journals. His works were translated into many spoken languages and even he was transmitted as “Fiddler on the Roof”.
Thanks to the author of the book who gave us a lucky chance to read about Sholom Aleichem’s ebullient nature and intellectual civility, triumphing over hardships of his life, over his ill health and the anguish of world crisis, how all this pervaded even his will: he asked that the anniversary of his death be celebrated by reading “one of the very merry” of his stories, so that his name might be “recalled with laughter”.
So we did.
All started from childhood when two teenagers spent a lot of time together dreaming. “Where are you, my old friend Shmoulik?” Sholom would have asked and at long-long last would have heard the response:” I am forever with you, silly”, 94 years later.
Take a look at the photos of this book, then children’s drawings and listen to the weird music from the past: