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Sefer Vladimirets

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The Spiritual Source

From: Sefer Vladimirets, 1963

Author: Sarah Proust (Dik)

** Webmaster Note: The following is a translation from Hebrew by Laia Ben-Dov as sponsored by George Zilbergeld. Additional clarifications are provided in parenthesis ( ).


I almost do not remember my father, of blessed memory.  I was very young when he died.  But my mother stands before me as if she were alive, and I always think of her.  She was a symbol of a pure-hearted woman.  I don't remember her ever sitting with her hands folded; she always had plenty of work to do.

She bore her difficult life, the life of a widow, in amazing silence.  She was modest and G-d-fearing.  Sometimes she would read the Tanach [Bible].  The book Tsena U'Re'ena [a Yiddish commentary on the Bible for women] did not depart from her eyes; she would study it deeply and found in it fountains of blessing for educating the next generation and instilling ethics in their hearts.  "How does one impart these values of Judaism to children?" she would repeatedly ask.

Always, when I read the poem by H. N. Bialik "My Mother, of Blessed Memory," her noble image appears before my eyes.  To her, the life of the soul and spirit was the main thing, and material life was unimportant.  This is the idea that is expressed in that poem, and it is as if his wonderful lines arise in my heart all by themselves:

"My mother, of blessed memory, was a completely righteous woman

And in her widowhood, she was wretchedly poor.

It was the Sabbath eve; the sun was at the tops of the trees

And in her house, there was no candle and no festive meal.


"She searched and found more.  A miracle, two small coins

"The bread, with candles!" she decided.

She ran, and returned, and in her thin hand the holy burden:

Two candles for the blessing.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

"My mother almost opened her dim eyes and I saw

The light of the seven days [of Creation] shining there

Because the Shechina [Holy Presence of G-d] kissed them

The merit of the righteous woman will stand

For us and all of Israel."

Only a poet like Bialik was able to find such deep and faithful expression of the image of his mother, who certainly resembled many other righteous and pure mothers.

But I do not have the strength of a poet in order to raise many, many spiritual gems of the magnificence of a Jewish mother, and bring them up as a spiritual asset.

My mother was an honest and sincere woman.  I never saw her in consultation with chattering, gossiping women; she never was jealous of others and she did not complain about her difficult situation she bore her burdens quietly and with love.

But not only in secret; she also knew how to explain her conduct from a wish to transmit her values to others.  More than once, I heard her explanation of the verse, "Me'ayin yavo ezri?" ["From where will my help come?"]:

"Here, "Me'ayin" is written [The Hebrew word "me'ayin" in this verse means "from where" but it can also mean "from nothing".]  Truly, if we deserve it, help can come from nothing, apparently from not a thing, in any case, not from material efforts."

She educated us in this spirit to be satisfied with a little, with what there is, without any hatred or jealousy of others. 

When I was a little girl, I would come and tell my mother, with great sorrow, that I had seen pretty dresses, pretty socks and the like at my friend's; I would complain that I didn't have such things.  My mother would look at me with sadness that had in it some higher understanding, and quietly say to me: 

"My daughter, have you ever seen one of your girlfriends wearing two pairs of socks at the same time?  Or two dresses one on top of the other?  You also have one pair.  You have nothing to complain about, my daughter."

She never raised her voice.  She would speak and explain calmly and pleasantly.  I still have a bundle of letters from her and every once in a while I return to them as if to a wellspring.  I leaf through them and wonder at all of the glory and kindness hidden in them.  They also will tell me about all of the poverty and sorrow, and the lights of hope, the hope to immigrate to the Land of Israel, the Land of her longings, to be together with me and to merit that all the rest of her children would also come here.

Several days before that bitter day the day of the massacre she already knew that we had no escape from the hands of the hangmen, and she begged my brothers to do everything they could to escape, and that their love and concern for her should not be a hindrance to their rescue.  Indeed, two of my brothers succeeded in fleeing and hiding.  My third brother had been drafted into the Red Army.

She walked alone that day on her last road, the road of annihilation.  I am certain that at that moment, her heart was not concerned for herself, but for her children who were seeking refuge and escape, and for me, her daughter, who was so far away on safe shores, and that she was praying that G-d would help us.

Roots and Branches

More than once, I have asked myself, what was the spiritual source of the people of our town?  After the few lines I have written about my mother, of blessed memory, it is superfluous to add an investigation of the roots of our lives and the values of our souls.  Here, this is the source!  There were many others like my mother in our town, and from this came the spiritual climate.  In our day, these roots have grown new buds and branches, and the Zionist movement was one of these the youth organizations, the library, the school, the dramatic club, activities on behalf of the Zionist funds, and the like.

The same enthusiasm, dedication and good will that in the past had served in the fields of religion, now began to be revealed in new fields the blue charity box, found in almost every home.  Everything that happened in the Land of Israel awakened echoes with us.  We found new bottles for old wine: here, for example, before the Passover holiday as in the past, now also, certain homeowners established temporary bakeries for baking matzot.  We girls, members of the movement, volunteered to roll out the matzot every day hard work that was done manually.  We stood and rolled for entire days.  Our feet were hurting and our hands swollen, but our hearts rejoiced and were proud we did what we did for the Jewish National Fund.

What a great characteristic it was the various organizations, stormy arguments all for the sake of Heaven, in other words:  in order to prove that the movement to which you belonged was the best one and that its path was the right one.  I belonged to the Beitar movement.  How many are the experiences and memories I have I remember the arrival of the first lecturer, Dr. Lipman.  To this day I remember his lecture, his warnings, the interruptions and his well-aimed answers to his opponents.  And I do not have to say how great was the emotion and excitement of those whose hearts were drawn to the Beitar movement.  From here, we accompanied Lipman to the nearby town of Brezhnitz.  From now on, mutual visits began between us and the nearby towns and our connections became stronger, because we were not from different settlements the Beitar movement made us into a single unit.

Here, there appears before me the image of our dear friend, Aharon Milstein.  He was the officer of the local group.  Most of his time was dedicated to the movement, but he did not merit to fulfill his dream and immigrate to the Land.

There were wonderful people and enterprises.  Among these, our library deserves to be mentioned.  I was active in and for the library for a long time if one considers the population of our town, which was not very large, the library, in proportion, was very large and deserves special mention.  It contained many books in Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian.

There were many sources for obtaining books, and our members invested a lot of hard work in all of them.  There were plays, the income from which was dedicated to the library.  Some of us wore costumes on Purim and appeared as clowns who went from door to door, presenting skits from a program at each house and receiving a cash payment, which also was dedicated to the library.  In this field, Pesach Tscherniak, who was a talented comic, was wonderful.  And thus, all of the means were used to obtain one book after another.  After the school was closed, the library was perhaps the main source from which we drew Torah and knowledge.  These matters, of course, relate to those who remained in the town and did not leave it.  But it should be pointed out that many of the sons of the town travelled to other cities to learn Torah.  I will not miss the truth if I say that our youth was not at all backward, in comparison to youth from other places.  The desire to know was great, and what prevented them from obtaining an education through accepted public channels such as a school, they obtained by themselves.  I will not exaggerate if I will say that they were killing themselves in the tents of Torah.

When the youth from big cities would visit us, we were able to see that we were not backward, not worth less; on the contrary, we saw that we were better than they were.  Our assets were more established and deeper.  They, sons of the big city, certainly saw more films than we did, and even theatre presentations.  But they were marked by superficiality and frivolousness, which are outstanding signs of those who are easily given everything, and our members always indicated gravity and seriousness, and an unusual thirst for learning.   The learning was generally auto-didactic, but the lectures and literary causes that we organized helped a great deal to deepen and widen our knowledge.

Over time, there were many librarians, and each of them invested his best energies and abilities in the library.  Here, I wish to especially mention Yosef Beider and Miriam Komisar, both of blessed memory, who were active in the library for many years and did a lot toward its improvement and expansion.  The library was lost, together with its founders and caretakers.  But those who survived remember its blessed source, a source faithful to our youth who were thirsty for knowledge.

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