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March 19, 2003

Shalom Eilat,

War is coming tomorrow!

How did they debate in Volozhin 89 years ago?

Please read :

The strategy specialists' are debating the results of the oncoming war.

Volozhin during the First World War

By Reuven Rogovin

Translated from VYB p. 343, by M. Porat

Reuven Rogovin

It's a pleasure to read Reuven's stories. His memory was phenomenal. His humor was the quintessential Yiddish humor of the Litvak Shtetl's. One could sense in every sentence his great love for his neighbors. Reuven was born in Volozhin in 1905. He recognized the danger that the Jews would be facing under German invasion and was one of the very few Volozhiners who escaped to Russia before the Nazis entered the Shtetl. He survived the war, together with his wife and children in Russia. Part of the time he served as an officer in the Red Army. He left USSR and made aliya through Poland in 1958. He contributed a great deal to the Volozhin Yizkor Book describing the Shtetl's every day life.

Reuven, God bless his soul, passed away in Israel in 1972.




The strategy specialists' are debating the results of the oncoming war.

Page 343

When the Austro Hungarian crown prince was killed in Sarajevo, a group of Volozhin Balebatim sat inside the Klayzl-Syngogue discussing the future events. Among them were Fayve der Shnayder (tailor), Oyzer der Raznostshik (mailman), Meyer Peshe Yentes, Naftoli der Eynbinder (book binder).

They came to the conclusion that the war would not reach our shtetl and therefore the Volozhin inhabitants should be relaxed.

" Russia is mighty and huge. She is entitled to behave as per the Tsar's desire. Russia might lead the war against the Germans in Siberia, against the Avstraks (Austrians) in Caucasus and if so would be her desire she could fight against all her enemies in the large steppes of the Ukraine or in the deserts of Mandjuria. All depends on decisions that would be made by the High Command of the Tsar's army"

Such was the conclusion of Oyzer der Raznostshik, Volozhin’s most competent "Strategist".

Nahumke Telzer, the Yeshiva man, who during the debate was reading a book, lifted his head abruptly and said:

"Rabeyssay (my masters), Please let me tell you a true story."

The audience became attentive and Reb Nahumke initiate his tale:

"A Jew, a very poor tenant farmer had six very ugly and loathsome daughters. Due to their homeliness it was impossible to find bridegrooms for them. One day a shadkhn (Matchmaker) arrived in the lessee's home with exiting news.

"I have an "excellent party" for your eldest (Who was the ugliest) daughter, but I cannot reveal the bridegroom's name fearing very much your anger."

The Jew swore on his Peysses and beard that nothing evil would happen to the shadkhn after the name was told. The shadkhn became courageous and exposed the secret: "The suggested bridegroom is none other but the sole son of count Tishkevith, the Volozhin region's very rich land and forests owner."

The lessee became very angry hearing to whom his daughter was indicated to be a bride. "It could never be". He said, "I would never let my daughter convert to Christianity." The shadkhn left the lessee's house empty handed.

But the proposed "Shiduch" began to settle in the lessee's head. His wife too was insisting, "maybe its worth accepting the proposition. We would become rich; it's not a joke to have a count as our daughter's father-in-law. It would greatly improve and probably totally alter our financial status."

The lessee called the shadkhn and told him:

"After experiencing difficult internal conflicts I decided to give my daughter as a wife to the son of the count."

"Beautiful", answered the shadkhn, "now we have to get to the next step, your agreement alone is not enough, now we should obtain the count's and his son's agreement."

"And the moral of this story is", continued Reb Nokhemke, "You claim that as per her desire Russia would be able to lead the fights in Ukraine, in Mandjuria or wherever she would choose, but did you already obtain Germany's and Austria's approval? Are you sure that they would agree to lead the battles in those places, precisely?"