Page images

tremblingly to the New Year's day, the day of Judgment on which he is to appear on trial before the great Judge, who is called “God the Great, the Mighty and the Tremendous,” before whom every Jew has to square up accounts once a year at least, mindful of (Aboth-I, 2): “Know what is above thee — a seeing eye, and a hearing ear, and all thy deeds are written in a book," and (Aboth-III, 19): “The shop is open and the dealer (God) gives credit, and the ledger lies open, and the hand writes, and whosoever wishes may come and borrow; but the collectors regularly make their round, and exact payment from man, whether he be content or not; and they have that whereon to rely in their demand; and the judgment is a judgment of truth”; he invests every spare moment in the preparation for this day of which Ellul is but the precursor for the Day of Memorial on which God

calls to memory his faults and sins of the past year. He spends his time in serious reflection. He endeavors to make good wrongs which he may have committed against his neighbor. The potency of prayer prompts him to rise before the dawn of day in order to indulge in the propitiatory prayers in the synagogue, and to purify and cleanse his soul through fasting and the giving of alms.

Since time immemorial the respecting of the dead is a specific trait of the Jew. He is sure that no matter what life the departed may have led, his soul, through purgatory stages, in accordance with the quality and the quantity of his transgressions, will become pure and thus eventually be permitted to dwell in close proximity of the “ Shkhina.” In his unshakable belief in the efficacy of the intercedence of the sainted dead in his behalf, the Jew at no important event of his life fails to pay his respectful visit to the place of eternal rest, either to invite his beloved departed to his daughter's or his son's or his own wedding or other joyous affair, or, in case of sickness in the family, or pestilence, or in time of danger clouding the horizon, to implore them to plead for him before the throne of the Almighty. Most especially during the month of Ellul the Jews flock to the cemetery. Nearly every grave has some visitor or visitors who pour out their hearts to their dead of blessed memory. Some of the pleadings and appeals are tragi-comic, indeed, while others are heart-rending and but few of a pleasurable hue. For it matters not how great one's love and affection may be for one's deceased, one's prayers are usually few in time of affluence, and be one even ever so grateful, one is not prone to enumerate to the dead the bounties one has received and much less to ascribe it to their kind intervention. Many women, not seldom men also, talking and pleading aloud with the buried father or mother or other relative, or, in case the appellant be a stranger, to some one who had been renowned for his great piety, go so far as to assure the sainted one that they will not leave the spot until a promise is given that the prayers and petitions have been acquiesced to. They work themselves into a sort of a trance, and in their imagination believe they hear a “Baskol,” daughter of a voice, echoing assuagingly.

Before leaving the cemetery, as a mark of affection, the visitors have the “ Khazan” (reader) chant “ Ayl molay rakhamim - ” God full of mercy, etc., for the repose of the soul of the departed, and give money to the ever present poor and to charitable institutions. Thus they return home greatly relieved and encouraged.

It was in the month of Ellul. By a

lucky accident Gdalya overheard Leah telling a friend of her intention to visit the cemetery the next day. A thought flashed through his feverish brain. He retired to his room to work out his plan — his last recourse, with the execution of which our story begins.

Arriving at the cemetery he hid himself behind the bushes near the grave of Reb Khayim Sokoloff and breathlessly awaited Leah's arrival. He had but a few minutes to wait and he thanked chance that he had been early enough not to have been seen by her. The unhappy girl prostrated herself upon her father's grave. Her moans and cries were pitiful. She tore her garments and pulled frantically at her tresses. It required a deal of self-control for Gdalya Brunoff to go through such an ordeal. When Leah cried aloud in her frenzy: “Oh, woe is to me! Why hast thou forsaken me, my father? Who shall

« PreviousContinue »