Friday, August 21, 2009

Jewish Warsaw December 1868(?) from the letters of Miriam Merkel

The following is an excerpt from the letters of Miriam Merkel from here. I believe that the article I posted here was also written by the same Miriam but I am not sure about the last name. An interview with the publisher of Miriams letters can be found here:

"הימים אשר אשבה פה יחלופו לי כתמורות קדחת; פעם אבקר בבתי הטיאטראות, ושם אשבע עונג ממראה עיני וממשמע אזני; או אבקר בבתי רעים ומכירים אשר נודעו לי מכבר, ואשר הכרתי זה מחדש; או אשוטט ברחובות קריה בחברת אחי, ושם יקדמוני מחזות ממחזות שונים, כדעת לנבון נקל בעיר גדול לאלהים כווארשא, אשר תהום מאדם רב, והמון לאומים יתערבו ויתבוללו בה, שונים בלשונותם ומלבושיהם; וביתר שאת אשתעשע אם אפגוש ברחוב איש חסיד, שלש אמה ארכו וטפחים עביו, מעילו ארך שולים יורד על רגליו, ויסחב על רצפת האבנים כסרח העודף; והוא עולה מן הרחצה, הלוך וטפוף ילך; פאות ראשו דקות ושדופות קדים, משחק לרוח הנה, ונוטפות מי מקוה, ובפגשו אשה על דרכו, יעות פניו ויסב ראשו אחורנית כאלו אחזהו השבץ".
Translation (sort of):

The days that I reside here [in Warsaw] go by like the passing of a fever. Sometimes I go to he theatre and I revel in what my eye sees and my ear hears, or I visit friend that I knew in the past but recognize only recently, or I go travel through the streets of the city together with my brother, and I am greeted by many different sights, as one can expect to see in a great city like Warsaw, that clamors with many people, and many nationalities mix together divided by their clothing and language. And still greater is my enjoyment when I meet in the street a Chassid, 3 Amos wide and 2 Tefachim thick[1], his coat long, the lapels going down to his legs, dragiing on the floor like the train of a gown, arising from washing [in the mikvah], walking with exact steps. His pe'ot thin and windblown, like a game for the wind, dripping waters of the mikvah water, and if he meets a woman, he will turn hs face and jump backwards as if he was grabbed by a seizure.

[1] Miriam was a misnagid like most maskilim as can be seen by her condemnation of Eliezer Zweiful for his Shalom Al Yisrael defneding Hasidism. I don't quite get this expression, I assume she means "short and fat".


Yitzhak said...

I don't get your interpretation ofשלש אמה ארכו וטפחים עביו. Three Amos is the normal height of a man, according to Hazal. You've translated ארכו as "wide", but why?

Wolf2191 said...

You are right. I thought she was trying to say someting insulting so I confused Archo and Rachbo in my mind

Thanks for the correction.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

On the contrary, I guess she meant gaunt and emaciated.

Creative Commons License
Ishim V' Shittos by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at