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Simon Eichelkatz; The Patriarch Two Stories of Jewish Life   By:

Simon Eichelkatz; The Patriarch Two Stories of Jewish Life by Ulrich Frank

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Simon Eichelkatz

The Patriarch

Two Stories of Jewish Life

By Ulrich Frank

Translated From the German

[Illustration: colophon]

Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America



SEPTEMBER 9, 1900.

To day I was called to attend an old man who lives at the Flour Market, almost opposite the "New" Synagogue. The messenger told me I could not possibly miss the house, because the steps leading up to the old man's rooms were built on the outside; and this is in peculiar contrast to the modern architecture prevailing in the city. In fact, I do not know whether another house so curiously constructed is to be seen anywhere else in the place. And so I found it without much questioning. At any rate, I knew of the New Synagogue. I have never entered it, yet a soft, secret wave of religious feeling creeps over me each time I pass it, and that happens frequently. The synagogue lies on the road to the extensive factory quarter built up by one of the large manufacturers for his employees. My professional duties often take me there.

The synagogue! I always look at the simple structure, devoid of ornament, with mixed feelings of veneration and awe. I hold tradition in high regard. After all it counts for something that a man is the offspring of a pious race, which cherishes learning and Yichus . How does the Hebrew word happen to come to me? The synagogue keeps its grip on what belongs to it and on me, too! Yet I should not be able to pray within its walls although it was in such a place as this synagogue that my father taught the word of God.

In fact, is it possible for us moderns still to pray? And then those remarkable Hebrew words, unintelligible to most of us now Ovinu Malkenu! The Church has converted them into the Lord's Prayer, the most fervent of its prayers. Ovinu Malkenu! I see myself a little chap standing next to my father. How surcharged these words with belief and faith and hope when spoken by him: Ovinu Malkenu chosvenu be Sefer Parnossoh ve Chalkoloh "Give us this day our daily bread!"

Synagogue and church! Hebrew or German or Latin? The shrill call of the Shofar, or the soft sense enslaving tones of the organ? I believe modern man can pray only in the dumb speech of the heart.

It seems to me, if I were all alone in a synagogue, a devout mood would come over me; I would pray there. In Florence this happened to me once. It was very early in the morning; I was alone in a small church on the other side of the Arno, Santa Maria del Carmine, whose frescoes, painted by Masaccio, declare the joy and jubilation of man over his beauty and greatness. But, I remember, the words were Hebrew that sprang up in my heart, even if they did not pass my lips. So the dumb language of the soul has its familiar tones, its words endeared by association.

Truth compels me to admit that it was Simon Eichelkatz who prompted me to put these thoughts of mine down in writing.

My patient at the Flour Market! When I climbed the steep stairway, thoroughly scoured and strewn with white sand, I little suspected I should soon stand in the presence of one of the most interesting persons it had ever been my good fortune to meet. The stairway led directly into the kitchen. A long, lank individual received me there, and on my asking for Herr Eichelkatz, he answered testily: "I guess he's in the floored room." At the moment I could not imagine what he meant. Then I noticed that the flooring of the kitchen was only of cement, and I realized that he meant to convey that the room in which the patient waited had a wooden flooring.

"Will you lead me there?" I asked politely.

"Lead!" with a deprecating shrug of the shoulders. "Why should I lead? It's right here. They must be led. These new fashioned people must be led. Can't they walk by themselves?" At these not very friendly words, he pushed a door open and bawled in: "The doctor is here the Herr Kreisphysikus... Continue reading book >>

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