Kirshenblatt, Mayer (1916-2009)
Shulklaper, c. 1995
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 40 in.
"Preparation for the Sabbath was a big production, what with the baking, cooking, and cleaning. Mother got up very early Friday morning. After she was done with the cooking and baking, the last thing she did was to scrub the kitchen floor. Both the floor and the kitchen furniture were made of unpainted pine. Mother poured a bucket of water on the floor, got down on her knees, and scrubbed the bare wood with a brush and a scouring powder called bjelydlo. It was a combination bleach and abrasive. She would mop up the water with a rag. From constant scrubbing, the floor and furniture became a beautiful ivory color. You could see the grain in the burnished wood because the scrubbing wore away the softer part of the grain and exposed the pattern. We had to remove our muddy shoes when we came into the house.
Mother then set the table with the best linen for the Friday night meal. The Sabbath begins Friday evening, precisely at sunset. Many people did not have clocks or watches and could not tell when it was time to light the Sabbath candles. A shulklaper, or knocker, went from house to house. He would rap on the shutters and cry out, 'Women, women! Itís time to light the candles and go to the synagogue.' Through the window, you can see the table set for the Sabbath."