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       rites of passage


from Memories of Ozarow, by Hillel Adler.

On market days Yankel from Lasocin got up at dawn. He would fill up his round basket with cheese and eggs, then sling it over his back. On the way he would also grab a few chickens by their feet. Taking a narrow path that wound through the fields, he merrily trudged the six kilometres to Ozarow where he sold his wares.

Once his merchandise had been turned to cash, he would go to visit his friend Itche-Nissim and share a nice glass of tea with him. And what would these two cronies talk about? Everything and nothing, of their children and of their marriages to come. So it was that one day Yankel let his friend Itche-Nissim in on his brilliant idea: "Why not join the destinies of our children? Your Moishe can marry my Golda. They would make a handsome couple, and since the two of us have gotten along so well for such a long time, all the difficulties of the match will be ironed out."

Itche-Nissim raised no objection. True, the daughter of his friend was just a simple peasant ..... but she was worth several of her kind! As for Yankel, the idea of marrying off his daughter to a boy from town appealed to him! He proudly took the road back, and as soon as he arrived in Lasocin, he ran to tell the good news to his wife, daughter and friends.

The preparations for the marriage began. Yankel's house was scrubbed and freshly painted with whitewash. Shoes and pumps were waxed to shine with all their lustre during the traditional dances. Even Yankel greased his boots.

The day so eagerly awaited arrived. In keeping with tradition, the father of the bride left to meet his future son-in-law, his family and the guests. Yankel welcomed the young man and solemnly led him and his escort to Lasocin. A master of ceremonies with lots of verve enlivened the atmosphere. At the sound of the violins and the accordion, the entire party repaired to the site of the ceremony.

Two merry young men carried a foot stool on which the master of ceremonies was enthroned. Everyone egged him on: "Come on! Tell us a few jokes. Make us laugh because it's a celebration today!"

The master of ceremonies glanced at the young bride, blushing with emotion and clinging to her mother's arm. With a few broad winks, he quieted down the crowd. He seemed to be telling everyone: "But wait! Wait until this 'schmoiger', this simpleton Moishe arrives! As soon as he shows the tip of his nose, flanked by his father-in-law Yanek and Itche-Nissim, I'll throw him a few gibes of my own invention. You'll tell me how they go over!"

What emotion when Golda, her face veiled, was led under the wedding canopy! The master of ceremonies didn't disappoint his audience!

He didn't miss a trick, alternating pearls of wit with expressions of joy and hope which brought tears to every eye.

Then came the traditional dances. Everyone formed a circle around the newlyweds. Moishe the "simpleton", on cloud nine, didn't touch ground! Drunk with joy, he passed the most beautiful day of his life. "Mazel tov! Mazel tov! L'chayim!" And the glasses clinked joyously, merging their crystalline tinkle with the throb of the band and the song which everyone chorused......

In dem groissen dorf
freilich is a tzind
Yanek der Mechit'n
macht chasene a kind.
Oy da dy'a dana
Oy da dy'a da

Through the village
joy runs wild
for fath'r-in-law Yanek's
wed his child.
Oy da dy'a dana
Oy da dy'a da


Ożarów 16

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