Thursday, June 24, 2010

Where is that street, where is that house?

A spot on the map.

From Prince in Prison:
"It's only 3:30 a.m.," said the man to himself, "and they've already brought in so many people tonight. So many people! Our comrades are working overtime. Me, too: four hours overtime!"
    He turned to me and asked: "Where are you from?"
    "I come from a little town," I said. "I don't know if you've ever heard of it. I was born in Lubavitchi. On one side there's the Rudnia train station between Vitebsk and Smolensk, and on the other side the Krasnoya station between Orsha and Smolensk."
    "Lubavitchi?" said the young man. "I know it well, I know it well. I’ve been there as a child. It's not so small: it had a big market place, right? And two houses of prayer,” he said thoughtfully. “And do you know Gusin?"
    I knew Gusin, its railway station, the surrounding villages. Many of my acquaintances lived there — Jews, of course. I did not know the local squires or landowners or villagers, for I had no contact with them.
    It now became clear that my earlier guess that this man was a gentile who came from those southern regions was correct.
    He continued, overwhelmed by memories: "The family of a holy man, I remember now, lived near the market place of Lubavitch, in a big courtyard in which there was a well with good water. Every time I visited the market place with my father I always ran to have a drink of water there, and we used to take water for our horses, too."
    "Yes, yes!" I responded, and my heart beat faster at the awakening of old memories. This was certainly a remarkable encounter, but who could tell whether this conversation would prove to my advantage or not? I almost decided to go to the head office.
    As I stood up I said, "I have to go to the head office."
    "Sure," said the man. "I'll go with you and show you what to do and with whom to speak. Have you been here before? Do you know what has to be done? Can you write?"
    "This is my first time here," I answered. "I don't know what I have to do nor what I have to write."
    "There are secretaries over there," he explained. "They'll ask the questions and write down whatever you answer. When you've filled out the questionnaire they'll escort you to the examination room. There they will take from you whatever is superfluous for a prisoner - your money, watch, and so on. You will then be handed over to one of the warders who will take you to the officer in charge of a certain wing, and you will sit in one of his cells."
    I rejoiced that G-d's mercy had given me the strength not to be alarmed by his words. I had evidently accustomed myself to my current situation and hoped to G-d that I would be able to maintain myself properly; that I would not allow Judaism to be trodden upon; that fearing no wicked or violent man, I would be able to transform my former firm decision into reality. [...]

* * *
What a lofty thing is the simple inner faith that every Jew inherits from our Patriarchs, the fathers of the world! How great is the power of complete trust! They are not only the foundations of our faith but also the foundations of every Jew's ordinary material life.
    "Give thanks to G-d for He is good!" Through His lovingkindness the opportunity arose for me to make a wrong turning into this corridor, which proved to be a refuge, a shield against the net of intimidation which Nachmanson and Lulov prepared for me.
    Divine Providence led me like that well-known bit of straw or that leaf, which is blown hither and thither by the wind. I was like them, but even more so, since the realm of the medaber [“the speaker”] is loftier than the vegetative realm; moreover, those who possess a holy [Jewish] soul are of higher standing than other members of the mortal realm. In a word, I was in the hands of Divine Providence.

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