Beautiful Sara lay in a faint, as pale as death, while a swarm of excited women crowded around her, one holding her head, another her arm, while some old women sprinkled her with the glasses of water which hung behind their prayer desks for washing the hands in case they should by accident touch their own bodies. Others held under her nose an old lemon full of spices, which was left over from the last feast-day, when it had served for smelling and strengthening the nerves. Exhausted and sighing deeply, Beautiful Sara at last opened her eyes, and with mute glances thanked them for their kind care. But now the eighteen-prayer, which no one dared neglect, was being solemnly chanted below, and the busy women hurried back to their places and offered the prayer as the rite ordains, that is, standing up with their faces turned toward the east, which is that part of the heavens where Jerusalem lies. Birdie Ochs, Schnapper-Elle, and Puppy Reiss stayed to the last with Beautiful Sara—the first two to aid her as much as possible, the other two to find out why she had fainted so suddenly.
Beautiful Sara had swooned from a singular cause. It is a custom in the synagogue that any one who has escaped a great danger shall, after the reading of the extracts from the Law, appear in public and return thanks for his divine deliverance. As Rabbi Abraham rose to his feet to make his prayer, and Beautiful Sara recognized her husband’s voice, she noticed that his voice gradually subsided into the mournful murmur of a prayer for the dead. She heard the names of her dear kinsfolk, accompanied by the words which convey the blessing on the departed; and the last hope vanished from her soul, for it was torn by the certainty that those dear ones had really been slain, that her little niece was dead, that her little cousins Posy and Birdy were dead, that little Gottschalk too was dead—all murdered and dead! And she, too, would have succumbed to the agony of this realization, had not a kind swoon poured forgetfulness over her senses.
When Beautiful Sara, after divine service was ended, went down into the courtyard of the synagogue, the Rabbi stood there waiting for her. He nodded to her with a cheerful expression, and accompanied her out into the street, where there was no longer silence but a noisy multitude. It was like a swarm of ants—bearded men in black coats, women gleaming and fluttering like gold-chafers, boys in new clothes carrying prayer-books after their parents, young girls who, because they could not enter the synagogue, now came bounding to their parents, bowing their curly heads to receive their blessing—all gay and merry, and walking up and down the street in the happy anticipation of a good dinner, the savory odor of which—causing their mouths to water—rose from many black pots, marked with chalk, and carried by smiling girls from the large community kitchens.