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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 573 pages of information about Children of the Ghetto.

He had been at it all day, and he went on far into the small hours, shaking his body backwards and forwards without remission.

CHAPTER XVI.

THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRIK.

Meckisch was a Chasid, which in the vernacular is a saint, but in the actual a member of the sect of the Chasidim whose centre is Galicia.  In the eighteenth century Israel Baal Shem, “the Master of the Name,” retired to the mountains to meditate on philosophical truths.  He arrived at a creed of cheerful and even stoical acceptance of the Cosmos in all its aspects and a conviction that the incense of an enjoyed pipe was grateful to the Creator.  But it is the inevitable misfortune of religious founders to work apocryphal miracles and to raise up an army of disciples who squeeze the teaching of their master into their own mental moulds and are ready to die for the resultant distortion.  It is only by being misunderstood that a great man can have any influence upon his kind.  Baal Shem was succeeded by an army of thaumaturgists, and the wonder-working Rabbis of Sadagora who are in touch with all the spirits of the air enjoy the revenue of princes and the reverence of Popes.  To snatch a morsel of such a Rabbi’s Sabbath Kuggol, or pudding, is to insure Paradise, and the scramble is a scene to witness. Chasidism is the extreme expression of Jewish optimism.  The Chasidim are the Corybantes or Salvationists of Judaism.  In England their idiosyncrasies are limited to noisy jubilant services in their Chevrah, the worshippers dancing or leaning or standing or writhing or beating their heads against the wall as they will, and frisking like happy children in the presence of their Father.

Meckisch also danced at home and sang “Tiddy, riddy, roi, toi, toi, toi, ta,” varied by “Rom, pom, pom” and “Bim, bom” in a quaint melody to express his personal satisfaction with existence.  He was a weazened little widower with a deep yellow complexion, prominent cheek bones, a hook nose and a scrubby, straggling little beard.  Years of professional practice as a mendicant had stamped his face with an anguished suppliant conciliatory grin, which he could not now erase even after business hours.  It might perhaps have yielded to soap and water but the experiment had not been tried.  On his head he always wore a fur cap with lappets for his ears.  Across his shoulders was strung a lemon-basket filled with grimy, gritty bits of sponge which nobody ever bought.  Meckisch’s merchandise was quite other.  He dealt in sensational spectacle.  As he shambled along with extreme difficulty and by the aid of a stick, his lower limbs which were crossed in odd contortions appeared half paralyzed, and, when his strange appearance had attracted attention, his legs would give way and he would find himself with his back on the pavement, where he waited to be picked up by sympathetic spectators shedding silver and copper.  After an indefinite number of performances Meckisch would hurry home in the darkness to dance and sing “Tiddy, riddy, roi, toi, bim, bom.”

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