Children of the Ghetto eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 573 pages of information about Children of the Ghetto.
Barracks and convents stood on Zion’s hill.  His brethren, rulers by divine right of the soil they trod, were lost in the chaos of populations—­Syrians, Armenians, Turks, Copts, Abyssinians, Europeans—­as their synagogues were lost amid the domes and minarets of the Gentiles.  The city was full of venerated relics of the Christ his people had lived—­and died—­to deny, and over all flew the crescent flag of the Mussulman.

And so every Friday, heedless of scoffing on-lookers, Mendel Hyams kissed the stones of the Wailing Place, bedewing their barrenness with tears; and every year at Passover, until he was gathered to his fathers, he continued to pray:  “Next year—­in Jerusalem!”

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE HEBREW’S FRIDAY NIGHT.

“Ah, the Men-of-the-Earth!” said Pinchas to Reb Shemuel, “ignorant fanatics, how shall a movement prosper in their hands?  They have not the poetic vision, their ideas are as the mole’s; they wish to make Messiahs out of half-pence.  What inspiration for the soul is there in the sight of snuffy collectors that have the air of Schnorrers? with Karlkammer’s red hair for a flag and the sound of Gradkoski’s nose blowing for a trumpet-peal.  But I have written an acrostic against Guedalyah the greengrocer, virulent as serpent’s gall.  He the Redeemer, indeed, with his diseased potatoes and his flat ginger-beer!  Not thus did the great prophets and teachers in Israel figure the Return.  Let a great signal-fire be lit in Israel and lo! the beacons will leap up on every mountain and tongue of flame shall call to tongue.  Yea, I, even I, Melchitsedek Pinchas, will light the fire forthwith.”

“Nay, not to-day,” said Reb Shemuel, with his humorous twinkle; “it is the Sabbath.”

The Rabbi was returning from synagogue and Pinchas was giving him his company on the short homeward journey.  At their heels trudged Levi and on the other side of Reb Shemuel walked Eliphaz Chowchoski, a miserable-looking Pole whom Reb Shemuel was taking home to supper.  In those days Reb Shemuel was not alone in taking to his hearth “the Sabbath guest”—­some forlorn starveling or other—­to sit at the table in like honor with the master.  It was an object lesson in equality and fraternity for the children of many a well-to-do household, nor did it fail altogether in the homes of the poor.  “All Israel are brothers,” and how better honor the Sabbath than by making the lip-babble a reality?

“You will speak to your daughter?” said Pinchas, changing the subject abruptly.  “You will tell her that what I wrote to her is not a millionth part of what I feel—­that she is my sun by day and my moon and stars by night, that I must marry her at once or die, that I think of nothing in the world but her, that I can do, write, plan, nothing without her, that once she smiles on me I will write her great love-poems, greater than Byron’s, greater than Heine’s—­the real Song of Songs, which is Pinchas’s—­that I will make her immortal as Dante made Beatrice, as Petrarch made Laura, that I walk about wretched, bedewing the pavements with my tears, that I sleep not by night nor eat by day—­you will tell her this?” He laid his finger pleadingly on his nose.

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Children of the Ghetto from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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