Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

Basic HTML Version

Samuel Pi t l ik
T h e great synagogue of Lemberg was crowded w i th an ex-
pec tan t audience. A rare event was to take place tha t afternoon:
one of the im po r tan t leaders of the Jewish communi ty was to
deliver an address. A t last the momen t came. W i th dignity and
self-assurance the speaker ascended the p la t form in f ron t of the
ark. Silence descended on the congregation as he smoothed his
beard p repa ra to ry to beginning. They waited. Again the speaker
smoothed his beard and passed his hand across his forehead.
Moments passed. Once more the hand went up and a few
mumb led sounds followed. T h e audience fidgeted; the si tuat ion
was becoming painful , then ridiculous. Bu t they dared not
laugh, for this man was a power in the i r midst. Finally, wi th a
gesture ha lf despair, ha lf resignation, the speaker found his
voice. Instead of a speech, however, he offered a confession. He
had wan ted to deliver a sermon, bu t knowing his own limitat ions
in mat ters of scholarship, had asked someone else to p repare it
and had studied it by heart . Now the presence of the congrega-
tion h ad dr iven the speech ou t of his mind . W ha t was to be
done? H e begged the pa rdon of the audience. Bu t the man had
a sense of humor . He may have forgotten the speech, b u t he
remembered tha t it was a very good one. H e therefore suggested
tha t the wr i ter be invi ted to take his place and deliver it. By
this time the strained atmosphere in the synagogue was relaxed
and the people were eager to see and hear the unknown preacher.
And one can almost hear the m u rm u r of as tonishment when, at
the call of the man on the platform, a young man, almost a boy,
came forward shyly. H e began; and as he spoke his shyness left
h im and his thoughts and manne r amazed and charmed his
audience. I t was a memorable occasion, and thereaf ter no one
in Lemberg doub ted tha t young Solomon J u d a h R apopo r t was
dest ined to be famous in Israel.
Excerpts from an as yet unpub l ished work by Dr. Pitlik,
So lomon Judah
Loeb R a p o p o r t , H i s L i fe and Works.
- 47-