Page 75 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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5 5
a m u e l
— T
h e
r ib u n e
o f
t h e
o lu s
Moscow. Unfortunately, he could not transact his business in less
than ten days, so when the permit expired he stayed on furtively,
hoping to escape the attention of the authorities. On the sixth
day, however, he was accosted by a policeman who asked him:
when did you get here?” The Jew thought quickly: he
needed four days more—a day more than his permit allowed. He
answered: “Tomorrow.”
He was aware that the answer would get him nowhere. Even
a Russian policeman—after due consultation with his superiors
—would see the absurdity of the reply. But this nonsense reversal
of time was a sort of echo of the nonsense treatment of the Jews.
It did the Jewish merchant a world of good to have put it so
neatly. Beside which he had the satisfaction of having shown up
the stupidity of the system symbolized by the policeman.
Er hot
im areingezogt in taten arein—he
told him off good and proper.
A second story comes down
b’al peh
from Sholom Aleichem
himself—I have not been able to find it in his writings. This
story is in a wholly Jewish setting, and indicates that the tech-
nique of verbal reversal, which turned the accused into the
accuser, and by implication, the oppressed into the avenger,
was for domestic consumption too. A Jewish merchant came into
a silk warehouse and ordered a large quantity of goods. The
owner had never seen him before, and was delighted when the
new customer paid cash on the spot. Just before leaving, the
customer suddenly said:
“Oy vay is mir, ich hob fargessen tzu
davvenen minchah.
I ’ve forgotten to say the afternoon prayers.
Please let me go into one of your rooms to
davven m i n c h a h
or warehouse owner, answered:
“M it fargennigen,”
and led him into a room, where he left him. A little later the
passed that way again, looked in through a crack in
the door, and saw his new customer stuffing his capacious pockets
with silk handkerchieves, silk stockings and silk scarves. The
let it pass, and wrote it down to public relations. Three
or four months later the same customer appeared, again bought
handsomely, again paid cash on the spot, and again broke into
the lament:
“Oy vay is mir, ich hob fargessen tzu damtenen
followed by the same request. Again the
“M it fargennigen”—
and led his customer into an empty
room. Whereupon the latter turned upon him and said sadly,
“Ay zeit ir a ganevV*
These stories are not satisfactorily translatable. In the second
one the operative word “ganev” means both thief and “sly one,”
for which “rogue” might be substituted—“What a rogue
are”—but with much loss of effect. In the first one, however,
we have a technically accurate translation, and there is still a
loss of effect. I have sometimes told the first story to a predomi­