Page 201 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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MEHLMAN/FROM A BIBLIOPHILES MEMOIRS
1 8 9
As a bibliophile and collector I benefited from his wide-
ranging knowledge and excellent memory. During one period I
attempted to gather in my library the polemical works against
Hasidism, and particularly the writings o f the disciples o f the
Gaon o f Vilna. Once I told Yehonatan Lapin that I wanted very
much to obtain a copy o f
Sefer Ha-Vikuah
by Israel Liebel, o f
Navoredok, a book which had been almost completely destroyed
by the Hasidim. Yehonatan Lapin wrinkled his brow, thought a
moment and then remarked: “Some decades ago I saw the book
in the home o f an old Jew, but it is doubtful i f he is still alive. His
family name is too common to be o f help, and his address is
unknown to me.” And with this scanty information I began my
search. By chance I learned from an old Jew on Meah Shearim
Street that the man in question, “whose years are those o f
Methusaleh,” was living with his family in a nearby lane. My
hopes were aroused.
In early Spring, after Purim, I visited the venerable old man.
Upon entering the apartment I saw a large patriarchal family o f
elderly people, adults and children, partly seated and partly
standing, deep in conversation. At the head o f the table there sat
a small, weazened Jew with a face like wrinkled parchment. My
sudden entrance took the gathering by surprise. A young girl
asked as to my purpose, and I explained that I wished to see an
old book,
Sefer Ha-Vikuah,
which I described to her. The girl told
someone o f my desire and he approached the family head, who
was practically deaf, and shouted into his ear. I was taken aback at
his reaction. The small, weak figure repeated in a loud and disso­
nant voice a few words with some variations; again quarrels, again
battles, again bloodshed. I took it that he had recalled childhood
memories o f the sharp polemics between the Hasidim and the
Mitnaggedim. I explained with difficulty that I had no intention
o f reviving an old quarrel or o f reprinting the book, but merely
wished to see it.
Witnessing my perplexity, the young girl promised to search
for the book on Passover Eve, when the apartment would be thor­
oughly cleaned. She also suggested that I come during the Inter­
mediate Days o f the holiday. I waited impatiently for the
appointed time and when I arrived I again found the place full o f
people. The polite young girl immediately told me that she had
searched high and low for the book, but to no avail. I was disap­
pointed but did not lose hope. I looked around the apartment