This excerpt, from the Yizkor book of Dabrowa Górnicza, Poland reminded me of a sermon a rabbi told his congregation about his experience with a woman who was studying towards conversion. After attending her fiancé's family Seder, she said, “"Rabbi -- there was so much yelling and interrupting at the table -- no one agreed with anyone" — and then wondered how after so much tumult, things changed to laughter and joking during the meal, and everyone hugged when the night was over.
To which the rabbi replied: “Welcome to Judaism, where arguing is the national pastime."
This excerpt is titled ““Klayn Michale” [Little Michael], the joker of Jewish Dabrowa” and most of it is about him, but it begins with a section called “The arguments clubhouse” where Jews “with a very developed sense of humor” gathered to “to joke about every subject that was spoken about…Usually they were serious arguments and on a high level, but they would get into jesting mood, and would tell entertaining stories, fine jokes: they would speak humorously with a touch of self-mockery, making fun of one another with incidental jibes, insults and even juicy expletives and the rule that was not surpassed amongst them: no one took it to heart, and at the most they would reply with even greater jibes.”
Enter Klayn Michael into this den of kibitzers, where he “fell straight into the lions' mouths." With war loomng, Klayn was down in the dumps and in no mood to be cheered up. “What do you know happened today?!" he told the others. "You apparently come from an imaginary world and see rose colored daydreams.” His words were met with “a ruthless hubbub of ridicule and hurtful defamations.”
The dialogue that follows is priceless. And in the spirit of that seder I described at the top, it ended with the declaration, “You should live till a hundred and twenty, Klayn Michale” and everyone slapped him on the back.
Silver Spring MD
Researching: DRACH, EBERT, KIMMEL, ZLOTNICK
Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel