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       Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays


Paint What You Remember
Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays in Opatów, Poland
as told by Mayer Kirshenblatt


 Tisha b'Av 


The solemnity of a holiday never stopped us from playing pranks. Tisha b'Av, the Ninth of Av, is a holy day, a day of great sadness. This day usually falls in August. During the eight days leading up to Tisha b'Av, religious Jews did not eat meat. On the eve of the holiday, after a hefty meal to carry one through the next day's fast, we went to the besmedresh for marev, the evening service. After marev and the reading of Lamentations, a solemn prayer commenced. The man who recited kines (dirges) in a sonorous voice would sit on the floor. Everyone was very sad as they listened to what happened in Jerusalem when the Temple was destroyed. The next day we would go to the cemetery to visit the dearly departed. After someone dies, he is always referred to as the "dearly" departed, no matter how horrible a person he was. In Polish, they used to say, "Kazdy nieboszczyk swietym byl," which means "All who departed were saints."

On Tisha b'Av, they were very busy at the cemetery. For a small fee, there were men who would recite the El mule rakhamim, a prayer for the dead. There was a lot of coming and going. Everyone carried garlic to leave on the graves. It was a custom, perhaps to ward off evil spirits. To us youngsters, Tisha b'Av was a great day.


Tisha b'Av.

Kirshenblatt, Mayer (1916-2009)
Tisha b'Av: Throwing Burrs at the
Women as They Enter the Cemetery,

Acrylic on canvas
20 x 24 in.

First, we were off from khayder. Second, we played pranks. Most women covered their heads with kerchiefs. We would search for girls and women who were not wearing head coverings and throw burrs at them. Once entangled in their hair, the burrs were very difficult to remove. There were plenty of burrs in the cemetery, which was covered with weeds, so we would collect the burrs and, as the girls approached the cemetery, we would accost them. In the afternoon, when the traffic subsided, we would play the rest of the day away. Mother did not make us fast.

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