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eBook Kiddush Ha-Shem: An Epic of 1648
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Publisher:  Varda Books
Original Publisher:  The Jewish Publication Society
Published:  2001
Language:  English
Pages:   236


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ISBN: 1-59045-165-1




About the Book -- Kiddush Ha-Shem: An Epic of 1648

Kiddush ha-Shem is a Hebrew term used in Jewish history for a Jew who chose to offer his own life for the sake of his faith. The novel Kiddush ha-Shem was first published in 1919 (and translated into English in 1926). One of the earliest historical novels in modern Yiddish literature, it is a story of Jewish martyrdom during the Chmelnitsky uprising in mid-17th century Ukraine and Poland.

About the Book

Contents

PART I

I. FAR OUT UPON THE STEPPES

II. LOSING COUNT OF THE DAYS

III. A SYNAGOGUE! A SYNAGOGUE!

IV. THE DEDICATION OF THE SYNAGOGUE

V. THE MARRIED COUPLE

VI. TO THE YESHIVAH

VII. IN THE HEART OF THE STEPPE

VIII. THE CONFERENCE OF PARNASIM

IX. THE PREACHER OF POLNO

X. THE ANNUAL LUBLIN FAIR

PART II

I. “IT HAS BEGUN”

II. SHLOMELE COMES HOME

III. THE FEAST OF WEEKS

IV. THE EXILE FROM ZLOCHOV

V. “WE WILL DO AND OBEY”

VI. NEMIROV

VII. ACROSS THE RIVER

VIII. THE CAPTIVE

IX. THE DICE

X. IN THE OPEN FIELD

XI. FOR THE FAITH AND FOR THE TORAH

XII. THE LETTER

XIII. THE GREAT ORDEAL

XIV. KIDDUSH HA-SHEM

XV. IN THE ORCHARD

XVI. THE GOLDEN SLIPPERS


An Excerpt from the Book -- Kiddush Ha-Shem: An Epic of 1648

FOR THE FAITH AND FOR THE TORAH

Chmelnitzki continued to negotiate with the Polish Field Marshall Dominick with regard to submitting to the Polish Crown, and at the same time continued to send his Cossack hordes to destroy defenseless towns in order to pay his Cossacks with the loot. To maintain the friendship of the Tatars he had to enrich the harems of the Khan with beautiful young Jewesses. A horde of ten thousand Cossacks, led by one of his brigands named Krivonos, fell upon the cities and towns of Ukrainia and wiped them off the face of the earth. The Cossack hordes were followed by bands of Tatars like swarms of black birds of prey.

In vain did the noble Prince Vishnewetzki beg the Polish nobles and authorities for help for this little army of Polish soldiers who fought against the Cossacks and Tatars. His voice which warned against the Cossack danger remained unheeded. The Field Marshall Dominick still counted on Chmelnitzki's justice and willingness to submit to Poland. He continued to make concessions to the Cossacks, and to confer new honors and titles on Chmelnitzki, thinking in this manner to placate the Cossack leader. The nobles were engrossed in the election of a new king to succeed king Vladislav who had died. No one was concerned over the fate of the distant Ukrainian province. In the end Vishnewetzki himself had to leave his little army and travel to Warsaw to seek help from the dissolute nobles for the unhappy people of Ukrainia.

In the meantime the entire region lay defenseless and open to the Cossack hordes. Like a river which overflows its banks, they overran one city after another, annihilating all living things. They plundered and burnt the cities; and the people, young and old, Polish and Jewish, they put to the sword. Only those who were suitable for the slave-markets, the Tatars allowed to live. And they enriched their harems with the comely women and girls.

After Nemirov they headed for Tulchin. In the fortress of Tulchin the Jews from the surrounding towns as well as the fugitives from Nemirov had taken refuge. So there was assembled in Tulchin a Jewish population of ten thousand souls and considerable wealth which the Jews had taken with them. The Cossacks headed for this wealth, and the Tatars for the women and the girls.

But Krivonos and his hordes of Cossacks found it no easy matter to capture Tulchin. The city was fortified, and the Jews who were, for the most part, fugitives from towns that had been destroyed, knew what it meant to fall into the hands of the Cossacks. So they determined, rather than fall into the Cossacks' hands, to starve to death in the city or die in battle.

In the city there were also quite a number of Poles and several hundred Polish soldiers. So the Jews and the Poles entered into a solemn pact under oath, and the rabbi, Reb Aaron, the head of the Tulchin yeshivah and the Duke Tchwerchinski affixed their signatures to a document. They agreed to fight side by side to the last man and the last drop of blood in defense of the city against the Cossacks.

And a great friendship rose up between the Poles and the Jews. The Jews gathered in the synagogues, the Poles in the churches, and prayed God to save them from the hands of the Cossacks, and they swore to defend each other. They called each other comrade. The Poles addressed the Jews as “dear friends,” and the Jews shared with them the food which they brought together in the city to enable them to withstand the siege until help should come from the Polish nobles.

The Poles and the Polish soldiers commanded by Duke Tchwerchinski, who were more familiar with the art of warfare than the Jews, and knew how to use firearms, undertook to defend the fort of Tulchin. And the Jews, who were more numerous and more courageous than the Poles, being in greater danger, undertook to defend the weaker and less defensible sections of the city.

They armed themselves with Turkish weapons and flint-locks, which they obtained from the fort. Around the rampart they raised high scaffolds and ladders, built platforms, and assembled heaps of stones and other heavy objects. The women prepared great cauldrons of molten tallow, scalding cereals and boiling water, and brought them to the ramparts. Frequently the Jews allowed the Cossacks to come close to the wall and apply their crowbars for making a breach. Then the Jews would suddenly hurl down upon them a hail of rocks and pour down on their heads cauldrons of seething tallow. And the Cossacks fled, leaving behind them their crowbars together with their dead at the foot of the walls. And more than once did the Jews, as in ancient times during the siege of Jerusalem, sally forth out of the city, and with utter contempt of death, they fell upon the ranks of the Cossacks, killed many of them and drove the rest back to their tents.

The food-supply of the city, however, began to dwindle. The food which the Jews had gathered in the city was, by a special food administration, divided into two equal parts for the Jews and the Poles. First they fed the women and children. The men would frequently capture their food from the Cossacks. By their sentinels they were informed of the time when the Cossacks used to drive together herds of sheep and other cattle, and the Jews would rush out of the city and into the midst of the Cossacks, take away the cattle and drive them into the city. In this way the Jews would provide the city with food enough to last for weeks.

Among the Jewish defenders was Mendel, the parnas of Zlochov. After losing his son under his very eyes as he swam across the river, and hearing nothing of his daughter-in-law, who had gone away with old Marusha, he took his wife and went with her to Tulchin, together with other fugitives, in the hope that old Marusha might have brought Deborah to Tulchin by a different road. But not finding her in Tulchin and being certain that his son, after falling into the hands of the Cossacks, was no longer alive, he grew tired of life. Having nothing further to live for, he had no further desire to live. But Mendel's instincts were too robust, and his fear of God too strong, for him to put an end to himself. He, like many others, having lost all hopes of personal happiness, gave up all his thoughts to the welfare of the community as a whole. The community of Tulchin became his child, his Shlomo, his future, his own life. In the community he found his strength again, and for its life he threw himself into battle with an utter contempt of death, and of the personal happiness of which he felt the need no longer. Wishing to die for the Jewish faith, he was the first to throw himself into battle, first in dangerous enterprises, inspiring the others to follow him, kindling a holy enthusiasm in them with his words.

“Jews,” he would say, his eyes sparkling with inspiration, “they have killed our children, they will kill us, but our God lives forever. Then let us battle for His glory, for the faith and for the Torah.”


An Excerpt from the Book


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