Morning and Evening, Pt. XII
The twelfth installment in an ongoing narrative, told week by week
Edited by David Swanson
The arrival of the Rebbe on the eve of Sukkot's second days was heralded with all the pomp Hanachiv could muster. The round housewives appeared at their doors in bright wigs and kerchiefs, casting their blessings to him on the cold air, and Nathan-Neta himself held the bridle of the Rebbe's mare and walked on foot before his carriage. The heder-boys, dismissed from lessons, ran beside the muddy wheels and strove mightily to peer behind the lustrous curtains overhanging the carriage windows, where the Rebbe sat like a veiled bride. Osher Zilber the sweet-merchant scattered candies to the crowd, Dovid the fishmonger's boy, the town's best singer, sang verses of praise in his sweet tenor. The Jewish householders lined the streets and watched, sometimes bursting into fevered speech and sometimes silent, striking attitudes of humility, with the fine exaggeration of Warsaw actors.
Even the Poles and Ukrainians came out to gawk at this unknown and resplendent visitor. Trailing behind the other boys, Yossel saw a blue-eyed child yank his mother's long yellow braid: “Mother! Mother! Has the Jew's King come to town?”
“Danilko, you blasphemer,” she cried, slapping the upturned cheek. “The King of the Jews is Jesus, our Savior Christ.”
The Jews, kingless, laughed and shuffled and sucked the filling from sweet pastries. Zinger the merchant coaxed a tune from his old violin. The Rebbe’s black carriage slid on, noiselessly, like a great ship in familiar waters, led on by the rich man in his fur-trimmed boots. That night the Rebbe would sleep in Nathan-Neta’s own bedroom, goose down would tickle his holy thighs. But first the festival evening awaited them all. Already the honey-colored sun slid low on the horizon, clouds of amber and garnet and ruby rose from the rim of the hill. The rosettes adorning the rebbe’s wagon—pink as maiden’s mouths, of a fine Cracow make—reflected the light duskily; the dun-pale sky dimmed and dimmed, readying itself for an onrush of stars.
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