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From My Father's Courtroom

- Abstract

Like “A Gruesome Question” and “Strange Merchandise,” which appeared in our January issue, the two pieces below (translated from the Yiddish by Channah Kleinerman and taken from the volume Mein Taten’s Bes-din Shtub–“My Father’s Courtroom”) are accounts of actual incidents that Isaac Bashevis Singer remembers from his childhood in Warsaw. His father was a rabbi in a particularly rough quarter of the city, and a great variety of types passed in and out of the elder Singer’s house, coming for rulings on points of Jewish law, for adjudication of their disputes, and for personal advice and comfort. Among Mr. Singer’s translated works are The Magician of Lublin, Satan in Goray, Gimpel the Fool, and The Spinoza of Market Street.

The Will

The door opened, and a man with a beard so long I’ve seen its equal only once in my life, entered. The great beard, black as pitch, and with a rich gloss and density that made one think of a thickly foliaged tree, reached to the man’s knees, and then branched out into a separate little “beardkin.” The man was short and stoutish, dressed in an expensive- looking overcoat, goatskin boots, and silk hat. He wore gold-rimmed spectacles padded with cotton at the bridge to protect his nose. An aura of complacency and Hasidic good nature enveloped him.

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