Chapter Seven



By N. Tzukerman



Among documents preserved in our city, is "Life Book", directed by the "Chevra Kadisha" (Burial Society) who registered deaths there. In this book names of deceased were listed in order. The book is divided in two parts. In the first part, names of men buried are written down and, in second, names of women. According to the cover of the book, it is from year 1808. In that year the following words were written with excellent letters: "The death took him forever and erased tears from my eyes". From the first pages it is evident and possible that the "Life Book" was written before the year 1808


The oldest date found in the book is of 1721. This date is not found on first page, but it was registered later in the pages that followed. In this case, the same as in the registers of the Burial Society and of the Community (Kahal) it could be thought that it is a fault of the binder, who accidentally bound them in the wrong order. We cannot accept this as a certainty, because in the same page where the oldest date was written, we also find other dates that are more recent. The disorder of dates was because many pages were lost and then were found after the book was bound. For that reason, when they were written at a later date, they were inserted among later dates.


Looking at "Life Book" one discovers the place each deceased occupies in memorial. The inscription style is same for all. The only difference that distinguishes the deceased is the title, as for example, "Attorney" (a Jew studious of the Torah), “Talmid Chacham" (a pupil of wise men), "Moreinu" (our teacher), or “Rav” (Rabbi).


The scribe of "Life Book" doesn't save space when death was due to a fatal accident. This type of long description happened with enough frequency. He mentions the case of a Jew murdered near the city, another that died carbonized in a fire, and another that was a Jew who was the victim of military negligence. All these deceased were buried in a place in the cemetery called: "Consecrated Sepulcher Place".


Some outlined details that can be very interesting for an ethnographic research existed in the registers. We find at the beginning the following text:


In memory of a very outstanding Rabbi, erudite of laws of Torah, who did good actions, MORDECHAI MENDEL BEN ISRAEL, of our community, left instructions for preparing his body after his death. His body should not be covered, should be laid on the floor, a stone placed on his heart, a rope should be knotted around his neck, his body inclined as though he were seated and then he should be carried to the place where the deceased are usually brought.  Members of  "Burial Society" did exactly as he had left instructions for them to do. He also ordered that during purification four times nine measures of water were to be poured, and all those that did the purification, those that prepared his shroud, and those that took the coffin, should be..."


This text is in the first page and it dates approximately to the years 1721 to 1730.


All these penuries after his death seem to be due to MORDECHAI MENDEL’s assumed desire to suffer the four deaths that, according to the belief of the time, were ordered to the world by a Superior Tribunal.


According to "Life Book" the old cemetery was inaugurated for the first time in the year 1801. The current new cemetery (behind the city) is of year 1838.


T.N.: In Pruzhany only one cemetery exists now, and that seems to be the new one.