A. D. Egoz
I was a "day eater" in Pruzhany many years ago
I was born in Bereza, studied there in Cheder as all males until I was 12 years old. Then my mother , who had been born in Pruzhany, when hardly concluded "Pesach" festivity, took me to Pruzhany to study in city's Talmud Torah, or called as well "Small Yeshiva". The "Small Yeshiva" had 6 degrees, and each degree had a teacher that taught in a Bet Medresh, in the room were women prayed. I was accepted in third degree with R' KALMAN in shoemakers' Bet Medresh, where it was studied only three or four pages of Gemara per week.
Mom being satisfied by having assured me a place to study, went out with me to cover my material sustenance. She took me to one of her relatives, to take care of the responsibility of my daily food. This way all males, during the year "ate per days". I remember when we entered first house, the woman did not haggle neither she refused to be in charge of me. WELL! she said, he will eat here Fridays. Strange thing, in all other houses to those mom took me, offered Friday. I did find it difficult to understand why for all offer on Friday? But I understood it later. It was a detail from the economic point of view. Every day of the week should be given to the "day eater" three meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner. But on Friday, only two, because the dinner corresponds to Shabbat (Saturday)
Another reason was that on Friday would be anyway lighted the oven, and baked braided bread and buns for the children . The housewives, then cut a piece of mass of each braided bread and of each bun, so each student has his own bun, in such a way that is not necessary to add additional money. They lived with little money. For that reason housewives offered Friday.
As first housewife offered Friday, the other ones should conform to and offer another day of the week. This way, mother assigned responsibility for every " day " and I became a "day eater".
In relation to Bereza, Pruzhany represented for me a great city with asphalted streets, beautiful business brick made, police was harbored in a high brick house, and in general it was a bigger city , and more dynamic than Bereza. I was born in a small village and feared that here I could get lost and didn't have where to eat every day. Then I wrote a list: Sunday here, Monday there. I wrote down names of house owners and where they had their house. The first time I should consult the list and ask people how to arrive, but then I habituated me and knew everything by heart.
Mom worried in being sure of a place where I could sleep. She found a poor widow that had her shanty in a lateral back street. My bed was a straw bag on naked earth, there was not floor. There I harbored myself first semester. During summer, I made a trip to my home for "High Festivities". When I returned to Pruzhany after the festivity of Sucot ("of cabins") to widow's shanty, it was already cold. Then I changed home, my "zone", passed to Bet Medresh "Achnosas Orchim" and located behind the oven, or went to the Great Bet Medresh.
I survived this way in Pruzhany two years, two semesters with the teacher KALMAN, and two in a superior class with R' DOVID LEIB.
With time I was not any more a foreigner, and changed the "day". I was given housing not only in a house, but also by myself changed of worse to better. I could already put face of "poor guy", and even beg "a day" to unknown people. In an opportunity, I sold one Monday to another youth, and I received for this operation a "white of twenty" that was equal to 10 kopeks. I took the young boy to house owner, and I requested her that he will be my "day eater" representative, because a woman of Bereza that lived in Pruzhany wanted me to eat in her house on Mondays.
In a few days my client complained that he was in a mistake when he accepted, since his food consisted in bread with cereals soup, cracked potatoes, and a herring head or tail. Therefore he wanted from me to return him his ten kopeks. After a lot of discussions, I returned him 5 kopeks.
During a short time, I had two places to eat same Sunday. The Sundays housewife was a fair woman. She didn't have time to devote to me. She left on the table three " bagels " and five kopeks, which was equal to one maintenance day. I thought it, and I got a Sunday in another place, and the bagels and five kopeks served also to my needs.
I am not the only one that made those mischief. Were males that traded with the "days" more than me, and same week didn't have 7 "days" but 10.
I had housewives that considered that I was able to get them entering the Eden. They believed that they lived for the privilege of my study and their solidarity attitude. They spoiled me, they caressed me like a boy, they gave me eating better than own family. On the other hand, were those gave me anything in the kitchen, while the family ate best dishes in dining room.
I had a very intelligent and very observant of precepts housewife. She watched over that I wash my hands before eating as is ordered in Jewish laws. She had a big copper pitcher with two handles, and I should pour on my hands the whole pitcher full with water. "Don't save water", she told me, "when one is washed with a lot of water enjoys blessings and luck". She also controlled that I said blessings, so I say them slowly and clearly, word for word. When she listened of my mouth to pronounce the words: "The Compassionate will bless the owner and housewife" I could appreciate she enjoyed and she murmured in silence: "Should it go from your mouth to G-d's ear"
Of time in time had "days" in rich people's houses, where they had service people who were "very dear". They gave me a caress, a pinch in the cheek, and frequently they gave me some candy, without knowledge of housewife. Their caresses inconvenienced me. A young girl caresses and pinches me! That is not correct! It is not well! . Although I had already studied in "Gemara" marriage laws, anyway I "was a boy" and didn't have any feeling related to men being with women. I was embarrassed of myself, and I could not digest the food, but had to receive it with love.
Only once a maid did not have any contact with me. She worked in a house of a sterile couple, where I began to eat on Fridays. The same " day " also eat a youth of a Yeshiva that learned in Bet Medresh The owner and the housewife traveled to thermal baths or a rest place, and they left the house to Yeshiva youth, and me "under control" of the maid. When I came to eat, the youth and the maid had a good time in living room, they made mischief, they laughed, and they did not see me.
I sat down in the kitchen, until she entered running blush as a beet, and without looking at me put on something to eat on the table , and returned next to the young boy. I understood that this was not my place, I was like a plague, a devil that bothers their enjoyment, and they wanted to take me out as soon as possible. That got me sick, then I grabbed the food and left running.
It is possible that in those moments I had thoughts and envied the Yeshiva youth , and also wanted to be "a big guy" to be able to make mischief's with the young girl. But I was still very young, and wanted to be treated with more kindness. I suffered this way three or four Fridays, until getting another "Friday" and left those Fridays for the " witch ", the maid and the youth of the Yeshiva, in the house of the sterile couple.
I lived this in Pruzhany, about 60 years ago.
[i] See in our Pinkas page 455, in Kartuz Bereza section, the chapter of Aron David Agoz, who translated to Yiddish "Duties of Soul".
[ii] TN: It is the nickname that received students that came from other places, and stayed every day of the week in a different house, of somebody that offered him food and bed, to fulfill this way the precept of offering the opportunity to youth to study Torah.