Tzipora Katzenelson Natshumov




We bring here next a chapter of the biography of author's  brother, the writer martyr  YTZHAK KATZENELSON, that was nephew of Pruzhany's Rabbi, R ELIOHU FAINSHTEIN. This chapter is related with the visit of YTZHAK KATZENELSON to Pruzhany during the great wedding of Rabbi ELIOHU FAINSHTEIN's daughter, and the son of Brest Rabbi R CHAIM SOLOVEITSHIK.


…When YTZHAK was just liberated of  military service and for invitation of our uncle R' ELIOHU, mother traveled to Pruzhany  with YTZHAK, to thank the important  material help and to witness the great family event. This was an event of great resonance, and with a lot of anticipation a great quantity of Rabbis and personalities of all Russia. got ready to go. Almost anything! The illustrious Rabbi CHAIM SOLOVEITSHIK's son took for wife the daughter of R' ELIOHU FAINSHTEIN.


Our niece PESHKE was a true daughter of a Torah erudite. She knew "Gemara" and universal studies. For this reason, the wedding attracted attention.  Came to gather a true group of people of religious studies of all corners of the country. Most outstanding rabbis and specialists were invited from bridegroom's side. The Rabbi of Brest had an important role in whole Czarist Empire.


The wedding carried out in a majestic context which reached all people.  It didn't lack anything of  best things. Until after the "seven blessings" during seven days, they didn't allow to move anybody of his place, Pruzhany's yard.  In each "banquet" and in all moment was spoken about the statements of "Our Saints, blessed be their memory" and about different issues of the Torah. Discussed dozens of erudite and outstanding studious, and they competed to overcome others. Also our father, very well-known for the honorable guests as "BENYMKE the illustrious", stayed not behind among outstanding concurrence. The nephew MEIR DAVIDSON was a "Yeshiva boy"; when he was 20 years old began to study Russian alphabet, and when was 30 he was a famous MD.  In society with dad, he directed the "left" opposition in these heated discussions.


YTZHOK was interested on this atmosphere.  He listened everything and he was soaked of  rabbinical folklore. He observed the interesting characteristics of famous rabbis, and especially of the most important  man of the party, R' CHAIM SOLOVEITSHIK, the illustrious, the genius of Brest who was also oriented to official issues, a thing he was much interested in. All admired his words. But more excited was YTZHOK for uncle's ELIOHU words , his intelligence, his good relationship with strangers and family. For each one who was invited he found an appropriate issue, chord with the speaker, men, women and children. Even with youth he talked about Zionism, socialism, with the students about their university studies, and with YTZHOK about general and Hebrew literature in particular. In turn he highlighted that he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity of this party to come closer to all his family and to enjoy them. He wondered and asked:  "When will we have a second opportunity?"


Before finishing the seven blessings cycle,  uncle ELIOHU  pronounced a strange insinuation that very soon was highlighted as if it was a joke, but it turned out to be something painful for YTZHOK. Same insinuation commented YTZHOK in different opportunities: "my dear relatives. You will be happy with couple's union. To our family, means that we ascended it's category!  The Rabbi of Brest is not a little thing!  Honest, important man. But my PESHKE is happy? I don't know..."


The famous marriage was formalized through official matchmakers, as was usual. Neither the son of the Rabbi of Brest neither the daughter of the Rabbi of Pruzhany  knew each other until the wedding day.  They trusted the opinion and taste  of faithful people that unanimously said that it was a couple designated by the sky ...The "wedding commitment ' that was written before the wedding,  was carried out without bride and bridegroom presence, but through their parents. The gift was an important amount, 25.000 rubles, because bride's father managed a great trade of candles and yeast.


After the "seven blessings" all assistants traveled to their respective destination. My parents also returned to Lodz. Only left YTZHOK, because  uncle ELIOHU, aunt GUTE and cousins insisted that he should travel with them to a beautiful and famous rest place in Druskoenig.  Was given to the couple the best room, and another room to YTZHOK and cousin LEIBKE. LEIBKE was a very capable youth, but he was not an outstanding and persevering student. In insinuation words Rabbi ELIOHU said: "one chooses a son-in-law , but a son will be as G-d wishes ..." It was said in allusion that he was not able to make his children were rabbis, and on the other hand his daughters were wives of Rabbis.


Seated around the table, R MOISHE the beginner and arrogant son-in-law, underestimated the authority of YTZHOK  as writer, although he was already very popular and very appreciated by his dynamics and humor.  Among the children of ELIOHU stood out SORELE and ZLATKE. SORELE married later R' ELIEZER ITSHE MAISEL, grandson of the illustrious Rabbi of Lodz that had a barbaric torture by Nazis. He was a Rabbi very appreciated in Lodz, a sacred man, as YTZHOK described him in his "Book of the Guetto."


The two weeks in Druskoenig passed for YTZHOK as a sweet dream , especially after suffering half year in the military service, which was a nightmare about which he trembled whenever  remembered it. Druskoenig was then a very popular rest place in Russia. There were thousands people , because it was a cure place, and nothing was missing: the nature, the healthy and revitalizing aromas of the forests, the width  Nieman river, all which had a strong and magnetic attractiveness. YTZHOK was all day reading and he wrote a lot. He narrated his experiences during military service in the book "The white life" published in 1909.


Cousin ZLATKE was of an extraordinary beauty. YTZHOK described her in his narrative book "In the frontiers of Lithuania" and dedicated her beautiful words. She inherited of ELIOHU the black and silky locks, and YTZHOK knitted about her, magic poems... ZALMEN SHNEIUR, the great stylist and expert in beautiful women, said that she was similar to CANDID of Bernard Shaw. During her walks in the park, all opened air step to her majestic figure. The youth sighed and  said: "Look at the Rabbi's daughter".


Thanks to her popularity among students, in certain occasion was organized a meeting to which went the great Zionist speaker VLADIMIR ZABOTINSKY, who spoke in Russian. Thousands of people came to listen him. He managed Russian language with great mastership. In that opportunity YTZHOK achieved to know him,  and to forge a friendship. ZABOTINSKY in that moment concluded the translation of the poems of BIALYK . I could appreciate his wonderful talent as speaker, his philological capacity in at least ten languages that he managed in writing and speaking. Observing his characteristic figure, YTZHOK said that he could be a noted artist in scene : "When ZABOTINSKY speaks, he grows, the small and ugly character becomes an arrogant and beautiful Israel prophet"...


The unforgettable and productive YTZHOK's task in Druskoenig was interrupted suddenly, and unexpectedly was ruined the magnificent impression of his stay with his rabbinical family. The cause was the following: in his presence, was analyzed literary work of YTZHOK and also universal literature, considering that his cousins dominated this issue. In an occasion, they analyzed TOLSTOY, they investigated him as person and writer, as philosopher and psychologist. The thematic of his famous works called attention and people's interest.  It caused sharp discussions. YTZHOK was exactly sat down on the edge of the window that abutted with an orchard.


Suddenly, he gets up startled. MOISHE SOLOVEITSHIK comes close to YTZHOK and in an exasperated tone asked him: "You KATZENELSON, say who is for you more important, my father or TOLSTOY? " ...YTZHOK almost falls of the window. He incorporated and looking fixed to the eyes of R'MOSIHE that shone of anger, with sure voice and cold blood answered:  "According to my conviction, R'ELIOHU is more important than both! ..."


And here happened an unexpected thing. Before YTZHOK reacted, R'MOISHE applied him a mettlesome slap in the face. YTZHOK wanted to return the slap immediately, but LEIBKE and all those present, intervened between both. Because of the sudden tumult arrived uncle. When finding out all that happened, immediately intervened vigorously, and with fury pointed out the door to R'MOISHE and said him: "Pack your belongings! , YTZHOK is my nephew, before you were my son-in-law ...Listen MOISHE: without your own hierarchy, the nobility of your parents is not for me important  ...". Obvious, in this delicate situation, YTZHOK felt himself  very inconvenient, thinking that for his words entered discord in the family. He tried tranquilizing spirits and he said: "only me was the culprit, because when jumping of the window, MOISHE thought that I will attack him, and for that reason I forgive him, for the fact of fulfilling the sacred precept of honoring parents, and this moral helped me to remember my own parents for which I should travel tomorrow to Lodz."


After a short time MOISHE SOLOVEITSHIK, the unbearable arrogant, under uncle ELIOHU's and of his dear and intelligent wife influences, became a nice and pleasant person, and together with his knowledge, he constructed perfect harmony. The hierarchy of R ELIOHU even grew more. From Warsaw was requested him to direct a Yeshiva, and of there step to New York where occupied for many years an important rabbinical throne.(TN: in another story is told he could not go to New York)