The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln
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Begun in 1690, this diary of a forty-four-year-old German Jewish widow, mother of fourteen children, tells how she guided the financial and personal destinies of her children, how she engaged in trade, ran her own factory, and promoted the welfare of her large family. Her memoir, a rare account of an ordinary woman, enlightens not just her children, for whom she wrote it, but all posterity about her life and community. Gluckel speaks to us with determination and humor from the seventeenth century. She tells of war, plague, pirates, soldiers, the hysteria of the false messiah Sabbtai Zevi, murder, bankruptcy, wedding feasts, births, deaths, in fact, of all the human events that befell her during her lifetime. She writes in a matter of fact way of the frightening and precarious situation under which the Jews of northern Germany lived. Accepting this situation as given, she boldly and fearlessly promotes her business, her family and her faith. This memoir is a document in the history of women and of life in the seventeenth century.
strangers. As it is said, they «leave their wealth to others.»5 Alas, what more can I write? Everything falls out as it pleaseth the good Lord. My father-in-law’s fourth child was the learned Reb Samuel. He too had studied in Poland and married into a prominent family, the daughter of the famous Rabbi Sholem of Lemberg. He too settled there, and he too had to leave because of the war, and return empty-handed. So for a long while my father-in-law was compelled, in turn, to support him and his
with me, and said, «Will you never tire of your nonsense? It is storming tonight as though the heavens would fall, and the woman, be assured, will not set foot outdoors. Moreover, the whole thing is sheer folly.» But I said to her, «Mother dear, do me the favour and send forth the woman. I will give her whatever she asks, if only I get the medlars—else my heart will know no peace.» We thereupon called the woman and sent her out for the fruit. She hurried off, but it was a long way and a stormy
whom shall I pour out my soul? Whither shall I turn? All his life my beloved companion hearkened to my troubles, and they were many, and comforted me so that somehow they would quickly vanish. But now, alas, I am left to flounder in my woe. Later, more doctors and rupture-cutters came, but they could do nothing. By the close of the Sabbath, no one remained but Dr. Lopez and myself. Towards midnight Dr. Lopez sent for a chirurgeon, in the hope that the wound was fit; but he came and saw at a
manifold sins and never gave me the thought to take to myself a husband when matches were proposed to me that would have rendered my children happy and provided me, not with my present anxious care-ridden old age, but a calm and sheltered life. But the Most High pleased otherwise, and because of my sins He allowed me to resolve upon the match I will now put before you. Nevertheless, I thank my Creator for showing me more mercy and grace in my heavy punishment than I, unworthy sinner, merit or
(pucelle—maidservant), passiren (passer—passer le temps), preien (prier—ask), resolviren, Respekt, remin-tiren, ruiniren (ruiner), Resolution, in summa (Latin). Book One 1 Rabbi Akiba said, «Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself—that is the greatest commandment.» Sifra, Kadoshim, IV, 12. 2 Talmudic gloss on Ecc. 5: 1. 3 Shammai said, «Set a fixed time for thy study of the Torah.» Sayings of the Fathers, I, 15. 4 Rabbah said, «When one stands at the judgment-seat of God, these questions