Solomon’s Trains, Part 4
Spring was trying to wake up the plant life on a fine morning in March of 1921.
Reb Solomon Dzubas had traveled to his home town Chestochova in Poland to arrange the import of paints and soaps from his uncle’s factory. Reb Jacob Dzubas as was all of his family, Gur Chassids, was an important member of the town’s Jewish community. Reb Solomon had expected to return home to Berlin a week ago but a breakdown in the Polish railway system had delayed the return trip.
Sitting in his uncle’s tasteful yet posh office Solomon had gotten the word of the delays. “Oof, these Poles haven’t managed to get anywhere near the standard of the railway system in Germany. The tracks are a mess, the locomotives have not the power or stability of the DRG’s, and the stations are so poorly tended. Well I just hope I can get back soon, my wife is due to deliver any day now.”
Uncle Jacob gave his guest a teasing poke in the ribs and said, “Oh don’t worry so Soli. Here you’re a guest in my house, so you have where to sleep comfortably and good kosher food to eat. As for your wife you know she’s in good hands in her father’s house. Reb Mordechai and the Rebetzin along with their adoring, and I dare say from what I saw quite competent, servants will look after her better than you can. Trust in God. Tomorrow is Shabbat, I will have the Chazan make a special blessing for her at the opening of the Torah Holy Ark. She’ll be just fine.”
A few days later in Berlin in a luxurious house up on the second floor in a bedroom with double curtains on the beveled glass windows, whose walls had cherry wood panels half way up and the rest of the walls were covered with the best wallpaper to be found in a gentle flowery design, on the polished wood floor were silk oriental carpets. Next to the tastefully decorated canopied bed, stood Dr. Englehart with his famous monocle. He had removed his silk top hat and tailed coat, and had his shirt sleeves partially rolled up and of course a serious look on his face. He shouted an order to the awaiting maid, “Hindeh, bring the boiling water and some alcohol. Do you have spirits in case she faints?”
The doting anxious maid answered, “Immediately Herr doctor!” as she scampered off excitedly running down the fancy curved stair case.
She ran into the kitchen as fast as she could excitedly shouting in her Frisian farm country accent, “Gheert get me the water upstairs. Mistress Becka is ready to give birth! Gertrud where’s the alcohol, quick. Heh, I thought ahead of the big pompous doctor. The ammonia spirits are in my apron pocket already since yesterday evening. What does a man know about giving birth anyway.”
The entire kitchen was in an excited stir. Their beloved Sheinah Becka, daughter of the master of the house Rabbi Mordechai Marcus Suesskind, was giving birth.
As Hindeh ran back up the oak wood stairs with the alcohol and spirits in her hands, the entire help staff crowded near the bottom of the steps awaiting the big event. Massive Gheert, also from Frisia, ran up the stairs with the huge pot of boiling water in his big hands and placed it on the service cart waiting by the bedroom doorway. Rabbanite Leah musing to herself, “I still don’t understand how that big ox of a man can still do things so gently.” Hindeh of course stayed close by the door her breath and heart racing, “Oh goot Godt help our precious Becka deliver a live healthy baby safely.”
Under Dr. Englehart’s critical supervising eye the midwife was already saying, “Becka dear Becka you have given birth to a contestant for your title as the most beautiful girl in Jewish Berlin. What a bonbon, Mazal Tov!”
Hindeh ran down the stairs so fast her feet barely touched the steps; she almost stumbled when she got to the floor. She was so excited she was incoherent. Gheert came close after her and with his big Dutch country boy smile announced to the rest of the servants, “It’s a girl, a pretty little girl for our dear Becka and honorable beloved Solomon”.
Hindeh had been a fifteen year old child when her mother had been the maid who assisted in the birth of Becka. As the two children grew she had often been responsible for helping care for the young Rivka Suesskind. They had also been playmates in their younger years. She had often protected the younger pretty yet frail “Sheineh Becka” from the rough children in the surrounding neighborhoods when they went outdoors. Now at age forty-five she had helped her beloved playmate and charge, give birth to her first child, a beautiful little replica of Becka.
The servants were as happy as the grandparents, Rabbi Mordechai Marcus Suesskind and Rabbanite Leah Elise. Each of them wanted to be the first to inform Reb Solomon Dzubas upon his return. Somehow in spite of the merry confusion a festive dinner was prepared.
After the delivery and initial post partum care was done, Rabbi Suesskind and Dr. Englehart sat down for a small “Lechayim” glass of fine vintage wine. When the servant Karl opened the bottle and poured the wine, Dr. Englehart was taken aback and asked the Rabbi, “How does a man of Torah and Halakha let this gentile open a bottle of wine?”
Rabbi Suesskind smiled at him and responded, “You dear man would be correct in your concern were it not that in my house I take care of a commandment that has been sorrowfully ignored by the vast majority of our people.”
“And what may that be?”
“Herr Doctor have you forgotten that it is commanded to us in the Holy Torah to be ‘a light unto the nations’? Each and every one of my servants and maids have been instructed and observe the seven Noahide commandments. This is an absolute prerequisite for working for me. Karl, Gheert and their respective wives were so impressed that they chose to convert, and they are Gerei Tsedek, full-fledged Jews. Therefore they may carry open and pour wine without any Halakhik problem. The others though all fully observant Bnei Noah do not touch the wines.”
Dr. Englehart stood and said, “Rabbi Mordechai Marcus Suesskind, you have taught me a point in Torah I never knew. You have shown a hidden side of greatness. I give you my humblest apologies for having suspected you of a slighting of halakha, and my great respect for your erudition and depth.”
“Thank you, though I am small in comparison to my elder generations. Now will you come join us for dinner?”
Two days later an excited call from Dieter the doorman, “He’s here; the taxi has just arrived from the train station.
The servants crowded around the entrance hall all ready to call “Mazal Tov” like excited little children. Their love for “Master Soli” and “Mistress Becka” was so great that at times they forgot their normal prim and proper staid manner.
Hindeh, looking out the bay window, excitedly called out, “He’s gotten out of the cab and the driver’s helper is bringing his valise”. Dieter opened the door to receive Master Reb Solomon and the entire team of servants was poised to run out to escort him and give the good news, when Frau Rabbanite Leah Elise entered the salon. Quickly quietly, albeit a bit clumsily from the excitement, everyone took their proper places.
Rabbanite Leah Elise Suesskind, youngest daughter of the respected Rabbi Tsvi Hirsch Kuttner and Rabbanite Rebecca, was a kind considerate thoughtful boss to her house help, yet she quietly radiated a definite air of matriarchal authority. She didn’t have to say a word. Her mere entrance put order in place.
It was not out of fear in any way. It was out of love and respect of the house’s matriarch. Even the stern authoritative Rav Herr Marcus deferred to her.
Reb Solomon walked up the paved path through the exquisite entrance garden to the waiting already open carved oak door, and entered the house. After the entrance hall’s passage to the grand salon the men servants were on the right side, the maidservants on the left, and in between at the end of the double row stood Rabbanite Elise. In spite of their efforts to appear staid and proper the servants were all grinning from ear to ear and fidgeting. Solomon could see that entire staff was all ready to jump on their toes. They barely fumbled the proper “Welcome home Master Reb Solomon” and they all burst out as one with, “Mazal Tov, Mazal Tov, it’s a darling baby girl!” hovering around him excitedly.
“Wonderful, thank you all. Good to be home again. Where are they?” Hindeh and Gheert lead the way up the wide staircase. Rabbanite Elise was at Solomon’s side telling him that the birth was easy enough, Esther the midwife had done her job excellently, and that the pompous professor Dr. Englehart was quite extraneous in fact, and all is well. Seeing his dear wife again and that she was well and happy along with meeting his new baby daughter was a great joy and relief to Reb Solomon.
Rabbanite Elise left the bedroom closed the doors and shooed off Hindeh and Gheert, “Hindeh go bring a tray with tea and cake. Then let them alone a while to chat and enjoy their threesome company without us bothering them. In the meantime make sure that Reb Solomon’s room, bath and change of clothes are ready.”
The following Shabbat in the elegant exquisite synagogue, his father-in-law, Reb Suesskind, called him up to the Torah with an honored Aliyah. After the reading of the portion he said the “Gomel” blessing as a thank you to God for his return from his voyage, and the Chazan made the blessing for the health of his wife and for the health of the newborn baby girl along with the giving of her name as announced by Reb Solomon “Dvorah Ursala bat (daughter of) Rivka”.
The entire congregation of two thousand called out, “Mazal Tov – Mazal Tov”, and Reb Mordekhai Suesskind invited the entire congregation to festive Kiddush brunch after services.
A year and a half later there was yet another “Mazal Tov” with the birth of the couple’s second daughter, Yehudith.
With their illustrious grandfather being, among other responsibilities, in charge of the Jewish school system in Berlin, the girls got the best education possible.
To be continued.