Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A fish story

From Israel Zangwill's Children of the Ghetto (1892):


  1. smells fishy to me

  2. This is probably his source:
    Near the stairs leading to the Senior Citizen Home is a strange-looking monument with a fish on top (at first look, it appears as a dragon, but it is a fish with the tail upwards). There are a few legends about this grave, but one popular one sounds like the reports of the "talking carp" in New Square last year.

    A Jew one day went fishing in the Danube (which runs through Vienna) and caught a big fish. He happily brought the unexpected meal to his wife. When she was about to cut off the fish's head, it suddenly jumped up, declaimed Shema Yisroel, and died. They went to their rav to ask his advice about what to do, and were advised to bury the fish. The fish monument was presumably placed over the fish's grave to commemorate the burial place of a Jewish gilgul who had expiated his sins by returning in the body of a fish.


  3. DF

    Intressante. Is this typical of Zangwill's writing? Sounds like Isaac Bashevis Singer with a british accent.

    Fred - speaking of fish demons, the recent dibbuk story didnt prompt any posts? [I remember the last dibbuk, in 1998. They called R. David Batzri then, too. It was supposedly some guy's lost soul, trapped in a woman's body. People actually believed in this thing. They were selling CD recordings of the dibbuk on 13th avenue. Then somebody pointed out the the dibbuk was responding to R Batzri's questions in loshon nekievah, e.g., "ani makirah". The dibbuk story went away, but apparently, not popular belief in such things.]

  4. Yes, this is typical of Zangwill's writing. He's got it all, including a fake kiddushin which requires a get. Actually, he's been criticized for translating too much and not using Yiddish words enough. The excerpt you see here is from the second printing, which added many of the Yiddish words which were translated into English in the original. For example, he chose to write "pious," while later it is written "froom" or "froomkeit," which is how his characters really would speak.

    As for fish demons and dybbuks, what should I say? I also remember the one in 1998.

  5. See the 2 photos on page 21 of this week's Mishpacha magazine.

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