Yohrzeit For Mother
: S. LIBIN
The Ginzburgs' first child died of inflammation of the lungs when it was
two years and three months old.
The young couple were in the depths of grief and despair--they even
thought seriously of committing suicide.
But people do not do everything they think of doing. Neither Ginzburg
nor his wife had the courage to throw themselves into the cold and
grizzly arms of death. They only despaired,
until, some time after, a
newborn child bound them once more to life.
It was a little girl, and they named her Dvoreh, after Ginzburg's dead
The Ginzburgs were both free-thinkers in the full sense of the word, and
their naming the child after the dead had no superstitious significance
It came about quite simply.
"Dobinyu," Ginzburg had asked his wife, "how shall we call our
"I don't know," replied the young mother.
"No more do I," said Ginzburg.
"Let us call her Dvorehle," suggested Dobe, automatically, gazing at her
pretty baby, and very little concerned about its name.
Had Ginzburg any objection to make? None at all, and the child's name
was Dvorehle henceforward. When the first child had lived to be a year
old, the parents had made a feast-day, and invited guests to celebrate
their first-born's first birthday with them.
With the second child it was not so.
The Ginzburgs loved their Dvorehle, loved her painfully, infinitely, but
when it came to the anniversary of her birth they made no rejoicings.
I do not think I shall be going too far if I say they did not dare to do
Dvorehle was an uncommon child: a bright girlie, sweet-tempered, pretty,
and clever, the light of the house, shining into its every corner. She
could be a whole world of delight to her parents, this wee Dvorehle. But
it was not the delight, not the happiness they had known with the first
child, not the same. That had been so free, so careless. Now it was
different: terrible pictures of death, of a child's death, would rise up
in the midst of their joy, and their gladness suddenly ended in a heavy
sigh. They would be at the height of enchantment, kissing and hugging
the child and laughing aloud, they would be singing to it and romping
with it, everything else would be forgotten. Then, without wishing to do
so, they would suddenly remember that not so long ago it was another
child, also a girl, that went off into just the same silvery little
bursts of laughter--and now, where is it?--dead! O how it goes through
the heart! The parents turn pale in the midst of their merrymaking, the
mother's eyes fill with tears, and the father's head droops.
"Who knows?" sighs Dobe, looking at their little laughing Dvorehle. "Who
Ginzburg understands the meaning of her question and is silent, because
he is afraid to say anything in reply.
It seems to me that parents who have buried their first-born can never
be really happy again.
So Dvorehle's first birthday was allowed to pass as it were unnoticed.
When it came to her second, it was nearly the same thing, only Dobe
said, "Ginzburg, when our daughter is three years old, then we will have
They waited for the day with trembling hearts. Their child's third year
was full of terror for them, because their eldest-born had died in her
third year, and they felt as though it must be the most dangerous one
for their second child.
A dreadful conviction began to haunt them both, only they were afraid to
confess it one to the other. This conviction, this fixed idea of theirs,
was that when Dvorehle reached the age of their eldest child when it
died, Death would once more call their household to mind.
Dvorehle grew to be two years and eight months old. O it was a terrible
time! And--and the child fell ill, with inflammation of the lungs, just
like the other one.
O pictures that arose and stood before the parents! O terror, O
calamity! They were free-thinkers, the Ginzburgs, and if any one had
told them that they were not free from what they called superstition,
that the belief in a Higher Power beyond our understanding still had a
root in their being, if you had spoken thus to Ginzburg or to his wife,
they would have laughed at you, both of them, out of the depths of a
full heart and with laughter more serious than many another's words. But
what happened now is wonderful to tell.
Dobe, sitting by the sick child's cot, began to speak, gravely, and as
in a dream:
"Who knows? Who knows? Perhaps? Perhaps?" She did not conclude.
"Perhaps what?" asked Ginzburg, impatiently.
"Why should it come like this?" Dobe went on. "The same time, the same
"A simple blind coincidence of circumstances," replied her husband.
"But so exactly--one like the other, as if somebody had made it happen
Ginzburg understood his wife's meaning, and answered short and sharp:
"Dobe, don't talk nonsense."
Meanwhile Dvorehle's illness developed, and the day came on which the
doctor said that a crisis would occur within twenty-four hours. What
this meant to the Ginzburgs would be difficult to describe, but each of
them determined privately not to survive the loss of their second child.
They sat beside it, not lifting their eyes from its face. They were pale
and dazed with grief and sleepless nights, their hearts half-dead within
them, they shed no tears, they were so much more dead than alive
themselves, and the child's flame of life flickered and dwindled,
flickered and dwindled.
A tangle of memories was stirring in Ginzburg's head, all relating to
deaths and graves. He lived through the death of their first child with
all details--his father's death, his mother's--early in a summer
morning--that was--that was--he recalls it--as though it were to-day.
"What is to-day?" he wonders. "What day of the month is it?" And then he
remembers, it is the first of May.
"The same day," he murmurs, as if he were talking in his sleep.
"What the same day?" asks Dobe.
"Nothing," says Ginzburg. "I was thinking of something."
He went on thinking, and fell into a doze where he sat.
He saw his mother enter the room with a soft step, take a chair, and sit
down by the sick child.
"Mother, save it!" he begs her, his heart is full to bursting, and he
begins to cry.
"Isrolik," says his mother, "I have brought a remedy for the child that
bears my name."
He is about to throw himself upon her neck and kiss her, but she motions
him lightly aside.
"Why do you never light a candle for my Yohrzeit?" she inquires, and
looks at him reproachfully.
"Mame, have pity on us, save the child!"
"The child will live, only you must light me a candle."
"Mame" (he sobs louder), "have pity!"
"Light my candle--make haste, make haste--"
"Ginzburg!" a shriek from his wife, and he awoke with a start.
"Ginzburg, the child is dying! Fly for the doctor."
Ginzburg cast a look at the child, a chill went through him, he ran to
The doctor came in person.
"Our child is dying! Help save it!" wailed the unhappy mother, and he,
Ginzburg, stood and shivered as with cold.
The doctor scrutinized the child, and said:
"The crisis is coming on." There was something dreadful in the quiet of
"What can be done?" and the Ginzburgs wrung their hands.
"Hush! Nothing! Bring some hot water, bottles of hot
water!--Champagne!--Where is the medicine? Quick!" commanded the doctor.
Everything was to hand and ready in an instant.
The doctor began to busy himself with the child, the parents stood by
pale as death.
"Well," asked Dobe, "what?"
"We shall soon know," said the doctor.
Ginzburg looked round, glided like a shadow into a corner of the room,
and lit the little lamp that stood there.
"What is that for?" asked Dobe, in a fright.
"Nothing, Yohrzeit--my mother's," he answered in a strange voice, and
his hands never ceased trembling.
"Your child will live," said the doctor, and father and mother fell upon
the child's bed with their faces, and wept.
The flame in the lamp burnt brighter and brighter.