Newspaper Page Text
JJT was in 1840. Czar Nicholas inspected the troops
1$ stationed in the Western provinces and in Poland,
and on that occasion paid a visit to the city of Ho
mel in the government of Mohilew. General Rodin
ger and Baron Offenberg were in command of the
troops. The Czar was no friend of public demon
strations and did not care to have the civic authori
ties go to the expense of arranging great fetes. He
usually remained two or three days in those cities
where he held these inspections. At an early hour in
the morning hecould be seen at the head of his troops
galloping to the parade ground, where he took com
mand himself. When the day's labors were over he
preferred to take a stroll outside of the city, clad in the
uniform of a simple officer, without even being accom
panied by the adjutant. He seemed to enjoy these
promenades, indulging in deep reverie, he, the man
feared by everybody, but unrecognized. Even in
Warsaw, where the revolutionary spirit was ever
rite, he disregarded all warnings and promenaded
without protection or watch in the Lazenka Gardens,
and even the police officers, who knew his habits,
took care not to cross his steps. He followed this
habit also during his stay at Homel. It was a hot
summer day. The sun sent down his burning rays,
the dust of the unpaved streets was hot as coals,
men and beasts sought cover against the heat. All
breathed freer when in the afternoon dark clouds ap
peared on the horizon, and a refreshingshower burst
forth. A cool, delightful air pervaded the streets.
Clad in a light spring cloak, a simple white military
capon his head, and carrying a cane, the Czar left
the palace toward evening without any guard and
took a walk toward the Linden Allee, on the out
skirts of the city. The last rays of the setting sun
mirrored in the gilt cupolas of the churches, then the
purple-blue shadows of the evening came up, and the
water of the lake to the right of the driving path
trembled in pale-golden violet tints. Touched by the
beautiful picture, the Czar stood there lost in wor
shipful admiration of the majesty of divine nature,
when suddenly a slight noise arrested his attention.
He listened and heard the sound of steps. Looking,
he saw an aged Jew of venerable appearance ap
proaching. For a few minutes the two men faced
each other without averting their looks. At that
the Emperor motioned to the Jew to approach. In
measured steps the Jew drew i ear: "What is your
"Why do you not remove your hat ?" answered
the Czar in return, good-humoredly. "Do you not
know who and what I am?" "And do you know,"
came the answer, "who and what I am ?"
"Oh, to know that," said the Czar, bursting out
in a laugh, "does not take much on first sight even.
You are a 'Zyd!'''
"Zyd, Zyd,' repeated the Jew patiently but some
what indignantly. "Sir, if my eyes do not deceive
me, you belong to the better classes, and for that
reason I am surprised to bear you make use of such
an insulting word. I take it for granted that you
have read the five books of Moses, the Prophets and
the Psalms. Did you find in these books, which are
acknowledged also by you as holy books, the word
'Zyd ?' The Jews are loyal and true to their God and
their Emperor, and do not deserve this outrageous
appellation. As ydu, a man of better society, address
me thus, my self-respect does not permit me to par
ley with you any longer. Adieu."
The Czar perceived that chance had led a man
across his path who did not know that he stood be
fore the mighty, feared, Emperor Nicholas. It amused
him. He catight the Jew by the coat sleeve and said
pacifyingly: "I beg your pardon, I had not the inten
tion of insulting you. Are you an inhabitant of Ho
"You are here, then, on business?"
"And what brought you here?"
"I came to see the Emperor."
"Oh! that is it. You have, I suppose, a petition
"No! No! I am, thank God, satisfied with my
lot, and have no other object in coming here than to
behold, with my own eyes, our glorious Emperor,
for whom Are send up prayers to God every Sabbath,
and then to give a benediction to God, which our
holy religion commands us to pronounce at the sight
of a king. It is the following praj'er: Blessed be
Thou, O Lord Eternal, our God, King of the world,
who has imparted of Thy majesty to mortals."
"Have you never seen the Emperor, then?"
"No, 'replied the Jew,and in saying this he heaved
"But why have you not taken the opportunity to
see him this afternoon, when he entered the city at
the head of his troops?"
"Because I reached here too late. How happy
would I feel if I should succeed in seeing him to-mor
"You are a merchant, then?"
"No, sir. I hold a position of honor in a Jewish
"Then you must be a rabbi ?"
"Yes, sir. This time you have guessed right. I
am a rabbi."
"In this congregation?"
"No, sir, in a much larger congregation."
"No, not in Berditschew, either; lam the rabbi
of Sklow. Now you know who and what I am.."
Sklow was at that time highly reputed for its
many Jewish scholars and world-renowned rabbis.
The Czar, who had probably heard of this city of
Jewish scholars, smilingly lifted his hat and said:
"Now, I understand why you did not take off your