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The High Holidays in Samarkand

The High Holidays in Samarkand

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During World War II, the physical conditions in Samarkand were exceedingly harsh. Literally thousands of refugees swarmed the streets, starving and bereft of the most basic necessities. The lack of food was so severe that people simply languished of malnourishment and dropped dead in the streets.
According to Soviet law, official freedom of speech and religion was granted after the age of eighteen. At that point, one was old enough to decide whether he wanted to expose himself to constant religious persecution.
You can imagine our trepidation and dread the day we heard that one of the informants had uncovered our secret...
It was understood, even by the informants, that a minyan would be organized in his home for the first seven days of mourning, as is customary.
On occasion, we would drape the Torah with a blanket to give it the appearance of a child...
The High Holidays in Samarkand were an experience unto themselves. The people of the community grew introspective, as each individual tried to improve on his or her own religious observance and focus less on material pursuits. One could sense that the Days of Awe were approaching.
Sukkos presented us with but one major problem, and one which was quite severe - how to obtain an esrog.
R. Yosef was a man of fortitude and courage who found great pleasure in acting upon his convictions, perhaps especially when it was difficult . . .
Our hearts soared with the rhythm of the Chassidic tunes, and our joy knew no bounds.
Then, suddenly, he whistled sharply and called out, “Tzon kedoshim!” and we all shouted out, “Meh . . . meh . . .”