Kalte Shabbes

As a kid I heard from my beloved neighbors in our building about a folk-legend among the Gentiles in the German countryside where they would ask the Jews if “Beha-Bechukosai” had passed. The week that those Parshos were read was known as the “Kalte Shabbes” by the village farmers- Jew and Gentile alike. Only once that Shabbos had passed would it be safe to plant.

Now I have come across this in the publication of the YU Museum, “Aschkenaz”, that accompanied their 1986 exhibit of German-Jewish artifacts.

In the many conjugations of proverbs around that Shabbos listed there, some refer to the fact that the Jews will be cursing that week- meaning the cantation of the Mosaic rebuke in Bechukosai (Lev. 26). Was this just the way to mark the Kalte Shabbes or did they consider the Torah portion ominous to the crop? (See here.)

If you are intrigued or enchanted by the Landjude of the German countryside and the simplicity of village life, I suggest a book called, “The Marked One” by Jaob Picard. It is a collection of short stories about simple people. Also, Dr. Hugo Mandelbaum’s “Jewish Life in the Village Communities of Southern Germany”, his reminisces of childhood. Not to mention the famed “Gluckel of Hameln”, the autiobiography of an 18th century matriarch.

Finally, Emily Rose’s “Portraits of our Past” uses the type of documentation that seems to be in abundance in Germany (for those who know how to access it), to trace the urbanization and emigration of her family over more than a century.

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