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'The women came into the synagogue wailing like a storm' - a memory from Tomashov

Updated: Mar 20

This is an extract from Sh. Leibovitsh 'A krankn a refue' - healing for the sick - in the Tomashover Yizker Bukh (1965.) Leibovitz describes the process of 'aynraysn' - a word which in Yiddish literally means 'to tear down' but which was used to describe fervent prayer, usually either by a graveside or by the ark holding the torah scrolls in the synagogue. Involving evocative crying and screaming, 'aynraysn' was often led by women and often paid 'zogerkes' or 'klogerkes'.

'Web of negative ego lies' by Kohenet Lois Gaylord. Painted jigsaw puzzle, threads, mirror, fabric, charms, cradleboard. You can see more of Lois' art and Judaica - including Talitot and other sacred fabrics - on her etsy store


When the doctor suggested that the sick person was, god forbid, dying, or when it was something sudden and urgent, like for example, difficulty in childbirth, or a night of crisis with someone severely ill, when the doctor said that if the sick person lived through the night then he still belonged with us, or in the case of surgery, people went running to ‘aynraysn’. This meant that the closest relatives and friends of the family of the sick person in question, all ran together to the town bes medresh, or in other shtiblekh where people prayed and studied, usually this was done in between minkhe and maariv, or first thing in the morning at prayer. The women came into the synagogue wailing like a storm, and with lamenting, heart-rending voices they went straight to the holy ark, it was like an emergency appeal, they didn’t check if the Khazn [cantor] was in the middle of shmoyne esre [the prayers of the amidah], or leyning [from the torah], and they opened the ark. Then the oldest zogerke began her urgent, spirit-waking cries:

Raboyne shel oylem! Great master of mercy! Have mercy on a father of five little lambs, or on a mother of six young babies, Raboyne shel oylem! Do not humilitate us! Raboyne shel oylem! Open up the gates of mercy!

And every outcry was accompanied with a stream of tears from the accompanying women, they would ring their hands and cry so woefully that it moved everyone, even the most stone hearted person to tears.

This ‘aynraysn’ had such an unusual energy of spiritual awakening, the strong feeling of ‘he announces his sorrow to many and many will ask for mercy on him” [quoting Bal Shem tov, Tazria 3] – he should announce his sorrows publicly, so that many will ask for mercy on his behalf. This was seen clearly, that after such an ‘aynraysn’ even complete strangers were torn up alongside the sufferers, and the sorrow in question was shared by the whole shtetl. After leaving the shul, a minyan was quickly formed to say the special chapters of psalms that are capable of healing …

- Sh. Leibovitsh, ‘A krankn a refue’,TomashoverYizker Bukh, (1965) p.452-453.

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