A Yom Kippur Scandal, by Sholem Aleichem
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – Sholem Aleichem is probably the best-known and most well-loved Yiddish writer. He was born Sholem Rabinovich in Russia in 1859, and died in New York in 1916. He did a lot to promote Yiddish writers, and was the first to write children’s literature in Yiddish. While he was a zionist, he was also an impassioned advocate of Yiddish as a national Jewish language. Sholem Aleichem is especially known for his stories of life in the shtetl, the typical Eastern European Jewish village. This story, A Yom Kippur Scandal, takes place in Kasrilevke, the quintessential shtetl that the writer created as a setting for many of his stories.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year in a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and waits until Yom Kippúr, a week later, to “seal” the verdict. Also known as the Day of Atonement, its central themes are atonement and repentance. This holiest of days is observed, even by many secular Jews, with a full day of fasting. It is a day of intensive prayer, and the most observant often spend most of the day in synagogue services.
So you can imagine how shocked the townspeople of Kasrilevke were when something appalling and disgraceful took place in their town, on Yom Kíppur, and in the synagogue, no less…
This story has been translated a number of times. This version is from The Old Country, by Sholem Aleichem, published by Crown Publishers in New York in 1946.