The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Pesach Report

You went to Lithuania, again?
First, a Photo tour of Vilnius . . .


green house


red and blue



"In Lithuania, we live on miracles"

On Monday morning the Rabbi turns to me,
"You wanted to check out Klaipeda last time you were here, no?"
My mind goes off, "Warning! Warning! Danger, Mottel!"
"Uhh, Yah . . ." I said cautiously.
Rabbi Krinsky grinned,
"We'll, I've got some good news for you -you're going to be going there . . . In two hours"

Shmully Hecht and I rushed around, packing bags like mad men (or Lithuanians . . . at least, the ones that I've always dealt with in Chabad of Lithuania), then hopped into a pick up truck driven by an old man and his toothless son (I've come to the conclusion that Lithuania is the Hill-billy spot of eastern Europe -a region dominated by hicks) . . .
Making it by seconds to the departing bus.
G-d is good . . .

The ticket collector came to us a few minutes into the trip, he wanted 50 litas for all of the extra luggage we put under. Laughing, we told him that we had never heard of such a thing . . . he left us alone after that -only further rasing our suspicion.
Upon reaching Klaipeda, while unloading, one of the other passengers on the bus approached me.
"You are a very bad man [he was referring to the fact that I hadn't 'paid' the ticket collector] You are Jewish, and I hate you."
He turned and walked quickly away, before I had a chance to say anything to him . . .
Might I add, that it's the first time I've personally heard anything anti-Semitic in Eastern Europe [ I, unlike other bochurim, do not consider all people who are grumpy or the like to be out and out anti-Semites]

the stuff
We were then whisked off to the apartment left to by one of the richer members of the community . . .

The room -as we found it
With no running water, and an assortment of other "gifts" left to us, we decided to make it out first and only night there . . .

The key to working in Lithuania is the understanding that the locals work on a different -much slowed- time frame. Actions and events that take only a few moments in recounting, were long arduous trips taking up hours, if not most of the day . . .
Let me explain:
The plan had been that unlike other years, where food had been prepared in Vilna, only to be shipped out to Klaipeda erev Yom-tov and served cold, we were to set up shop a few days in advance and cook everything on the spot. That entitled:
  1. Buying the pots and pans needed to cook, and then toivel (ritually immerse) them in the Baltic Sea.
  2. Buying the vegetable and other ingredients that could be found locally.
  3. Koshering the Kitchen.
Let us take the first task as an example.
to leave the building, go to the store (which we were to see was literally around the corner) and purchase the required items was slow . . . we're talking Molasses as it slowly drips down the side of the bottle slow.

By the Canal where we toveld the pots.

The next day we began at ten, with ample time until the Eight p.m. Seder was to start . . .
With the help of Grisha, the local "guard" for the community or -to be more accurate- a short elderly man who only knew three words in Yiddish (Forgessen, and Shaine Meidelach), I raced around town stopping at five (yes 5!) different stores in search of the new grates for the stove top.
Two stores didn't have, the next would only sell me the grates if I bought a stove and oven along with them . . .
At least I found one who would sell them . . . but first he wanted us to bring in the originals in order to match them up with the right model number. So we returned to the Jewish Community center, picked up the dirty old grates, and went back to the store.
I told the cooks that they would be able to cook as soon as I returned
Great (or rather) Grate!
At the store, however, the owner refused to sell us grates of the wring size; and since we had an old stove, there were none of the model we needed.
Despite profuse begging on my part he was adamant; he had sold someone the wrong model in the past, and the pots had spilled on the buyer, who then sued the owner of the store.
Not so Great . . .
I tried another store that was recommended, but it they as well didn't have.
At last I settled by buying a small electric stove top.

The ladies who were cooking, however, were less then thrilled with my purchase . . .
So while I set them up with the electric range, it was Shmully's turn to run around with Grisha to buy a blow torch to Kasher the grills . . .
He returned, and I began torching . . .

and torching . . .
And then Shmully took a turn . . .

but the process was taking way to long . . .

so we decided to put the pot on the rocks . . .


the site

the set up
At last things were set up before yom-tov, so we raced back to the hotel to set up our room.

before yom tov

after yom tov

We made a minyan for mincha, with the locals . . . including an 83 year old graduate of the Telzer Yeshiva who kept telling us about his web-site.
The Seder went well, 60 people the first night, 30 the second . . .
and the three days of Yom-tov and Shabbos slowly made they way . . .
A few minutes before Shabbos, the electric range (which I had brought from the kitchen to the hotel) began to spark . . .
and then it shut off -not, however (as we would see Motzie Shabbos), having melted itself into the wall.

At 9:45 Shabbos ended, and Shmully and I waited for our translator (a local boy who plans on going to Yeshiva in the near future) to call us about our ride home.
He did . . .
"The bus leaves in fifteen minutes . . . are you ready?"
We gathered all of our things, ran out and made it to the bus.
This time there was no anti-Semite ridding with us,
only a drunk Lithuanian who kept telling us how much he liked cowboys and country music -not to mention our cowboy hats.

We arrived in Vilna 5:30 Sunday morning, planning to take the 9:00 bus back to Warsaw.
They were sold out of tickets, so the Rabbi found a train that left at 12:00 to Warsaw with a switch at Sustakai (don't worry, I've never heard of it either) . . .
Before we left on the ten hour train ride, the Rabbi smiled . . .
"You think this was hectic? In Lithuania we live on miracles."

In the train station

Stay tuned for next time when we continue with Part II:

How I got Home
Five hours in the land of the Flying Dutch Jew


Emanuel Ben-Zion said...

Lithuania is a very odd place, it's like Moldava, people are strange.

Mottel said...

Most of these former Soviet Block countries are rather interesting . . .