of a Journey
Sholem Yankev Abramovich, more commonly known as “Mendele the book peddler,” was born on this day in 1836. At first, Mendele was the narrator-gatherer-editor of Abramovich’s tales, but he soon became so popular and so closely identified with the author that Abramovich began to use the name as a pseudonym. In the passage below, Mendele describes getting his itch to hit the road, and his decision to scratch that itch:
Mendele! Your trade of books is fitting for you. Make a pledge, sell your wife's little jewelry and buy a cart, pack it with books and go out into the world. Whether you earn money or not, it's all the same, the point is to travel around, lay out like a king on the wagon to look around at each little shred of G-d's stunning beautiful work and his creations, in hills and valleys, in fields and forests. This horse will carry you slowly, slowly, and you will look and look. On the way, and coming to towns and cities, you will see many different kinds of Jews, beautiful things, strange mean things, all kinds of souls, twisted backs, haughty noses, long hands, shrew fingers, different faces of old and new varieties. You will get them to tell stories, to sing and to talk…. Go! — I thought to myself — alright, let it be so.
I had to know more.