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Purim Vincent

by Nissan Mindel

  

Library » Holidays » Purim » The Story | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Frankfort-on-the-Main, some 350 years ago...

The city of Frankfort was even then an important center of business and trade. It was famous for its annual trade fairs, when merchants from far and near came to buy and sell their wares. The local traders and businessmen were organized into guilds, which were quite powerful in the management of the city.

The Jewish community of Frankfort numbered about 3,000 souls. It was a flourishing community, well organized and conducted under the leadership of the rabbi and community leaders. True, the ghetto was crowded and the streets narrow and dark, but the Jewish homes were full of light and warmth: the light of the Torah and mitzvahs, and the warmth of Jewish love and devotion to one another. A simcha, joyous occasion, in one family was the joy of the whole community.

Most of the Jews of Frankfort were working men: craftsmen, shopkeepers, traders, peddlers and the like. But among them were also important merchants who helped make Frankfort the great business center that it was. Not less important were the Jewish financial experts, who acted as money changers for merchants who came from foreign countries and did other banking business.

The German emperor well knew how important the Jews were for the country, and especially for the Crown treasury. The Jews paid high taxes, and every privilege granted them to carry on their business and trade was paid for with extra taxes. The emperor therefore took the Jews under his protection. The Jews were, in a sense, the king's personal property. This is how the Jews lived in Frankfort, as in many other cities. They always depended on the king's grace, and on the kindness of the local government officials. The Jews had no rights, only privileges for which they had to pay.

At the time when our story unfolds, Emperor Mathias had just become king. He chose the city of Frankfort to be the city where his coronation was to take place. He informed the city manager of his choice, and requested that all arrangements be made for the coronation, with all due ceremony and pomp. The coronation was to take place in the summer of the year 5372 (1612).

The city manager called a meeting of the city council and informed them of the important event. "This is a wonderful opportunity for our city", the city manager said happily. "All the lords and nobles of the country will gather in our city, foreign kings and princes with their servants, military detachments, visitors and tourists . . . in short, it will bring a fat penny to our city."

"Not for us, but for the Jews we hate,"” a gruff voice interrupted the city manager.

All eyes turned to see the person who spoke those words. It was Vincent Fettmilch, head of the powerful bakers guild.

Vincent Fettmilch was known as a Jew-hater. He was tall and strong, like a prize-fighter. He liked to fight, because there was no one to match his strength. When he got himself drunk, and this was not unusual, he would fight everyone who crossed his path. But above all he loved to fight the Jews whom he hated with all his wicked heart. With a gang of ruffians like himself, he would burst into the Jewish ghetto and attack Jewish men, women and children who happened to be in the street. These attacks went unpunished, because even the city magistrates were afraid of him and his gang.


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Purim
A one-day holiday celebrated in late winter commemorating the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree of annihilation issued by Persian King Ahasuerus in the year 356 BCE.
Haman
Descendant of anti-Semitic tribe of Amalek and prime minister of the Persian Empire in the 5th century b.c.e. Schemed to annihilate all the Jews, and the holiday of Purim was established when the plot was foiled.
Esther
1. Jewish wife of Persian King Ahasuerus in the 4th century BCE. Foiled the plot of Haman, the prime minister, to exterminate all the Jews. The holiday of Purim commemorates this miraculous salvation. 2. One of the 24 Books of the Bible, which chronicles the abovementioned story.
Adar
The twelfth month on the Jewish calendar. This month (which falls out approx. February-March), is the most joyous month on the calendar due to the holiday of Purim which is on the 14th and 15th of this month.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.