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This webpage reproduces a section of

Abyss of Despair

Rabbi Nathan Hanover

Bloch Publishing Company
New York, 5710‑1950

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 1

 p23  Author's Introduction

"I am the man that hath seen the affliction by the rod of His wrath,"1 when God smote His people Israel, His first-born. From heaven unto earth He cast down the beauti­ful and glorious land of Poland, "oh fair in situation, the joy of the whole earth."2 "The Lord hath swallowed up unsparingly the habitations of Jacob,"3 the lot of His inheritance,4 and hath not remembered His footstool in the day of His anger.5

All this was foreseen by King David (peace be unto him), when he prophesied the joining of the Tartars and the Greeks6 to destroy His chosen Israel, in the year zoth7 of the era of creation. The "Greeks," in their typical manner, offered the following ultimatum to the Jews: He that wishes to remain alive must change his faith and publicly renounce Israel and his God. The Jews, however, heeded not their words, but stretched out their necks to be slaughtered for the sanctification of His Holy Name. Among them were the land's leading scholars as well as the men, women and children; the whole community. May the God of vengeance avenge them and return us to His land.

This tragedy was forewarned by King David (peace be unto him), in Psalm 32, where it is said: "For this (al "zoth") let everyone that is godly pray until Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found." (l'eth  p24 m'tzo) etc.,8 so that no evil may come to pass. The letters of the words l'eth m'tzo (in a time when Thou mayest be found), have the same numeral value as those of Yavan vKedar yachdav chubaru ("Greek" and Tartar joined together). The dog and the cat made an alliance to uproot the people of Israel, which is likened to a straying lamb. This occurred in the year (408) of the era of creation (zoth) omitting the first numeral. Psalm 69 also speaks of this tragic event.

There it is said: "Save me O God, for the waters are come in even unto the soul. I am sunk in deep mire where there is no standing. I am come into deep waters and the flood overwhelmed me . . . etc."9 tavati b'yeven m'tzulah (I am sunk in the deep mire), is of the same numeral value as Chmiel vKedar b'yavan yachdav chubaru (Chmiel and the Tartars joined together with the "Greeks"), the combined virus of a scorpion and a wasp.10 "shibboleth" (the flood) is numerically equal to Chmielecki, haYavan v'Kedar (Chmielecki, the "Greeks" and the Tartars). shetafatni shetef (anger and wrath overwhelmed me), for in the Polish language the name Chmielecki is associated with nobility, while the Russians referred to him as Chmiel.

Rabbi Jechiel Michael, chief of the Jewish community, and head of the academy of the holy congregation of Nemirow, whose soul departed in purity, for the glorification of His Name, referred to the name Chmiel, as representing the first letters of the phrase  p25 chevle Mashiach vavi l'olam (he will usher in the pangs of the Messiah). And after him will come the feet of the messenger.

I named my book Yeven mtzulah (The Deep Mire), because the words of the Psalmist allude to these terrible events, and speak of the oppressors, the Tartars and the Ukrainians as well as of the arch-enemy, Chmiel, may his name be blotted out, may God send a curse upon him. This book may thus be a chronicle to serve future generations.

I dwell at length on the causes which led to this great catastrophe, when the Ukrainians and the Tartars united to revolt against Poland, although the two had always been enemies. I recorded all the major and minor encounters, as well as the evil decrees and persecutions; also the days on which those cruelties occurred, so that everyone might be able to calculate the day on which his kin died, and observe the memorial properly. In addition, I have also described the customs and practices of Polish Jewry which followed the path of goodness and righteousness. All this I did with a deep reverence for God. I based these upon the six pillars which support the world.11 I have written it in a lucid and intelligible style, and printed it on smooth and clear paper.

Therefore, buy ye this book at once. Do not spare your money, so that I may be enabled to publish the book "N'ta Shaashuim" (Plant of Delights), containing homilies on the Pentateuch which I have authored.12 For this benevolence the Almighty God will keep you from all evil and distress, and will hasten the coming  p26 of the Messiah. Amen, so may it be the will of Him Who dwelleth in splendor.

These are the words of the author Nathan Natta the son of the martyred Rabbi Moses Hanover Ashkenazi (may the memory of the righteous be a blessing, may God avenge his blood) who dwelled in the holy community of Zaslaw, near the holy community of Ostrog in the province of Volhynia, in the land of Russia.13

The Editor's Notes:

1 Lamentations 3:1.

2 Ps. 48:3.

3 Lamentations 2:2.

4 Deut. 32:9.

5 Lamentations 2:1.

6 The term Yavan, Yevanim-Greeks, Greeks is used by Hanover throughout his chronicle to identify the Ukrainians who were followers of the Greek Orthodox Church.

7 Zoth is numerically equal to 408, namely, the year 5408 of the era of Creation or 1648, of the Common Era.

8 Ps. 32:6.

9 Ps. 69:3.

10 The virus of both is fatal.

11 Aboth 1:2, Torah, worship and benevolence: Aboth 1:18, Truth, Judgment and Peace.

12 This book was never published.

13 Southeast Poland or Little Russia.

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Page updated: 19 Dec 22