mother, Jeanette Gottlieb, was famous as the "Bunka Lady." (Bunka
is known as an "oil painting of yarn.") This form of punch needle art was
brought to Japan from China where they used pure silk thread on canvas for
centuries. She was a graduate of the Tokio Bunka Embroidery School of Art in
Charleston, South Carolina, and was a Bunka instructor on Long Island (NY) for
many years until she passed away.
She was also an excellent cook and "beker" (baker) and made the best "bubele."
If you've never heard the term, it's the nickname of a kosher-for-Passover
pancake made with matzo meal, stiff egg whites, egg yolks, and sprinkled
liberally with "tsuker" (sugar). "Es tsegeyt zikh in moyl." (It
melts in your mouth.)
Why am I reminiscing about a "bubele"? Because I recently had the
pleasure of reading a book titled, "In the Spirit of the Maggid - Inspirational
stories that touch the heart and stir the spirit" by Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn.
Each of his stories is true; each will touch the heart and ignite the soul--"di
My favorite story is titled, "On the Spot Training," and deals with the making
of a "bubele."
I am not of German descent but I have an Oma, (the German word for
grandmother). My son-in-law, Rabbi Shlomo David Pfeiffer, has a grandmother,
Mrs. Ilse Roberg, who is of German descent and is reverently called Oma,
not only by her descendants, but by those in her extended family like myself,
and the hundreds, if not thousands of others who know her.
In 1939 Oma and her husband, Alex, lived in a one-room apartment on Olga
Strasse in Stuttgart, Germany. She and her husband taught Jewish and secular
studies in Stuttgart's Juedische Schule, and it was their students who gave them
the strength to carry on. Indeed, when the Robergs came to America in 1940, they
taught for years in the United Hebrew Schools of Detroit. Oma is a
talented artist and master calligrapher, and is the gentlest great-grandmother
one could ever want to meet. The Ribbono Shel Olam has blessed her with more
than 100 great-grandchildren. My sweet little granddaughter, Dassy Pfeiffer was
When Oma was a newlywed in Stuttgart, food was rationed, as it was in
many German cities. People were given ration cards which they would present to
the local grocer. All Jews had a big J (for Juden) marked on their cards,
which indicated that they should not be given butter, oil, or chocolate. (There
was no kosher meat to be had.) Along with the small portions of bread and milk,
Jews were given only four eggs a month for a family of two.
Every Friday Oma would use that one egg of the week to make a small
bubele (a cake) for Shabbos. Special Shabbos foods were a rarity, but at
least she could provide this bubele, lichvod (in honor of) Shabbos.
One Friday afternoon she got her glass bowl ready to make the cake and cracked
open the egg for that week. She was horrified. It had a tiny bloodspot! The egg
could not be used. Tears welled in her eyes as she realized that Alex would not
have his bubele this Shabbos.
She looked down at the bowl, the shiny yellow yolk blemished by the tiny yet
unmistakable red spot. Maybe there was a heter (lenient ruling)
someplace, she thought. She looked down at the tiny red spot swimming over the
shimmering yellow yolk. Maybe if she could pluck it off gingerly as it had not
pierced the yolk, it would be okay? Wouldn't a rav rule in her favor
because of their poverty? She would be doing it for her husband; it was
lichvod Shabbos! For now no one would know the difference. Someday she would
ask a rav, and most likely he would exonerate her, and if not, she would
never do it again.
She felt alone, isolated and forlorn. Her parents were not available and there
was no rav to ask. There was no one to ask. It was all in her hands.
The young newlywed thought of her husband and of a Jewish woman's responsibility
in the kitchen. Alex relies on me, she said to herself. The kashrus of the house
is solely in my control. He trusts me. If there is anything I should do for
Alex, it is to maintain the highest standards of kashrus, just as he would want
it. If there is no Rav available, so be it. Her future adherence to
standards of kashrus in her home was going to be decided right now.
She threw out the egg, wiped away her tears and washed the bowl.
Quietly she thanked Hashem that she had passed her test. Now what? Should
she take a second egg, designated for next week, and make the cake? Or should
she skip this week, explain the circumstances to Alex and go on from there?
Oma decided she would open another egg. She would deal with the lack of
eggs for other Shabbosim when the time came. This Shabbos would be
as special as the ones before it. She cracked open the second egg and now it was
Hashem Who spoke to her. She looked at the bowl in utter disbelief. The
egg had two yolks!
She smiled. In the privacy of her little kitchen she felt Hashem's warm
response. This Shabbos bubele was going to be very special and
only He would ever know.
Oma remembers this small miracle until this very day. "Sometimes," she
says, "it's only a small and seemingly insignificant message that one gets from
Hashem, but it's all a person needs to carry him/her for a lifetime."
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe recommends that Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn's book, "In the
Spirit of the Maggid" be placed at the top of your Hanukkah gift list. It is
published by Messorah Publications, Ltd., 4401 Second Avenue, Brooklyn, NY